Franklin Seen as Minor Pentagon Figure

WASHINGTON - Larry Franklin is not considered a key figure at the Pentagon. People who have had dealings with him describe him as a mid-level official in charge of analyzing data on Iran and apparently also Iraq.

Franklin, who is nearing retirement, spent most of his career in the intelligence community and three years ago joined the Defense Department's Near East and South Asia Bureau under Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy.

Franklin's direct supervisor is William Luti, who was one of the central planners for the American war in Iraq.

Franklin is not Jewish, but he works alongside several Jewish officials, including Harold Rhode and Mike Rubin. Doug Feith is Jewish.

Sources familiar with Franklin say that his political views are close to the neoconservative stream, the same school of thought to which Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Feith belong, and which critics in Washington charge with having pressed for military action against Iraq.

Most of Franklin's professional life took place far from the spotlight and the only time he made headlines was when he was sent to Europe, along with his associate Harold Rhode, to hold secret meetings with an Iranian representative. Those meetings led nowhere and did not continue beyond the initial contact.

Israeli officials yesterday had difficulty recalling Franklin and stated that they had had little direct contact with him. They noted that Franklin was not at the level of decision-makers and policy-setters, even though as someone who deals with Iranian affairs at the Pentagon, he is exposed to a great deal of material concerning United States policy on the subject.

Though Franklin so far faces no legal proceedings of any kind, he prefered to be unavailable for comment yesterday to the media on the allegations against him.

The Pentagon likewise refrained from handing out further details about Franklin or allowing him to give press interviews.

Working relationship

Israeli political and defense sources stated that Franklin had a working relationship with Israeli diplomats and other officials in the American capital, but that it never went beyond the accepted level of dialog.

The sources termed accusations that Israel was spying in the United States "utterly groundless" and said that an inquiry among all the intelligence services, the defense establishment, and the Foreign Ministry confirmed that no one has been spying for Israel on United States soil and that no one had received classified information from Franklin.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was briefed on the inquiry's findings.

"Israel is not aware of receiving information from this Franklin," said a political source in Jerusalem.

"In no way was this a case of recruiting an American official to make him a source for Israel. But if someone from AIPAC or another organization heard things and told us, that can happen every day," another source observed.

Sources said Israel has not received any official request from the United States in connection with the Franklin investigation. In fact, the sources added, Israeli officials learned of the matter only when the CBS television network that broke the story Friday night applied to the Israeli Embassy in Washington for a reaction.