Remember Larry Franklin…

I’m not a fan at all of what Larry Franklin did–leaking documents to help drum up a more hawkish policy on Iran.

But amid the news that John Kiriakou’s lawyer, Plato Cacheris, has docketed a change of plea hearing today at 11, it’s worth reviewing what happened with Franklin. After he was charged, the government put a lot of pressure on Franklin and his family (as they have with Kiriakou) and got him to plead guilty, with Cacheris’ advice. He was given a 10 year sentence.

Then the men he leaked to–Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, with the counsel of Abbe Lowell–started questioning the very premise of the case. First, they prepared to call top officials, including Condi Rice, to demonstrate that they, too, leak classified information all the time. Then, the judge in the case, Thomas Ellis, ruled that they could not be charged for espionage if they didn’t have the intent to harm the US. It was the reverse of that ruling–Leonie Brinkema’s ruling that because Kiriakou was a government employee and therefore intent to harm the US didn’t matter–that led Kiriakou’s lawyers to rush to plead guilty.

But here’s the interesting thing.

After the government’s case against Rosen and Weissman fell apart, the judge then push to re-sentence Franklin. Ultimately, he was sentenced to 10 months of house arrest.

Now, I’m not saying that could happen with Kiriakou. According to Jesselyn Raddack, he will take the plea, and he will serve 2.5 years in prison.

And the cases are not parallel: while top Administration officials leak classified information to the press all the time, only Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby spend their time outing spies (though I still suspect Matt Bissonnette’s identity was confirmed by Pentagon sources).

But the government does continue to give its spooks fairly transparent covers, as was demonstrated when “Stan Dove Boss” got ambushed by cops tied to a drug cartel in Mexico, not to mention the entire CIA annex that militia members seemed well aware of in Benghazi. There was, certainly, the possibility that this case would have demonstrated how cavalierly the CIA had sent its kidnappers and torturers around the world with big expense account. And that, in turn, would demonstrate that the issue is not whether we–or al Qaeda–can learn the identities of the torturers, but whether citizens and journalists can speak of the torturers by name.

In any case, these cases are increasingly about whether or not the government will continue to use clearances and secrecy to set up a two-class society: those whose livelihood depends on complete obedience to the government’s asymmetric use of information, and those outside of that club who are not trusted with the truth about what our country does.

John Kiriakou’s plea deal is not only another victory in the Obama Administration’s cover-up of torture. But it’s also a win for the people who believe the citizens of this democracy are not entitled to know what is being done in their name.

Update: It’s done. Another DOJ win in protecting torturers.

The Ghorbanifar Meetings Timeline

The SSCI report on the Rome meeting has a really funny footnote.

Mr. Franklin is currently awaiting direction from the Department of Justice to report to prison on matters unrelated to those discussed in this report. He was indicted in August 2005 along with two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for conspiring with each other to unlawfully disclose classified national defense information. Mr. Franklin subsequently pled guilty, and was sentenced in January 2006 on three felony counts: conspiracy to communicate national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it; conspiracy to communicate classified information to an agent of a foreign government; and the unlawful retention of national defense information.

The footnote is funny (in addition to the fact that it misstates when Franklin was first indicted) because Franklin pled guilty to dealing information about Iran to AIPAC. The reason Franklin did so was not because of money or blackmail, but because he disagreed with US policy on Iran, and was happy to work with AIPAC to pressure the government into a more hawkish policy on Iran. Which is pretty much what was happening with the Ghorbanifar information. As DOD’s own Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) report suggested,

Ghorbanifar or his associates are being used as agents of a foreign intelligence service to leverage his continuing contact with Michael Ledeen and others to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. Government.

Along with a lot of other crappy "intelligence," Ghorbanifar was floating plans to overthrow the regime in Iran, so the end goal of both the AIPAC effort and Ledeen and Ghorbanifar’s efforts was regime change in Iran.

The suggestion that Franklin’s indictment is unrelated to the Ghorbanifar meetings is also funny because, while Franklin claimed he did not know Ledeen in 2001 when Ledeen selected him to attend the Rome meeting, by fall 2004, Ledeen was intervening to get Plato Cacheris to represent Franklin in the AIPAC scandal. Thus, while there’s no reason to believe the Israelis were involved in the Rome meeting, the same group of Neocons were involved in parallel efforts to undercut US efforts to establish closer relations with Iran.

Now, as Laura Rozen revealed, it appears that this thing is not over–she reports that Harold Rhode has lawyered up. Rhode refused to cooperate with the SSCI’s most recent efforts to investigate this meeting last fall, which suggests he has gotten much more reluctant to talk about what happened (and DOD says he has forgotten what he said in 2004, displaying the forgetfulness all Bush Administration criminals seem to share). But if you think about it, there are only two logical explanations for why–two and a half years after Larry Franklin pled guilty to sharing defense information–he is still "awaiting direction from DOJ to report to prison." Either someone high up in the Administration intervened to keep Franklin out of the pokey (OVP is named in the SSCI report, and we know Dick Cheney has prevented allies from going to prison before), or Franklin has been cooperating with investigators for two and a half years. (His docket just shows a "delayed reporting date."

With all that said, I decided to look more closely at the timeline involved. What follows combines several timelines: the timeline of both the meetings and the investigations into those meetings from the SSCI report, key details from Franklin’s indictment, and details of attempts to foster closer relations with Iran detailed in this Flynt Leverett op-ed. I’ll say more about what this timeline shows in follow-up posts.

Read more