Lawrence Franklin, a 58-year-old policy analyst whose expertise included Iran and Iraq, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three felony counts in US District Court as part of a plea bargain.
He faces up to 25 years of prison if sentenced on 20 January.
Franklin said during the plea hearing that he was frustrated with a government policy, so he leaked classified information to two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee with the hope that they would provide the information to their contacts on the National Security Council and possibly get the policy changed.
“It was never my intent to harm the United States, not even for a second,” Franklin said.
He also admitted giving classified information to Naor Gilon, a political officer at the Israeli embassy, but said the information he received from Gilon was more valuable than what he gave.
“I knew in my heart that his government had this information,” Franklin said. “He gave me far more information than I gave him.”
In court documents, prosecutors did not mention Gilon by name, but said he and Franklin discussed classified information on numerous occasions, including about a weapons test conducted by a Middle Eastern country.
“It was never my intent to harm the United States, not even for a second”
Franklin at one time worked for the Pentagon’s No 3 official, policy undersecretary Douglas Feith, on issues involving Iran and the Middle East.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Franklin said he would occasionally be questioned directly by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former top Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz on policy issues.
As a result, Franklin said, he sometimes took classified information home with him to stay up to speed. One of the charges to which he pleaded guilty was unlawful retention of classified national defence information.
Prosecutors also told the judge that a one-page document faxed by Franklin to an AIPAC lobbyist was among the classified information.
Franklin disputed that, and started to explain that the document was an unclassified “list of murders the Iranian government …” before he was cut off by prosecutors who said he was about to disclose classified information in open court.
Prosecutor Neil Hammerstrom said the document in question was indeed classified and the judge agreed to place that small portion of the court transcript under seal.
The two AIPAC officials who allegedly received the information, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, also have been charged with conspiring to obtain and disclose
classified US defence information.