Two days ago Knight Ridder's Warren Strobel wrote: "An FBI probe into the handling of highly classified material by Pentagon civilians is broader than previously reported, and goes well beyond allegations that a single mid-level analyst gave a top-secret Iran policy document to Israel, three sources familiar with the investigation said Saturday."
Strobel, you'll remember, was one of the few reporters to have written in advance about the problems with the administration's evidence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties with terrorist groups. Until recently, press critics and ombudsmen -- writing mea culpas for their own organizations' work -- have been pointing to Strobel's reporting in 2002 as an example of the sort of skepticism they should have given to many of the administration's claims.
In any case, if you have not already, read Strobel's article. Then also read this article from tomorrow's Washington Post.
It's a follow-up on the Franklin story focusing on the fact that in the last few days the FBI has interviewed several senior Pentagon officials, including Doug Feith and Peter Rodman, as part of their probe. (The Times, meanwhile, says the meeting with Feith was to brief him on the investigation rather than to interview him for it -- though they seem to have gotten that information from a Pentagon source, rather than someone at the FBI, which makes it less reliable.)
The Post piece is an odd article -- not a bad one but an odd one since various parts of the piece seem to point such different directions. Some passages imply that investigators are simply jotting their 'i's and crossing their 't's before wrapping the whole thing up; others suggest the probe is much broader, reaching far beyond Franklin.
The key seems to be -- and this has been reported in other articles -- that Franklin has been "cooperating with investigators for several weeks", as the Post puts it. There's only utility in getting someone like Franklin's cooperation if there are other people in the mix. I trust Strobel's reporting on this one: something bigger than just Larry Franklin is involved here.
Another point worth mentioning: The piece in Tuesday's Times seems to rely much more heavily on DOD sources than the Post, which seems to be working more equally from DOD and law enforcement sources. Needless to say, too great a reliance on DOD sources in this case is inherently problematic since there seems to be a good chance that this investigation covers a lot of ground in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Another sign of the tilt in the Times reporting in this graf toward the end of the piece ...
Mr. Franklin worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency for most of his government career until he transferred to the Pentagon policy office in the summer of 2001 to deal with Iranian issues. In his current job, he is one of two Iran desk officers who work in the policy office's Northern Gulf directorate. Mr. Franklin is one of about 1,500 employees who work under Mr. Feith in the policy office.
Narrowly speaking, this is factual. But it's pure spin. To say that Franklin is simply one of 1500 people working under Feith, i.e., just one cog in a vast bureaucracy, is quite misleading. He's an important person in Feith's operation -- which isn't surprising really since he's an analyst on a topic -- Iran -- at the center of Feith's concerns. And Iran policy is already a dicey matter since this is the same shop that used to be the main locus of Chalabism in the governmnet. And of course Chalabi later ended up to have been feeding US intelligence to the Iranians.
Feith's operation has been at the center of a number of bizarre intelligence snafus and embarrassments -- at least two of which have now spawned criminal investigations. One of the more memorable ones was being in charge of post-war planning for Iraq, which didn't pan out that well. Feith's office is also closely tied to Vice President Cheney's office, which is the focus of the Plame investigation.
At some point you'd figure it might draw some actual investigative scrutiny.