NBC News and news services
updated 9/1/2004 7:36:06 PM ET 2004-09-01T23:36:06

NBC News sources confirmed Wednesday that Naor Gilon, a political adviser to the Israeli Embassy in Washington is suspected of receiving U.S. secrets, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reported.

Gilon was already under surveillance by the FBI when he was reportedly spotted at a meeting with Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, who is under investigation for possibly passing classified information to the Israeli's on the Bush administration's policy debate over Iran.

At least two members of a pro-Israel lobby group, are also under investigation.

The two American Israel Public Affairs Committee employees involved are director of foreign policy issues Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, an Iran expert, said AIPAC attorney Nathan Lewin on Wednesday.

They were interviewed by the FBI on Friday — the same day news first broke of the existence of the yearlong investigation — but the interviews were halted after the men said they wanted a lawyer present before answering further questions, Lewin said.

“The FBI could resume the interview. We have not heard from the FBI,” Lewin said.

The FBI also seized documents and email records from AIPAC headquarters in Washington last week.

Rosen and Weissman have hired lawyer Abbe Lowell to represent them. Lowell, who did not return a telephone message seeking comment, is a veteran Washington attorney who is perhaps best known as the Democratic House Judiciary Committee counsel during President Clinton’s impeachment.

Why spy on the United States?
Israel and the United States share a concern over Iran's recent announcement that it was resuming uranium enrichment , and its potential to produce nuclear weapons.

But experts say Israel is concerned that, ultimately, the United States won't take tough measures to halt weapons production by Tehran.

"If Iran gets nuclear weapons, Israel feels its existence can be threatened. Its very existence. The U.S. doesn't feel that way," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security. "And so it may want to conduct espionage just to hedge its bets."

No charges have been brought or arrests made in the case. Law enforcement officials have said prosecutors are weighing whether to charge anyone involved with the most serious offense of espionage or with lesser counts of mishandling classified documents.

AIPAC officials have said they are cooperating in the probe and have denied any wrongdoing, as has the Israeli government. Franklin has not responded to several telephone calls seeking comment.

Several friends and colleagues of Franklin said they doubted he would be involved in true espionage, suggesting that the case could involve a simple mistake or mix-up.

“I think he was probably lured into thinking that it was OK or at least you could get away with doing something like this by the general atmosphere of very full cooperation with the Israelis in the (Pentagon policy) shop,” said Patrick Lang, who formerly worked with Franklin at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Call for expanded probe
The FBI and Justice Department have briefed a number of high-level Pentagon, congressional and White House officials about the investigation. Secretary of State Colin Powell was briefed Sunday over the telephone by Deputy Attorney General James Comey, a State Department spokesman said.

A senior House Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, is calling for a Judiciary Committee investigation into the matter and said it should be expanded to include allegations that sensitive U.S. information may have been given to political opponents of now-deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, including Ahmed Chalabi.

“The fact that a rogue element of the United States government may have been working with a foreign government in possible contravention of current foreign policy is a grave matter that should be of concern to every American,” Conyers, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in a letter dated Tuesday to the panel’s chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Meanwhile, a West Virginia college where Franklin teaches history courses is not planning any action regarding his status at the school while the investigation continues. For about five years, Franklin has been an adjunct professor of history at Shepherd University while living in nearby Kearneysville, said history department chairman Anders Henriksson.

Franklin “has been a real asset” to the school, Henriksson said. Franklin teaches freshman courses in world history and Asian traditions, he added. The school planned to provide extra security to prevent disruption of his Tuesday night course.

© 2013 msnbc.com


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments