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?”