A Defense Department analyst was charged with disclosing to a foreign diplomat classified information about a Middle Eastern country’s activities in Iraq, court documents showed on Monday.
Lawrence Franklin was arrested in May on charges of illegally disclosing classified defense information. An indictment returned by a federal grand jury and unsealed on Monday gave further information on the charges, including that he disclosed secret information to the diplomat.
Franklin, who worked on the Iran desk within the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the time the government says he disclosed the information, was also charged with disclosing top-secret information about potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group.
The six-count indictment charged Franklin, a Defense Department employee since 1979, with conspiracy to share classified information with people not authorized to receive it. One charge specified that he disclosed information to an agent of a foreign government.
The indictment did not identify the diplomat or his nationality, but sources familiar with the investigation have said he was Israeli.
Israel has denied any involvement in the Franklin case and the Israeli Embassy in Washington defended its diplomats.
“Our diplomats conduct themselves in full accordance with established diplomatic practice and did not do anything that would contravene these standards,” embassy spokesman David Siegel said.
Franklin pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday. His trial date was set for Sept. 6.
The indictment charged him with disclosing top-secret national defense information to people who are not authorized to receive it — the two employees of the lobby group.
The two individuals were not named in the court documents, but federal law enforcement officials have said they were both senior employees of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC fired the two men in April.
The indictment said Franklin met the two to share classified national defense information “in an effort to advance his own career, advance his own personal policy agenda and influence persons within and outside the United States government.”
It said Franklin started meeting them in February, 2003, and shared various types of classified information. It said in June, 2003, Franklin shared what he called “highly classified” data related to potential attacks on U.S. forces from Iraq.
On the charge of sharing classified information with a representative of a foreign government, the indictment said Franklin used his position as a desk officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to gather the data which he then shared with the unidentified diplomat.
It said Franklin met the foreign official — described only as the “‘policy’ person at the embassy” — near his embassy in Washington in January 2003 and discussed “a Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.” It did not identify the country.
The indictment accused Franklin of meeting the foreign official several times in 2003 and 2004. Some of the meetings took place at the Pentagon Officer’s Athletic Club, located next to the Pentagon and one — with the diplomat and another person previously associated with an intelligence agency from his country — took place in the Pentagon cafeteria.
According to the indictment, Franklin also shared information from a classified U.S. government document related to a Middle Eastern country’s activities in Iraq.
It said between December 2003 and June 2004, Franklin also gave the diplomat classified government information relating to a weapons test conducted by a Middle Eastern country.
Franklin faces a maximum sentence of 55 years if convicted of all counts.