WASHINGTON - Former Pentagon analyst Larry A. Franklin was sentenced Friday to a 12 years and seven months imprisonment for passing classified information to former American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists.
Franklin was also found guilty of sharing classified information with Israeli diplomat Naor Gilon. He was also fined $10,000.
In sentencing Franklin, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said the facts of the case led him to believe that Franklin was motivated primarily by a desire to help the United States, not harm it.
Franklin, 59, had worked with top Pentagon officials, including former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith, and is an expert on Iraq and Iran.
Franklin pleaded guilty in October in a plea bargain, and will testify in the trial of former AIPAC lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman slated to start in April 2005. Franklin's sentence could be then further reduced because of his cooperation with the government.
Rosen and Weissman, who are facing charges of disclosing confidential information to Israel, were fired from AIPAC in 2004.
The judge said that Franklin believed the National Security Council was insufficiently concerned with the threat posed by an unspecified Middle Eastern nation. Franklin thought leaking information might eventually persuade the Security Council to take more serious action, he said.
While the Middle Eastern country was not named in the court record, sources and the facts of the case point to Iran.
Ellis said he viewed Franklin's case differently than a case involving information leaked to the Soviets at height of the Cold War.
"But not different to the extent of excuse. Not at all," Ellis said.
Franklin at one time worked for Feith, then the Pentagon's No. 3 official, on issues involving the Middle East. During a court appearance last year, Franklin said he would occasionally be questioned directly by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former top Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz on policy issues.
As a result, Franklin said, he sometimes took classified information home to stay up to speed. One of the charges to which he pleaded guilty was unlawful retention of classified national defense information.
Franklin admitted that he met periodically with Rosen and Weissman between 2002 and 2004 and discussed classified information, including information about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.
Rosen and Weissman would subsequently share what they learned with reporters and Israeli officials.
Rosen was a top lobbyist for Washington-based AIPAC for more than 20 years, and Weissman was the organization's top Iran expert. AIPAC fired them in April and says it has cooperated with the investigation.
Prosecution attorneys said Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia they would consider releasing the court from federal sentencing guidelines once Franklin completes his cooperation in the case against Rosen and Weissman.
Franklin asked that he be allowed to serve his sentence at a minimum security prison near his home.
Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon said in reaction "this is an internal American affair. Israel had no connection to the trial and, of course, to its outcome."
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent in Washington and AP