WASHINGTON - Larry Franklin, the Pentagon analyst suspected of passing classified material about Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has never hidden his unequivocal support of Israel. Colleagues from the Near East and South Asia desk at the Defense Department said yesterday that his sympathy for Israel was overt and public - he didn't refrain from praising Israel and he held aggressive views about several Arab governments, primarily the ayatollahs' regime in Iran and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq.
"Everyone knew he was a friend of Israel, but he didn't go about it in any unusual way," a Pentagon coworker said. "He was always accessible to everyone."
Franklin's resume describes his current position, which he has held since 2001, as: "Office of the Secretary of Defense, Policy, Near East/South Asia, Iran desk analyst, Office of Special Plans Iraq. Focus Projects: Hizbollah, Islam, Saudi Arabia." But the official resume reveals only a few details about the man at the center of the affair.
Franklin, a religious Catholic in his late 50s, lives in Kearneysville, West Virginia, a 90-minute drive from the Pentagon. But living in the distant suburb assured a high quality of life for Franklin, his wife Patricia and their five children, some of whom are college-age. Franklin has a doctorate in East Asian studies from St. John's University, a Catholic university in New York City, and speaks Farsi, Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese (in addition to English). On top of his work at the Pentagon, Franklin teaches history at Shepherd University in West Virginia.
In conversations about Franklin with his colleagues, one of the words that comes up again and again is "naive." He is described as an ideologue who believes wholeheartedly in the neo-conservative approach. "Everything by him is black and white," said someone who has worked with Franklin in the Pentagon. "He is a very nice person, very conservative, not at all arrogant," said the colleague, adding that one of the reasons he was brought into the Near East and South Asia desk was his political beliefs.
Franklin's political opinions are similar to those of his bosses - Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense, and William Luti, the deputy undersecretary of defense responsible for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. Like them, Franklin supports the policy of acting to bring democracy to Arab regimes and build up pro-American allies in the Middle East.
But those who have worked with Franklin also say he was a bit extreme in his work patterns, attitude and behavior. They occasionally referred to him as "Planet Larry" as a way of expressing the extent to which he "lives in a world of his own," colleagues said.
People who have worked with Franklin believe that it was his trademark naivete that got him in trouble, saying Franklin was not aware of the severity of his activities, and so did not try to hide or mask them. Franklin visited Israel eight times while he served in the U.S. Air Force and worked at the Pentagon. Most of his visits appear to have been related to his reserve duty service as an officer dealing with international contacts. According to his resume, Franklin served as a reserve air force colonel between 1997 and 2004, working with the U.S. military attache in Tel Aviv. Beforehand he was involved in analyzing counter-intelligence in the air force.
Had the current accusations not come to light, Franklin's job at the Pentagon would have depended on the presidential elections, his coworkers said. If Democratic candidate John Kerry wins the next election, colleagues said, it's doubtful that Franklin will move up, due to his well-known political views.
"He was considered a little strange even for the neo-cons," a coworker said. "They're probably saying to themselves - oh, Larry again."
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