ALEXANDRIA, United States (AFP) – A Pentagon employee has admitted in court he provided classified defense information to an Israeli diplomat and two employees of a pro-Israel lobby group.
Lawrence Franklin, 58, a specialist on Iran, Iraq and terrorism issues, worked at the time of the events for the number-three official at the Pentagon, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
Asked how he pleaded on three charges against him, Franklin told US District Court Judge T.S. Ellis: "Guilty, your honor."
Franklin was charged in June with having transmitted secret information about an unidentified Middle Eastern country to an Israeli diplomat and two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2003 and 2004, and with unlawful retention of classified materials.
Both AIPAC employees were also charged in August in the "conspiracy to communicate national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it."
Steven Rosen, AIPAC”s former political director, and Keith Weissman, formerly an Iran expert at the organization, are suspected of having passed along information furnished by Franklin to Israel.
Franklin indicated Wednesday that he knew the Israeli diplomat was a political officer at the Israeli embassy.
Wearing a gray suit and red tie, the gray-haired expert said he was frustrated with US Mideast policy.
He said that he hoped that the AIPAC employees could influence that policy through their contacts at the National Security Council. He admitted that he knew that those employees, whom he contacted between 1999 and 2004, were not authorized to receive the information.
As for the Israeli diplomat, he said that he knew that he worked at the Israeli embassy. The two men met repeatedly between 2002 and 2004, at a restaurant and once at the diplomat”s exercise club.
The judge set January 20 for a sentencing hearing. Franklin could spend as much as 10 years in prison, according to justice officials.
Rosen and Weissman pleaded not guilty. Their trial begins on January 3. AIPAC fired them both in April.
After the affair became public, Israel denied any involvement.
In 1987, US citizen Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison for spying for Israel. The affair sparked a crisis between the United States and Israel. Israel promised not to spy on the United States in the future.