WASHINGTON - A Pentagon analyst being investigated for allegedly helping
pass secrets to Israel has stopped cooperating with authorities and
retained a new lawyer to fight possible espionage charges, sources familiar
with the case said Tuesday.
The analyst, Larry Franklin, has been a key witness in a continuing FBI
investigation looking into whether classified intelligence was passed to
Israel by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential
Washington lobbying firm.
Franklin has been accused of passing the contents of a classified document
about U.S. policy on Iran to two AIPAC officials, who in turn may have
given the information to Israeli officials in Washington, sources have said.
Federal prosecutors had proposed an agreement under which Franklin would
plead guilty to some of the charges. Such agreements usually are done in
exchange for leniency and are accompanied by a pledge of cooperation.
But sources said Franklin had rejected a proposed deal because he believed
the terms were too onerous. He recently replaced his court-appointed
lawyer. "It looks like there is going to be a battle," a source familiar
with the case said.
FBI officials have not yet sought charges against Franklin or anyone else
in the case, although the breakdown of plea negotiations would appear to
raise the odds that he could be charged soon.
The scope of the investigation is believed to encompass a top diplomat at
the Israeli Embassy in Washington; two high-ranking analysts at AIPAC; and
the Pentagon office in which Franklin works as an Iran analyst, which is
headed by Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith..