Who was the man who approached him?"Well, the guy was definitely a Zionist," Franklin said. "And he was a true believer. And like a lot of true believers, he's beyond good and evil. They're not subject to the laws the rest of us are."
And the next day this - CQ Politics | ‘Secret’ Rome Meeting Recounted by AIPAC Spy Case Figure
All such accounts were based on anonymous sources.
But this week, one of the participants, Franklin broke a yearslong public silence to discuss what happened in Rome.
Or at least his version of events...
Ghorbanifar, the middleman in the so-called Iran-Contra/Arms-for-Hostages scandal in the Reagan administration, had fabricated so much bad intelligence and empty schemes that the CIA had put him on a no-contact list.
Nevertheless, when Michael Ledeen, a high profile Republican intelligence operative and longtime associate of Ghorbanifar, came calling during the panicky weeks after 9/11, Bush administration neoconservatives couldn’t resist.
The Iranian had a plan for regime change in Teheran — again.
Senior White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley and his deputy, Zalmay Khalilzad, “were enthusiastic,” Ledeen told me. Pentagon officials Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz , the deputy and undersecretary, respectively, of Defense, were also game, Franklin said.
His immediate boss, William Luti, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who headed Near East issues at Defense, put him on the team.
“He said, ‘We’d like you to go on this mission,’” Franklin recalled in an interview. “Feith, Wolfowitz, they’re in favor of it.”
How about the phony Niger uranium documents? I asked. Did that come up?
“No it did not, not that I can remember.”
Then why did he meet with Italian intelligence officials, who were said to have a role in peddling the phony documents?
“They gave us safe houses, restaurants,” Franklin said. “They were our shield. Mike [Ledeen] had good relations with them.“
Did Ledeen clear the meeting with CIA station chief Jeff Castelli? I asked. He was reportedly furious about being kept out of the loop.
“Yes,” Franklin said. “Mike talked to him.”
Ledeen: “Who’s Castelli?”
I don't buy it, he's only telling half the story, if that. But interesting nevertheless.
And Ledeen should have his ass hauled before Congress, not that they would know what to ask him. Or even want to know the truth. But maybe just for old times' sake?
UPDATE: On further reflection, and particularly having read this longer piece from Stein, it's quite possible that Franklin was handed over to the Feds because he was getting in the neocons' way.
"Rosen boasted of his contacts in the NSC and the State Department - he was dropping all these names that I recognized -- he dropped the name of Elliott Abrams, head of Middle East policy for the national security staff," Franklin said.Is he protecting Rosen, or scared of him? As always, a million questions and no answers.
"When Rosen dropped his name, among others, I seized upon that ... If I could get [Abrams] to slow things down, maybe I could get Rice - Condoleezza Rice, to pause and say, 'Hey, maybe we really do need a foreign policy on Iran before we invade the country next door.'"
Rosen assured him he would get his Iran information to Abrams, Franklin said.
"But he didn't do that. He went to The Washington Post and the political officer at the Israeli embassy." (Rosen's indictment spelled out those acts.)
"He was duped -- he was duped real, real good," said a senior law enforcement official involved in the case. Another said, "My feeling was that they took advantage of him."
Franklin shook his head.
"No...this was my initiative. I was not directed by him," he said.