View Full Version : Rather's Sensational National Security Scandal

km gresham
09-16-2004, 07:42 AM


September 15, 2004 --

The growing Memogate furor over the authenticity of doc uments said to cast doubts on George W. Bush's National Guard record isn't the only controversy dogging Dan Rather and CBS News these days.

The network is coming under fire in some quarters for a "CBS Evening News" broadcast about what it billed as a sensational national-security scandal that may have impacted critical U.S. policy decisions in the Middle East.

Less than a month later, however, the "sensation" has fallen far short of its original explosive billing. But that hype has provided potent ammunition for enemies of both Israel and the Bush administration's Mideast policies ammunition that those forces are gleefully using.

By all accounts, what started off as a story about espionage at the highest levels of the Pentagon has turned into, at worst, a case of the possible misuse of classified documents specifically, a single draft memo on U.S. policy on Iran that a Defense Department analyst may have shown to someone at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who may then have passed the information on to Israeli officials.

That's not a light matter, of course. Classified material is marked secret for a reason. But it hardly rises to the level of CBS' original claims, which led the evening news broadcast of Aug. 27:

"We start tonight with breaking news," Rather intoned breathlessly, "a CBS News exclusive, what could be a serious security breach inside the United States Defense Department. Federal agents now believe there is a mole working at the highest levels of the Pentagon, a spy for a major world power who may have been in a position to influence Bush administration policy policy on Iran and Iraq."

Lesley Stahl went on to report: "The FBI believes it has solid evidence that the suspected mole" later identified as Larry Franklin, a mid-level analyst with no policymaking input "supplied Israel with classified material that includes secret White House policy deliberations on Iran."

This, declared Stahl, "put the Israelis . . . inside the decision-making loop, so they could try to influence the outcome." And, she added, there's another concern: "Did Israel also use the analyst to try to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq?"

The story, in short, rang all the right bells to gladden a conspiracy theorist's heart: Israel, AIPAC (the leading pro-Israel lobby) and neo-conservative war hawks in particular, Franklin's boss, Assistant Defense Secretary Douglas Feith, long a chief target of the Bush-bashers. And while Stahl never mentioned Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy analyst caught spying for Israel two decades ago, the comparisons seemed unavoidable.

But: CBS said arrests were imminent yet none have materialized. And no one is talking anymore about moles or sinister forces secretly shaping U.S. policy or even about espionage, for that matter. (Both AIPAC and the Israelis deny having done anything illegal or improper.)

A grand jury is hearing evidence, but if any charges are leveled, it's unlikely to be anything more serious than "mishandling classified material."

Still, as Saul Singer wrote in The Jerusalem Post last Friday, "the anti-[Israel] cabal doesn't care if there are any arrests, because they have already succeeded in portraying Jewish power as something sinister, perhaps even treasonous."

Pat Buchanan did precisely that on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, when he demanded that officials "investigate whether there is a nest of Pollardites in the Pentagon who have been transmitting American secrets through AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, over to . . . the Israeli embassy, to be transferred to [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon." (This came right after Buchanan declared that U.S. support of Israel was the direct cause of 9/11 and all other forms of Islamic terrorism.)

In fact, nothing about CBS' original allegations makes sense. For one thing, Israel has learned its lesson from the fallout over the Pollard fiasco. And solidifying the U.S.-Israeli relationship has been the cornerstone of Sharon's policy. It's unthinkable that he would jeopardize it with something like this particularly over information that Washington and Jerusalem already share at the highest levels.

Clearly, much more is at work here, in terms of why the story was leaked now and who provided the information. By all accounts, it wasn't to pressure any of the supposed targets both AIPAC and Franklin have been cooperating with investigators.

Suffice it to say, though, that this has less to do with national security than with partisan politics. As Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a friend of Franklin's, told The New York Sun: "When the FBI has a case against someone . . . they indict him and arrest him and put him away. They don't go to Lesley Stahl."

Ian McColgin
09-16-2004, 08:06 AM
Actually, Lawrence Franklin et al have been under investigation for about two years. As the matter became public, the FBI planned a series of arrests but backed off at the direction of US Attorney Paul McNulty.

The article's author chose not to mention mention who made the decision reversing the planned arrests.

McNulty is not a career prosecutor. He's a career attorney for Republican officials appointed to this job by Ashcroft.

Without doubting McNulty's general integrity, it's pretty easy to see how one's attitude and beholdance (is that a word?) to the administration could make you see this as either a big deal or not such a big deal.

One does not off-hand think of the FBI as an anti-Bush cabal. For that reason, it would be reassuring had the decision to hold off on arrests been made by a prosecutor more career and less political.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
09-16-2004, 11:10 AM
Still, as Saul Singer wrote in The Jerusalem Post last Friday, "the anti-[Israel] cabal doesn't care if there are any arrests, because they have already succeeded in portraying Jewish power as something sinister, perhaps even treasonous."

Sinister no... Wholly self interested and self absorbed yes. ;) (In Israel's case)