The FBI has spent more than a year covertly investigating, including with the use of electronic surveillance, whether a Pentagon analyst funneled highly classified material to Israel, officials said Saturday. Prosecutors were still weighing whether to bring the most serious charge of espionage. Charges could be brought in the case as early as next week, said two federal law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The case has taken so long in part because of diplomatic sensitivities between the United States and its close ally Israel, they said. Although the information involved material describing Bush administration policy toward Iran was described as highly classified, prosecutors could determine that the crime involved falls short of espionage and could result in lesser but still serious charges of mishandling classified documents, the officials said. They said the still-classified material did not detail U.S. military or intelligence operations and was not the type that would endanger the lives of U.S. spies overseas or betray sensitive methods of intelligence collection. The target of the probe was identified by the two officials as Larry Franklin, a senior analyst in a Pentagon office dealing with Middle East affairs. Franklin, who did not respond to a telephone message left at his office Saturday, formerly worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Efforts to find a home telephone number were unsuccessful, informs ABCNEWS. According to the Statesman, the FBI is investigating whether an aide to the Pentagon’s No. 3 official acted as a spy for Israel, giving the Jewish classified materials about secret White House deliberations on Iran, according to two federal law enforcement officials. No arrests have been made, said the officials, speaking yesterday on condition of anonymity, because the investigation is continuing. The officials refused to identify the Pentagon employee who is under investigation, but said the person works in the office of Mr Douglas J Feith, the undersecretary of defence for policy at the Pentagon. Feith is a key aide to Defence Secretary Mr Donald Rumsfeld, working on sensitive policy issues, including US policy toward Iraq and Iran. The investigation centres on whether the employee in Mr Feith’s office passed secrets about Bush administration policy toward Iran to the main pro-Israeli lobbying group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which then allegedly gave them to the Israeli government, one official said. Israel has rejected any links with the Pentagon employee who was allegedly passing sensitive documents to the country, saying it had not conducted intelligence gathering activities on US soil for years. NYTimes publishes that news that the F.B.I. has been investigating a Pentagon official on suspicion of passing secrets to Israel has caused a diplomatic scramble here, with officials rushing to deny spying on Washington and to assure the United States of its friendship. Administration officials say the Pentagon official, who has been named in some news reports but who could not be reached for comment early Saturday, works in the office of Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. Officials who have been briefed about the inquiry say the official is suspected of passing a classified policy draft on Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group, which in turn is thought to have provided the information to Israeli intelligence. Publicly, the Israeli government, through its spokesmen here and in Washington, have called the allegations wrong and outrageous, as has Aipac, the lobbying group. "The United States is Israel's most cherished friend and ally," said David Siegel, the Israeli Embassy spokesman. "We have a strong ongoing relationship at all levels, and in no way would Israel do anything to impair this relationship." Aipac called the allegations "baseless and false."
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