By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
A Defense Department analyst already accused of disclosing classified information was charged again yesterday, this time with possessing classified documents concerning Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and Iraq, the Justice Department announced.
The new criminal complaint says 83 classified documents dating back three decades -- including 38 marked Top Secret -- were found in a search of Lawrence Franklin's West Virginia home. They included three CIA documents on al Qaeda, a CIA memo on Iraq and several government reports on terrorism. It is unclear why Franklin would have had them in his possession or taken them home.
Papers filed in U.S. District Court in West Virginia also revealed that the Defense Intelligence Agency knew as early as 1997 that Franklin was improperly removing classified documents from his Pentagon office and taking them home. Franklin was issued a written warning, but his security clearances were not suspended until the criminal investigation heated up last year, the court papers said.
Franklin was charged earlier this month by federal prosecutors in Alexandria, who alleged that he illegally disclosed classified information related to potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. The formal charges did not reveal who received the information, but federal law enforcement sources have said that Franklin disclosed the material to former top officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, one of the most influential lobbying organizations in Washington. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
Legal experts said it is unusual for the government to file similar charges in two jurisdictions against the same person. Experts and lawyers involved in the Franklin case said prosecutors appear to be trying to pressure Franklin to cooperate in their investigation into whether the former AIPAC officials passed classified U.S. data to the Israeli government.
"The . . . judgments being used here may involve [prosecutors'] desire to get his cooperation," said John L. Martin, who oversaw espionage cases for the Justice Department for 26 years. Though Franklin is charged in Alexandria with disclosing classified information and in West Virginia with possessing it, Martin said, "the underlying offenses are similar."
Federal prosecutors in Alexandria and West Virginia would not comment on their strategy. Kevin Madden, a Justice Department spokesman, said Franklin was charged in West Virginia yesterday because "the documents were discovered in West Virginia, and it's an investigation of two different events that took place."
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy run by the Federation of American Scientists, said it is unusual for the government to charge someone for taking documents home. The warning Franklin received in the 1990s is more typical of how the offense is handled, he said, adding that it is a fairly common security breach.
Franklin, 58, turned himself in to authorities yesterday and appeared in federal court in Martinsburg, W.Va., where he was expected to be freed on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. His lawyer, Plato Cacheris, accused the government of "piling on. They're just trying to make things more difficult for Mr. Franklin."
Cacheris called Franklin "a loyal and patriotic American citizen" and indicated that both cases will go to trial. "Mr. Franklin and I are not interested in any further cooperation with the government," he said.
If convicted on both the Alexandria and West Virginia charges, Franklin would face up to 20 years in prison.
The investigation of Franklin, an Iran specialist, was disclosed last summer, when officials said the FBI was probing whether he had provided a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC and whether AIPAC passed the information to Israel. AIPAC has said it did nothing improper.
The law enforcement sources said they did not know whether anyone else will be charged.