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WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Thursday, December 2, 2004; Page A07

FBI Seizes Files of Pro-Israel Group

The FBI expanded its counterintelligence investigation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday, seizing computer files at the lobbying group's Washington offices and serving grand jury subpoenas on four staff members, according to AIPAC and FBI officials.

The FBI previously obtained computer files from AIPAC in connection with a probe of a Defense Department analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, suspected of providing classified information to the group. Authorities are also investigating whether the information, including a draft directive on U.S. policies toward Iran, was then passed on to Israel, sources have said.


AIPAC said in a statement that the group "has done nothing wrong" and is cooperating with investigators. "We believe any court of law or grand jury will conclude that AIPAC employees have always acted legally, properly and appropriately," the statement said.

Franklin, who had been in discussions with federal prosecutors, is no longer taking part in plea negotiations, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

It remains unclear when, or whether, any charges would be filed against him, officials said.

Gonzales Issues Vow on Leak Probe

Alberto R. Gonzales told a Democratic senator that, if confirmed as attorney general, he will step aside from the Justice Department investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

Gonzales made the commitment during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That committee will hold hearings, expected in January, on President Bush's nomination of Gonzales as attorney general.

Schumer said Gonzales, currently the White House counsel, was more closely involved in the CIA leak case than outgoing Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who recused himself from the case nearly a year ago under pressure from Democrats. Gonzales has testified before a federal grand jury in the case and has given advice about it to White House personnel.

"It's important because we want to get to the bottom of this without any political interference," Schumer said after the meeting. The White House declined to comment.

Like other Judiciary Committee Democrats, Schumer said Gonzales is likely to be confirmed with broad Senate support. "I'm favorably inclined," Schumer said.

Management Key to Los Alamos Bid

Stung by security lapses at a leading nuclear weapons laboratory, the government will consider business and management ability as much as scientific expertise when selecting a new manager for the facility next year.

The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration released a draft request for proposals as it prepares for the first competition for the running of New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos has been managed by the University of California since the lab's creation as a top-secret World War II project to develop the atomic bomb. But problems, including those involving missing computer drives and sloppy fiscal procedures, led the department to call for the first time for an open bidding process last year.

The new contractor will take over when the university's contract expires at the end of September. The school system has not decided whether to make a bid to continue managing the lab.

-- Compiled from reports by staff writer

Dan Eggen and news services


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