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US gave Iraq information to Israel, say reports

August 29, 2004

WASHINGTON, Aug 28: The FBI is investigating senior members of what was formerly known as the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans on suspicion that one of them passed highly classified US military information to Israel.

The United Press International, which broke the story earlier this week, said at least two senior Pentagon officials, former chief of OSP Bill Luti and Harold Rhode of the Near East and South Asia Bureau have been interviewed by the FBI.

The Washington Post identified another NESA bureau official, Larry Franklin, who worked at the Defence Intelligence Agency before moving to the Pentagon's policy branch three years ago and is nearing retirement.

New York's Newsday newspaper said an aide to Defence Undersecretary Douglas Feith was a possible suspect but did not name him. The aide, the newspaper said, was an advocate for the Iraq war and had close ties to Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi.

Newsday said that Mr Feith's aide allegedly gave information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying organization, which then handed it on to Israel. The newspaper reported that the investigation is at least a year old and involves claims that other members of Mr Feith's staff gave information to Israel, including details of US plans for the invasion of Iraq.

An UPI report said another under-investigation official Mr Rhode "practically lived out of (Ahmad) Chalabi's office". Intelligence sources said that CIA operatives observed Mr Rhode as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel, discussing US plans, military deployments, political projects and a discussion of Iraq assets.

In 1982, Mr Feith went to work for Pentagon official Richard Perle, a prominent neo-conservative and one of the key planners of the Bush administration's current Middle East policy, including the plan to invade Iraq. Mr Perle has since left the Pentagon. Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, also a neo- conservative member of the Bush administration, played a "large role in hiring Mr Feith for his current job", the report said.