CRIMES OF THE 'CLEAN BREAK' GANG
By: Justin Raimondo
These are bad times for Israeli spy operations. It wasn't enough that the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was outed,
last week, as a major supplier of U.S. secrets to Tel Aviv: on Monday, Israel's spy
satellite meant to keep an eye on Iran's nuclear ambitions went kaput on lift-off. Measured
in time, money, and
diplomatic blowback, the loss of the satellite is a hard blow to the Jewish state
but the AIPAC affair could deliver a knockout punch to one of Washington's most
powerful, and feared, lobbying groups. Not only that, it could also destroy the neoconservative wing of the Republican
foreign policy establishment by demonstrating, in a court of law, the key link between
neoconservatism and espionage.
Attempts to minimize the damage, mostly conducted in the pages
of the Jerusalem Post, and the New York Times which has published
"news" stories on the subject consisting almost entirely
of the neocons' outraged denials have so far downplayed the significance of the
documents allegedly given to AIPAC officials by Pentagon analyst Lawrence A. Franklin, and
then passed on to Israel. The Amen Corner always refers to a draft of a presidential
directive on Iran, and then goes on to scoff at the seriousness of the alleged
transmission: everybody does it, goes the argument, and what are some "draft"
policy papers between such good friends? No notice is ever taken of the "other
documents" frequently mentioned, albeit in passing,
in various news accounts. But what are we talking about, here: secret codes? the names of
American agents abroad? America's war plans in Iraq? It could be any or all of the above.
Also ignored is the timeline of the investigation: top administration officials,
including national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, were reportedly briefed on the
2001, shortly after Bush was sworn into office. In order to carry on the kind of
surveillance FBI agents were conducting, they had to go to a special judge sitting in a special court
and give some indication that the nation's national interests were seriously at risk
and, remember, this was conceivably before the "Patriot" Act was
passed, when a higher standard of probable cause was the rule.
This is quickly burgeoning into a spy scandal that goes far beyond the activities of
Franklin. The investigation, if it isn't murdered in its crib by a Republican hack prosecutor
, will dwarf the infamous Jonathan
Pollard spy case in terms of sheer scope and the damage done to America's
Just how deep the investigation into Israel's spy operations in the U.S. goes is
indicated in a
recent piece by Jason Vest and Laura Rozen, in The American Prospect, which
describes the FBI's recent visit to Stephen Green,
an expert on Israeli-American relations:
"As Green spoke with investigators, he realized the agents were investigating
far more than Franklin.
'Larry Franklin's name never came up, but several others did,' he said."
The FBI had sought out Franklin on account of a fascinating piece he'd written
in February, and published in Counterpunch, the excellent newsletter put out by
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, which detailed the security problems encountered
over the years by major neoconservative figures such as Richard Perle, and his protégé,
suspected Israeli mole Dr. Stephen Bryen,
as well as the self-styled
Machiavellian Michael Ledeen, and
higher on the totem pole deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who,
in 1978, was the subject of an investigation into whether he gave classified documents on
the sale of U.S. weapons to an Arab government to an AIPAC conduit, who then passed them
on to Israel.
The Bryen and Wolfowitz investigations were quietly dropped, along with
a similar inquiry into the loyalties of Douglas Feith, a hard-line neoconservative comrade and currently the head
of the Pentagon's policy shop, where Franklin works. In 1972, as a Middle East analyst in
the Near East and South Asian Affairs section of the National Security Council, Feith was
fired because, as Green put it,
"He'd been the object of an inquiry into whether he'd provided classified
material to an official of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The FBI had opened the
According to Green, his visitors "were extraordinarily well-informed" and
"It was apparent they've been at this for awhile, I asked them if there was a
current reason for them asking questions about things that go back over 30 years, and they
sort of looked at each other and said, 'Yes, it's a present issue,' but wouldn't say
specifically what. Though they did ask very specific questions about one individual in
Israeli connection, as the chief go-between with Israel in the Iran-Contra affair, is well-known, but his storied history didn't
prevent employment as a "consultant" to the Office of Special Plans.
Vest and Rozen report that the agents never brought up Franklin's name: they wanted to
know about Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Ledeen, and Bryen. Another node of interest: the
Pentagon's "Office of
Special Plans," which is widely credited with funneling enough phony
"intelligence" into the White House to expose its occupant to the charge of
being a world-class liar.
"The only name that didn't come up was Larry Franklin," avers Green.
If the antecedents of AIPAC-gate can be traced back across a span of some 25 years or
so, then our sense of deja-vu is further heightened by the circumstances in which Franklin
was caught red-handed trying to hand over classified documents to Israeli agents in the
presence of an AIPAC employee. As part of a larger investigation, the FBI was listening in
on the AIPAC-Mossad meeting at a Washington D.C. eatery when Franklin walked in on the
proceedings "out of the blue"
with his awkward offer. Confronting Franklin with the evidence of his treachery, the feds
turned him and used him to scope out the deep roots of Israel's secret underground in U.S.
The only difference with the Bryen case is that this AIPAC-Mossad luncheon was probably
held at one of the Imperial capital's finer institutions of higher dining, the kind
frequented by Gucci-wearing Washington lobbyists and
the higher-priced politicians. In 1978, Bryen met his Mossad contacts at the Madison Hotel
Coffee Shop, where he was overheard by
Michael Saba offering classified documents to an Israeli Embassy official, Zvi
Rafiah, described by Green as the Mossad station chief in Washington. Green also notes
that Bryen would not agree to take a polygraph test, but Saba readily agreed and passed
with flying colors.
The sense of deja-vu gets stronger as we contemplate the first indications that the
investigation is being killed. As
Saba puts it:
"In 1978, the conversation that I overheard in the restaurant and the
subsequent reporting of what was said to the FBI, led to an investigation of that
government employee, Stephen Bryen, and a recommendation from the FBI investigators that
the matter be brought before a grand jury with charges of espionage for Israel. That case
was then mysteriously dropped."
The agents doing the field work on the Franklin investigation were reportedly eager to
make arrests, but were stopped by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who put GOP hack Paul
McNulty in charge of the case: McNulty moved quickly to nix the plan to go to a grand jury
or file a complaint. Apparently, he'll
go after such national scourges as OxyContin before he'll lift a finger to go after
spies. But the investigation continues, and, given the latest developments, it looks like
the bloodhounds have picked up the scent of treason and are relentlessly following it to
the source. The Washington Post reports:
"FBI counterintelligence investigators have in recent weeks questioned current
and former U.S. officials about whether a small group of Iran specialists at the Pentagon
and in Vice President Cheney's office may have been involved in passing classified
information to an Iraqi politician or a U.S. lobbying group allied with Israel, according
to sources familiar with or involved in the case. In their interviews, the FBI agents have
also named two Israeli diplomats stationed in Washington and asked whether they would be
willing recipients of sensitive intelligence, the sources added."
The Defense Policy Board until recently chaired
by accused thief and
neocon guru Richard
Perle and the office of Dick Cheney are also being scrutinized for evidence of
penetration by Israel's fifth column. David Wurmser, a
prominent neoconservative writer and publicist, a specialist on Iran who serves as
Cheney's principal deputy assistant for national security affairs, is also of interest to
investigators. The Post reports:
"'The initial interest was: Do you believe certain people would spy for Israel
and pass secret information?' said one source interviewed by the FBI about the defense
The Post also notes that the suspects in this case "have strong ties to
Israel," including, in the case of Wurmser, Feith, and Perle, joint authorship of a
1996 policy paper for then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing
the Realm," that called for regime change not only in Iraq but throughout the
Middle East. The idea, back then, was that Israel would accomplish this, all on its own.
Over the years, however, the plan apparently evolved: instead of Israel accomplishing a
regional transformation all by its lonesome, Tel Aviv would manipulate Washington into
paying the price in treasure and casualties. The Clean Breakers were instrumental in
helping to bring this about. But did they also commit acts of espionage in the process?
If so, then their policy prescriptions will be seen in a new light. Why did the
Wolfowitz-Perle-Feith Axis of Israel inside the Pentagon argue so consistently and
relentlessly for a policy of "Iraq, Delenda Est"? As of this moment, 1001 American soldiers have been killed in
Iraq so far. What did they die for? As I put it in an op ed
published in USA Today, in February of last year:
"Our troops will be fighting a proxy war in Iraq, and beyond, not to protect
U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks, but to make the world safe for Israel. When the dead
are buried, let the following be inscribed on their tombstones: They died for Ariel
The neocons' defenders characterize the investigation as a case of political
persecution, an act of factional warfare carried out by the CIA and the Brent
Scowcroft-Republican realists against their neoconservative rivals. But the Clean Break
Gang and their willing accomplices did more than just argue on behalf of Israel's cause.
If the scope of the present investigation into AIPAC is any indication, over a period of
many years the Clean Breakers acted like a coherent and disciplined cell, implanted in the
very heart of the U.S. government. Stealing our secrets and feeding us lies, this cabal operated
a two-way transmission belt of treason subverting our efforts to go after the real
perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and diverting attention and resources to the
war against Israel's enemies, the Ba'athist regimes in Baghdad and Damascus, and the
mullahs of Teheran.
While the neocons appear to have been given a platform by that bastion of liberalism,
the New York Times, to give their defense in the framework of "news"
articles that impart very little new information, the usual suspects have not been heard
to defend AIPAC too loudly. Michael Ledeen is
his usual voluble self, demanding to know why, if the charges have any substance, they
haven't arrested anyone. Does this mean he'll join with Rep. John Conyers, who
has called for McNulty to be taken off the case, so we can finally see somebody in
handcuffs? Conyers has suggested handing it over to the prosecutors in the Valerie Plame case, head up by
Patrick J. "Bulldog"
Fitzgerald. That way, the accused will have their day in court, and the neocons will be
blessed with what every political movement of any consequence eventually acquires: an
ample supply of martyrs.
Aside from Ledeen, however, and pro-forma denials by the Israelis and AIPAC, the
response to the AIPAC espionage caper on the part of Israel's most vehement champions
a numerous crew of ordinarily loquacious pundits, such as Charles Krauthammer,
George Will, and Clifford May, etc. has been an uncharacteristic silence. Bill
Safire managed to get off one very weak volley, in the context of a column in the Sunday
Times about the election:
"Retiring Senator Bob Graham, whose failure to dissociate himself from Pat
Buchanan's anti-Israel screed on 'Meet the Press' yesterday will not help Democrats in
Florida, complains that Kerry's campaign is 'still a little out of focus.'"
But Buchanan did not engage in any sort of "screed," "anti-Israel"
or otherwise. Here is
what he said:
"We also need to investigate whether there is a nest of Pollardites in the
Pentagon who have been transmitting American secrets through AIPAC, the Israeli lobby,
over to Reno Road, the Israeli embassy, to be transferred to Mr. Sharon. Now, I did not
know until this weekend's stories in The Washington Post that this is exactly what
is being talked about; that certain individuals over there in Mr. Feith's shop or beneath
him have been transmitting these secrets.
"Now, the FBI have been asking questions. There are no conclusions. No one
should assume guilt on anyone's part. But if this has been going on, Tim, we are getting
dangerously close to the T-word. And I would urge the president of the United States to
get out in front of this, to take this investigation away from Mr. McNulty and give it to
Patrick Fitzgerald and let them look into it because if the president can I'm sure
the president has no involvement in this. But questions have been raised, and this is not
something on the Internet. This is The Washington Post doing this, moving all this
around, and so I think there clearly needs to be an investigation."
All I know is what I read in the papers: "No one should assume guilt on anyone's
part." This is an "anti-Israel screed" only in the upside down world of Bizarro Bill Safire.
By giving the Clean Break Gang the benefit of a doubt Pat is being generous to a fault:
given their record, and the circumstantial evidence gathered so far, they hardly deserve
On the same program, Newt Gingrich defended the neocons, if you call this a defense:
"I think that it is very worrisome that some security people, whether they're
at the CIA or the FBI, are trying to destroy careers by leaking to the press allegations
that are untrue. You may have just noticed, by the way, that Ahmed Chalabi, after a
six-month campaign by Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ahmed
Chalabi was just cleared, something which didn't get quite the same coverage as all of the
vicious and dishonest charges.
"Now, if what we're seeing is a strategy of smearing people out of public life
by using the FBI and the CIA, I think that's something the Congress should investigate. If
somebody's guilty, fine, arrest them, indict them, convict them. But to have people who
are supposed to be in charge of security out smearing people, I think makes one worry
about the protection of individual liberty and the protection of individual innocence in
But the publicity surrounding the investigation was not a plus for the
investigators, as the Post reports:
"Several law enforcement officials have said in recent days that the FBI had
initially considered making rapid arrests in the Franklin probe when it became clear that
news of the investigation was about to become public last week. But, these officials said,
prosecutors urged caution, arguing that investigators needed more time to gather evidence
and assess the case."
Whoever leaked this case wasn't rooting for the investigators, but was alerting the
other members of the spy nest, allowing them time to scurry to safety perhaps to
Israel and, in any case, cover their tracks. It was, as Laura Rozen speculated, a "controlled
burn," a preemptive strike designed to obstruct and abort the ongoing
investigation before arrests could be made.
Gingrich doesn't answer any of the charges, he merely asserts they are
"untrue." But how does he know that? Does he have access to the wiretaps, the
surveillance records, the transcripts of bugged conversations between AIPAC employees,
Israeli embassy officials, and whomever, going back over two years? The FBI does,
and they must know something Gingrich doesn't know. So this is not an honest response from
Gingrich. The only really direct response of any consequence, apart from "Well, why
don't you arrest them, then?", comes from errant paleoconservative John Derbyshire, commenting
on the National Review "blog":
"The paleocon websites yep, you bet I read them have been going
nuts over this story of an Israeli spy in the DoD.
"This strikes me as disingenuous. I have always assumed that every country
including friendly ones spies on the US govt to whatever degree it can get away
with. The value-added of having some advance, unauthorized insight into US govt policy
discussions is tremendous. Foreign governments, friendly or otherwise, would be fools not
to do all they can to get insights into US policy. "
Here is someone who thinks other countries would be "fools" not to engage in
espionage against the United States. Isn't there something on the citizenship application
form about approving of treason? It's amazing that they let Derbyshire, an immigrant from
Britain, into the country, let alone making him a citizen.
As a writer for a magazine that smeared several prominent antiwar conservatives and
libertarians, including Buchanan, Robert Novak, and Lew Rockwell as well as a few
minor ones, including myself as "Unpatriotic Conservatives," the
statement that the activities of the AIPAC cabal amount to "having some advance,
unauthorized insight into US government policy discussions" is
If he were elected Prime Minister of somewhere-or-other, Derbyshire breezily assures us,
he would immediately expand his country's program of spying on the United States, and
would be "furious" if one were not already in place. He gives voice to the
hard-core Likudnik view of America's relationship with Israel, while supposedly conveying
an ostensibly neutral value-free stance:
"For Israel, whose actual existence as a nation might depend on US policy (as in
fact it did in 1973), there is no excuse at all not to spy on the US. An Israeli
government that did not spy on the US would be in very serious dereliction of its duty
towards its citizens."
Translated into colloquial American, this means: Screw the U.S. We'll spy on them if we
must, and we'll be the proper judges of that. Every country pursues its own interests. But
the only problem is that Israel's supporters have made the point, over and over again
post-9/11, that the interests of Israel and the U.S. are identical. AIPAC-gate proves that
this is a lie: Israel treats its main benefactor and practically its lone friend in
the world as if it were a mortal enemy. But then again, given Derbyshire's
recognition that we hold Israel's life in our hands, this hostility is understandable:
such an over-dependence can only breed resentment, contempt, and, inevitably, a sense of
betrayal. No matter how much aid we give, and how unconditional our support, it's never
enough: not enough to stave off the rising tide of Arab nationalism, not to mention
the demographic tide rising to engulf the Jewish state in an Arab sea.
So what should we do? According to Derbyshire:
"Of course, if we catch someone spying for a foreign power whether friendly
or not we should throw the book at him. We are entitled to do everything we can to
protect our national secrets, and need not apologize to anyone for that. But that is just
the other side of the game.
"To throw up your hands in horror on learning that some friendly country is spying on
the US is preposterous. Unless, of course, you have a heavy emotional investment in the
notion that lots of very senior administration officials owe their true primary allegiance
to that country..."
A "friendly country"? A country that not only spied on us, but also set up a
covert intelligence cell within the highest councils of the U.S. Government and colluded
with them to lie us into war this is a friendly country? This is precisely
what the British did during World War II, as Thomas E. Mahl, author of Desperate
Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44, documents, but
as an American citizen, albeit of British ancestry, and a conservative to boot, no doubt
Derbyshire doesn't approve of that. Although one could understand why he might: but why
make the same sort of exception for Israel? Just asking.
A country that passed secrets to Iran, via its agents, Chalabi
and AIPAC, endangering American lives on the battlefields of Iraq what kind of
"friendship" is that?
Horror is the proper response to treason of this kind, and the only sort of
"emotional investment" required is an emotional attachment to one's own country,
as well as an abiding concern for its security in this, the age of terrorism. Furthermore,
it is absurd to speculate on subjective interpretations of to whom or what the traitors in
our midst felt allegiance. We cannot know what they felt, only what they did. Whether the
spying for Israel was done to advance the neoconservative cult of power, or
the cult was a front for Israeli interests pure and simple, is a question one must leave
to future scholars of the subject. Just as academic specialists ponder the question of
what motivated Alger Hiss, and wonder who
promoted Peress, tomorrow's AIPAC-ologists will debate the point raised by Derbyshire,
which is interesting but irrelevant to our purposes.
What matters to us here at Antiwar.com, and the reason we've been covering this story
so comprehensively, is that it validates what we have been saying all along about the
neocons, and Israel's operational role in the propaganda campaign that led to the invasion
of Iraq. AIPAC-gate further delegitimizes an already unpopular war, and could help block
the War Party's moves to incite more armed conflicts throughout the region. Before we
resolve, finally, to get out of Iraq, and out of the Middle East, where we never belonged
in the first place, we're going to have to fully comprehend and appreciate the key link
between neoconservatism and espionage.
The whole neoconservative movement is an act of subversion: of our republican virtues,
of the moral character of our people (see Abu Ghraib), and the
conservative movement itself. That top neocons in government have been exposed as
foreign agents only confirms that their agenda of "national
greatness," neo-imperialism, and perpetual war is un-American through-and-through
and to the core.
It also confirms our worst suspicions about the "mainstream" conservatives
over at National Review, including Derbyshire: that they all too often act as
fellow travelers in treason, excusing and exculpating the worst excesses of Israel's lobby
in America, while offering the neocons a platform to slime true conservatives and
principled libertarians of the right.
As Ledeen conducts seances in the pages of National Review, complaining to the
mad ghost of James Jesus
Angleton that Israel's spy nest is being subjected to the tortures of
"McCarthyism," and David
Frum denounces the investigation as an anti-Semitic plot (presumably carried out by
neo-Nazis in the FBI), one has to ask: Why this knee-jerk anti-American response to the
actions of our government, which, after all, is only trying to protect us?
Who are the "unpatriotic conservatives" now?
And it isn't just the conservatives. While The Hill newspaper reports that Rep. Roy Blunt
(R-Mo.), House majority whip, has announced that the House "probe" of AIPAC-gate
will start "with a record of confidence" in AIPAC, House Democratic whip Nancy
Pelosi (D-Ca.), gave a statement that echoes the worst excuse-making of Ledeen, Frum, and
her old adversary Gingrich:
"AIPAC has played a pivotal role in ensuring the strength of the special
relationship between the United States and Israel," she said. "AIPAC is a
dedicated advocate for Israel, educating our nation's leaders about opportunities to
assist our democratic ally in the Middle East. I am proud to have worked closely with
AIPAC and its leaders to support Israel as it works to defeat terrorism and strives toward
a just and lasting peace."
This craven catering to a group that has effectively acted as a fifth column, and stands
credibly accused of being an accomplice to crimes including espionage, is an outrage.
What's even worse: AIPAC activists are flooding the Congress with calls, and letters, in a
massive campaign to drop the charges, obstruct justice, and engage in damage control. The
problem is that damage to American interests is not their concern: it's all about
When both parties are complicit with treason, what is to be done? Thank god for Rep. John
Conyers (D-Mich), who seems to be one of the few true patriots left in Congress, who
is calling attention to
the possibility of a cover-up.. The people must rise up and act if this treason is
to be ended.
We can stop the cover-up, but only if we act now. Get on the horn
and call your congressional representatives: your two Senators as well as the member of
the House from your congressional district.
Let it not be said that, when it came time to speak up, and defend the country from
treason only traitors could find words to defend their co-conspirators. Call, write, and
make your voice heard. And be polite. Simply ask why the investigation seems to
have been hampered, not helped, by the intervention of John Ashcroft. And ask why is it
that Israel is given the sort of leeway that no country can afford to give another
without necessarily answering your own question. Be polite, but, by all means, feel free
to point out that if the "A" in AIPAC stood for Arab, one wonders if members of
Congress would be so quick to give a group of accused spies their imprimatur.
Justin Raimondo is Editorial Director
He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
Justin Raimondo may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the September 9, 2004 issue of Ether Zone
Copyright © 1997 - 2004 Ether Zone.
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