Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Johnston & Eric Lichtblau's "Pentagon Analyst Charged With Disclosing Military Secrets"

The inbox is full of members (seventy-five last time I checked) noting David Johnston and Eric Lichtblau's "Pentagon Analyst Charged With Disclosing Military Secrets." This is a big news story. From Johnston and Lichtblau's article:

The analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, turned himself in to the authorities on Wednesday morning in a case that has stirred unusually anxious debate in influential political circles in the capital even though it has focused on a midlevel Pentagon employee.
The inquiry has cast a cloud over the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which employed the two men who are said to have received the classified information from Mr. Franklin. The group, also known as Aipac, has close ties to senior policymakers in the Bush administration, among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to appear later this month at the group's annual meeting.

[. . .]
According to a 10-page F.B.I. affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Mr. Franklin divulged the secret information about the potential attacks at a lunch on June 26, 2003. Officials said he was dining with two of Aipac's senior staff members. The lunch was apparently held under F.B.I. surveillance. Four days later, federal agents searched Mr. Franklin's office and found the document containing the information.
Later, agents found dozens of classified documents at his home. The affidavit did not describe the subject matter of the documents, but said 38 were classified Top Secret, about 37 were classified Secret and approximately eight were classified Confidential. The dates on the documents spanned more than three decades. The affidavit did not indicate whether the information that was disclosed would have placed American troops at risk, and it offered no details about the gravity of the information that might have been compromised.

The article mentions the 'embarrassment' for two administration officials (one past, one current) who were "also close to Aipac:" Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith.

It should be remembered that Franklin has been charged but not convicted. These are serious charges and some source (or sources) is (are) noting the evidence (or alleged evidence) against Franklin. Those who can remember how J-Ass tried cases via the press and how 'damning evidence' often petered out by the time it made it into court, should remind themselves that these are charges until Franklin has his day in court.

Allegations don't equal convictions. Cases argued in the press often fail to bear out in court.

Having noted the above, if the allegations are true and Franklin is convicted, this is appalling.
The Times notes that the foreign government isn't named in the indictment but it is thought to be Israel.

The press should pursue this case (God forbid we have to count on the administration). These are very serious charges. But a number of e-mails this morning have come in offering the punishment they hope awaits Franklin. (All of it legal punishment. And none were hoping for the death penalty.) So, just to be clear, unless and until Franklin's convicted in a court of a law, he's only been charged with crimes.

That's not to dismiss anyone's opinions or concerns. We should all be concerned and we all have our opinions (including me). I hope the press actively pursues this story. But, that said, I'm not looking for a conviction by media based on FBI leaks to the press. (If the press finds their own evidence, they should print it. In fact, they should pursue their own leads and not just wait around to be fed leaks by the FBI.)

This is about Franklin's life (and those of his friends and family) which can be destroyed via unfounded leaks. I'd object to "official" whispers being used to convict in the media regardless of whom the whispers focused on (right, left, whatever). Hopefully, in their coverage the press will be responsible. As readers (viewers, listeners) we can be responsible regardless of how the press behaves. (Tori e-mailed that she thought the media would take a pass on this story and that we were reading a one day story. Tori feels that since it involves the administration, the press will "stuff this story down the memory hole." I understand why Tori suspects that -- it's certainly been the manner in which the press has behaved on other stories involving this administration. Hopefully, the implications of the charges against Franklin will prompt the press to do their job.)

The charges are very serious and go to issues of national security. This is a story and the press should cover it. And when the Times does, we'll note it. But since we are dealing with the life of someone's who's yet to be convicted of anything, I hope everyone is fine with operating under the presumption of innocence.

Johnston and Lichtblau do a strong job of noting what is known and what is passed on. Hopefully future articles (by them or other reporters) will do the same. (I do wonder how broadcast media will run with this story.)

If other sites want to leave the area of innocent until proven guilty, that is their business and they should speak in their own voices. (And more power to them.) But here, my hope is that we can remember that Franklin has been charged, not convicted. (My "hope," this is a members' community. Obviously members are allowed to weigh in with their own opinions and, obviously, some members may disagree with my opinion.)

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