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Thursday, August 20, 2015

What do Rumsfeld and others identified with the Pollard Affair fear from his release?

Releasing Pollard was a bad idea in 1998 & 2001. It is not a better idea today.” 
Donald Rumsfeld

In 2007 the CIA in cooperation with the combined American intelligence establishment issued its dubious National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran just in time to provide President Bush an excuse to not follow through on his seven-year threat of the “military option” against Iran. The NIE concluded with “moderate confidence” that Iran quit its nuclear weapons program in 2003, a conclusion former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Peter Hoekstra called "a piece of trash,” while former CIA Director James Woolsey described it “deceptive!” But then, the CIA, et al are, after all, beholding to their White House masters. But what to make of an assumed credible “independent” intelligence analyst employed by a highly regarded intelligence think tank who clearly crosses the line of objective credibility? 

At the time of the Pollard Affair Don Rumsfeld most prominently served as President Reagan’s Special Envoy to the Middle East which likely explains the emotion appearing in his recent reminder of his opposition to allowing Pollard’s release by parole: “
Releasing Pollard was a bad idea in 1998 & 2001. It is not a better idea today.” In his 2001 Letter to George W. Bush he advised the president to tell American delegations asking Pollard be freed: “come on very forcefully and say not no, but definitely not no + no today, tomorrow and the next day…” Similarly Stratfor’s Fred Burton, who describes himself “a young agent” at the time of Pollard’s arrest, seems to have accepted uncritically the description of Pollard as appeared in the press and bureaucratic grapevine demonizing him at the time. Burton wrote an “analysis, ”Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair" and two weeks later he sat for an interview expanding on his views, "Conversation: Reflections on the Pollard Case". In both instances “facts” are few and comments steeped in emotionality, although Rumsfeld far more so. Clearly bureaucratic opposition can no longer be based on the time-worn warning hold that thirty years later Pollard continues a national security risk. Perhaps Rumsfeld and other ranking government bureaucrats identified with the Affair fear something more dangerous to themselves than to the country. 

Understandably reference to Iran-Contra would not appear in comments and writings by critics actively or unwittingly involved serving the government at the time the Pollard Affair was unfolding. Those actively involved would avoid such issues to avoid opening another channel of investigation. Those not actively involved would not necessarily seen the possible relationship. For example, the Irangate connection immediately involves its prime mover and head of the defense department, Caspar Weinberger. Coincidentally he was also the prime mover, and public relations spokesman for the Pollard Affair. Weinberger would later be tried and convicted as the highest ranking administration official involved in Iran-Contra, pardoned by then successor to President Reagan, George Bush (according to Loftus and Aaron it was George Bush as vice president who inspired and promoted Irangate). 

Perhaps taking their cue from Weinberger or DiGenova (the lead federal prosecutor) who seemingly appeared daily attacking Pollard as the investigation continued critics since have maintained the drumbeat of emotionalism until today as Rumsfeld’s vitriol quoted above demonstrates. 

I have drawn what I consider representative quotes from the Burton interview. Links to both his “analysis” and the interview, as well as to Rumsfeld’s remarks are also provided. 

Burton: “we expected the Russian KGB to spy on us, but we never thought that the Israelis would actually spy on us.” 

DT: In fact it was the US that was the first betrayer. Yosi Amit, a former major in the IDF specializing in intelligence was recruited by a Tel Aviv-based Jewish CIA operative stationed in Tel Aviv recruited Yosef Amit in 1982, two years before Pollard was offered a job my Naval Intelligence. Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985; Amit four months later. 

Burton: “there were many of us that would have willing[ly] tried to help if the Israelis had come to us with some very specific requirements or questions as to what they wanted or needed.” 

DT: Let’s fact-check the background to why Israel might have taken the risk to begin with. Recall President Reagan’s Memorandum of Understanding with Israel providing for a free exchange of intelligence between the two countries. Had agencies of the US Government been adhering to the president’s assurances there would have been no need for the “willingness” of some within the intelligence community to have to respond to “some very specific requirements or questions.” It was this failure by the defense department that led to a need to fill the gap. 

No I have suggested a connection between Irangate and the Pollard Affair so it is important to remind that Pollard was hired as an intelligence analyst for Naval Intelligence soon after he was turned down by the CIA. Two months after he was hired Pollard’s boss requested he be terminated. Instead Pollard was transferred to a more important position. It is a matter of record that in Weinberger’s defense department Pollard enjoyed serial promotions resulting in higher and higher security clearances. Until finally the suspect and know Zionist was assigned to the intelligence team responsible for exchanging information with Israel! It was then that Pollard could observe directly what intelligence was being provide, what withheld. 

That the head of the Department of Defense was both antisemitic and anti-Israel is a matter of record. Lt. Colonel Ollie North, a key figure in Irangate, wrote:

[Weinberger] seemed to go out of his way to oppose Israel on any issue and to blame the Israelis for every problem in the Middle East. In our planning for counterterrorist operations, he apparently feared that if we went after Palestinian terrorists, we would offend and alienate Arab governments – particularly if we acted in cooperation with the Israelis.

“Weinberger’s anti-Israel tilt was an underlying current in almost every Mideast issue. Some people explained it by pointing to his years with the Bechtel Corporation…Others believed it was more complicated, and had to do with his sensitivity about his own Jewish ancestry.”
Not a stretch to imagine that defense department bureaucrats not already so inclined would have known of their chief’s position on Israel and would have wanted to please and curry favor with him? 

Burton: “as a young agent… [an American Jew caught spying for Israel] was one of the vivid reminders that we are living in a very dirty world… this is what nations do. They spy on each other.” 

DT: Yes, and does not context demand at least a nod in your “analysis”? Jonathan Pollard was arrested in The Year of the Spy, 1985-86. Among the other seven arrested that year was the Walker family who had been providing Russia, America’s enemy at the time, US Navy code machines and the codes, along with classified documents which, had there been a war between the superpowers, would have constituted a strategic threat to the United States. And then the legendary “Mr. X” long described as Pollard’s American guide to those Naval Intelligence files he provided Israel. Except that “Mr. X” was apparently the CIA’s own point man for Soviet counter-intelligence, Aldrich Ames. Apparently Ames was quietly feeding Pollard’s prosecutors information designed to transfer suspicion from his own treachery involving a series of otherwise inexplicably failed CIA failed operations, and the disappearances and deaths of agents behind the Iron Curtain. Those blown operations and dead operatives served as one “justification” for the Department of Justice to abandon its “assurances of leniency” in exchange for Pollard agreeing not to ask for a jury trial. 

Was Jonathon Pollard guilty of espionage? Even this question is plagued by moral ambiguity. And what of those government agencies that intentionally withheld the information violating their president’s wishes which motivated the espionage to begin with? 

In the end Pollard acted against a high ranking officer who was defied his president. Within this context, How judge the case against Jonathan Jay Pollard? 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The case against the U.S. (vs. Jonathan Pollard)

Almost any article regarding Jonathon Pollard elicits a wave of responses, usually more negative than positive. For supporters the issue typically comes down to the “injustice” of the term of sentence. Opponents are likely to raise the spy’s “treason,” blame him for the deaths of CIA “assets” during the 1980’s in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

In point of fact Pollard’s incarceration is far longer as compared to other persons similarly charged and convicted. Also correct is that many CIA operatives did lose their lives across Eastern Europe and Russia during the years in which he was engaged in espionage. But was he guilty of treason, and were those deaths due to his activities?

Certainly more is involved in this issue than the known and assumed facts. And in what follows I will suggest an alternative explanation for what began as espionage by an American on behalf of an ally, and turned into what today is known as the Pollard Affair.

The espionage and conviction of Jonathan Pollard, 1979 - 1985

From the moment Jonathan asked me to represent him as director of Justice for the Pollards in 1988, one thing in particular caught, and continues to hold my attention. While the last-minute so-called Weinberger Memorandum supposedly provided Judge Robinson reason to vacate the government’s plea agreement with Pollard, the single visible technical reason for doing so was that he had violated his plea agreement by granting interviews with Wolf Blitzer of the Jerusalem Post. The problem with this violation, and it was in fact a violation of the plea agreement, was that at the time of the interviews, Pollard was a prisoner in a federal penitentiary. He could agree to any number of interviews, but unless he actually met with them he was not in violation. And, unless Blitzer had had authorization from someone well above the pay grade of a prison warden, such as an administration member, he could not have been admitted to see Pollard, and provide the opportunity to violate the plea agreement. Pollard was set up.

Nor was this just my imagination. In his book that resulted from those prison interviews, Territory of Lies, Blitzer expressed the same thoughts: “If those interviews were not approved,’ he asks, “why was I allowed into the prison... was this part of a conspiracy?” And while Blitzer chose not to pursue the question in the book, I suggest it represents the key to understanding how and why Pollard and Israel were targeted, and why Pollard remains a prisoner even today.

Blitzer describes Pollard’s entry into espionage as having, “quietly passed some intelligence to Israel when he had officially participated in two formal intelligence exchanges with Israel in 1982. He felt that vital information – which actually had been authorized for release to Israel,” was withheld because, “other U.S. officials were anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic.” During a break in one of those meetings Pollard is described as approaching a “startled” Israeli. “I’m Jewish,” he said, “I want to help you.”

The story of how Pollard found himself in those intelligence exchange sessions, for that matter how he even managed to be hired by Naval Intelligence, is itself suspect. In brief, Pollard dropped out of his masters degree program to seek employment with the CIA and, following a polygraph exam was quickly turned down. So he applied to Naval Intelligence (NI).

Of all the service branches of the U.S. military, the Navy had a reputation as least “friendly” towards Jews and Israel. But Pollard, Jew and vocal Zionist, passed his background check minus a polygraph, and was hired as an analyst. That failure to polygraph was something that seemed to occur throughout his tenure at NI, through promotions and increases in security clearance.

Within two months of being hired, the technical director of the [Naval Fields Operational Intelligence Office] NFOIO, Richard Haver, requested that Pollard be terminated. This came after a reckless and inappropriate conversation with the new hire in which Pollard offered to start a back-channel operation with the South African intelligence service and lied about his own father's involvement with the CIA.” But Pollard did not lose his job. Instead Haver's boss reassigned him to a human-gathered intelligence operation.

About a month later Pollard again tried to promote the South Africa back channel, this time by approaching none other than the director of Naval Intelligence. The admiral later referred to him as a "kook…I wish the hell I'd fired him." But he didn’t, and somehow Israel’s future spy continued to enjoy promotions within the Defense Department establishment, was assigned positions increasingly more sensitive, received increasingly higher security clearance.

And then, “in June 1984 Jonathan Pollard was transferred to the newly created Anti-Terrorist Alert Center (ATAC) of the Naval Investigative Service’s Threat Analysis Division to serve as watch officer(!).” His security clearance now included, “CONFIDENTIAL, TOP SECRET, and SPECIAL COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION (SCI).” (pps. 65-68) Pollard could now access to any information he felt was being withheld from Israel.

To make the point absolutely clear: “SCI is a designation reserved for especially sensitive classified information (my italics),” accessible only to persons with “special security clearance.”

At the same time as his new assignment Pollard “made comments that he had worked for Israeli intelligence(!).” But not even such comments apparently raised concern in the mind of his supervisor, a 20+ year NI veteran.

“On January 3, 1985, Pollard passed another routine security clearance examination which [again] did not include a polygraph.” (p.95) Was it standard procedure that while other government offices routinely polygraphed during the Year of the Spy, that only Naval Intelligence was exempt? Or was it that Pollard was considered a “special case”?

Following his arrest FBI agents discovered a letter inside a suitcase filled with classified documents. Addressing a “Yossi,” the letter referred to a missile system, “which might be available for sale to Iran… This letter was actually drafted shortly after the United States and Israel began their own covert arms-for-hostages negotiations with Iran,” writes Blitzer.

The Reagan Administration and Irangate, August 20, 1985 – March 4, 1987

Irangate, also known as the Iran-Contra Affair, was a clandestine operation run directly out of the White House. It involved a range of illegal activities including: the sale of weapons to Iran; funding and arming the terrorist Nicaraguan Contras; money laundering to fund the activities; and drug trafficking.

At a time when Pollard was dominating the headlines the administration chose to respond to Congressional pressure over Iran-Contra by appointing its own investigative panel (Congress would later appoint its own). But even this panel, faced with the enormity of the criminal activities, condemned the administration.
According to the Tower Commission Report, “In November 1986, it was disclosed that the United States had, in August 1985, and subsequently, participated in secret dealings with Iran involving the sale of military equipment.” Since selling arms to Iran was a violation of United States law, the administration sought to conceal its illegal dealings behind friendly national “cutouts,” Israel to broker the arms, and other countries, principly the Saudis, to provide the funds. “Before the Israelis would participate,” notes the report, they demanded "a clear, express and binding consent by the U.S. Government." According to National Security Chairman Robert McFarlane, President Reagan approved the deal in July, 1985. “In August,” McFarlane continued, “Reagan again orally authorized the first sale of weapons to Iran.” In his 26 January, 1987 testimony before the Commission the president contradicted his chief of staff’s testimony “by admitting, that he had indeed approved both the Israeli sale of TOWs to Iran and had agreed to replenish the Israeli stocks.”

Conclusions: In the popular imagination the case against Jonathan Pollard involves several serious charges, all emanating from the same source, his ultimate boss at Naval Intelligence, the Secretary of Defense. It was Caspar Weinberger who staged that dramatic last-minute race to the courthouse to deliver his “secret memorandum” asserting criminal behavior justifying the extreme sentence. It was Weinberger who demanded that, “the punishment imposed should reflect the perfidy of the individual actions, the magnitude of the treason committed.” And it was Weinberger who, according to my memory (I am unable to find press references to the impromptu news conference), stood on the steps of the courthouse and publicly accused Pollard of treason and deserving execution, not life imprisonment.

Of course Caspar Weinberger, himself a lawyer, was well aware that Pollard was not a “traitor” since the term only applies to persons providing information to an enemy in time of war. His call for the “death penalty” was mere hyperbole, but the charge stuck and continues to haunt Pollard even today.

Before his death Weinberger admitted that the facts and events surrounding the trial of Pollard were overblown. But the Pollard Affair was never really about the facts of the case but the event itself. It succeeded in creating a diversion, deflected attention away from Irangate. And it served that purpose well. While the reputation of the president remains intact and Iran-Contra is relegated to a footnote in history, twenty-six years later Jonathan Pollard remains in prison.

As to those agents whose deaths were, and continue to be, attributed to Pollard’s espionage: seven years following his conviction the CIA finally unraveled the mystery of the leak: rather than that elusive Agent “X” supposed to have guided Pollard’s activities, the person who had betrayed those murdered CIA agents was one of their own, a burned out, alcoholic agent living well beyond his means, Aldrich Ames.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weinberger, Pollard, and the Question of Guilt

In January, 2009 former CIA director James Woolsey, who several times over the years voiced support for the release of Jonathan Pollard, told Newsweek, "We're now coming up on a quarter of a century, [a duration typically reserved for] only the hard-line Soviet bloc spies." But Pollard was neither accused nor convicted of passing information to an enemy, let alone the Soviets. So what might account for his excessive and continuing punishment? I suggest that the Pollard Affair may not be as obvious as it appears at first glance, that factors and actors played a part in his espionage, trial and conviction which raise serious questions regarding who was guilty of what.

It is “common wisdom” among antisemites, Israel bashers (often the same), and the more defensive within our American Jewish community that Pollard was a traitor who betrayed his country for money. He always admitted to spying for Israel, that he received money in the course of his activities. Do those two admissions validate the assertion that he “was a traitor who betrayed his country for money”?

According to the US Constitution, “treason” applies to three specific acts: "levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." To the best of my knowledge the United States and Israel were not in a state of war in the 1980’s, so none of the above applies to Pollard. In fact he was never charged for treason. What he was charged and convicted of was passing information to an American ally, Israel.

Regarding Pollard accepting payment from his Israeli handlers, this posed a problem for the conscience of the man, and he initially refused. In the end it came down to salary as a condition of employment. That this was the case was confirmed to me in 1989 by a ranking figure in the operation.

Why would payment be a condition of service? I never asked that question but one purpose suggests itself. “Walk-ins,” persons who volunteer to spy, may change their minds in the future, decide to quit. Payment psychologically binds spy to spymaster; it also represents a paper trail, evidence which, if disclosed, would result in arrest.

There are very serious question surrounding the hire of Jonathan Pollard by Naval Intelligence (NI). His hire is even more suspect given the fact that he had been turned down by the CIA before applying to Naval Intelligence. The CIA found him unsuitable for several reasons, one of which was his open ideological ties to Israel and Zionism. So how explain that the Navy, not known as particularly philosemitic, overcame prejudice and hired him?

The Navy Department falls under the direction of the Secretary of Defense who, in Reagan administration years, was Casper Weinberger. Weinberger, an Episcopalian by choice, had always been defensive about his “Jewish” name, inherited from his grandfather, a convert to Christianity. Confidants considered him an antisemite and some of his policies as defense secretary, such as overcoming strong administration doubts to sell AWACS aircraft to the Saudis, potentially a significant threat to the state of the Jews, suggest he was also anti-Israel.

Barely two months after his hire Pollard’s immediate superiors, alarmed at his ideas and behavior, recommended dismissal. Over his years at NI other officials, including an admiral, considered him a risk that should be removed. But Pollard, as if protected by a guardian angel, survived and thrived, was promoted and placed in ever more sensitive jobs with ever higher security clearance. As described by Seymour M. Hersh in, Why Pollard Should Never Be Released (The Traitor), “In late 1983, shortly after the terrorist bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, the Navy set up a high-powered Anti-Terrorist Alert Center at Suitland, and in June, 1984, Pollard was assigned to that unit's Threat Analysis Division. He had access there to the most up-to-date intelligence in the American government.” By 1984 Pollard was a member of the intelligence team responsible for meeting with, and providing their Israeli counterparts information under the 1983 US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). By his presence Pollard was in a position to evaluate the quality and quantity of materials provided Israel, and was alarmed. His team, he realized, was withholding information about terrorism, Syrian forces deployments and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, all in violation of the intent and letter of the MOU. He apparently raised his concerns with his superiors before deciding to contact Aviem Sella, the much decorated Israeli Air Force pilot then enrolled in graduate school in New York.

Jonathan Jay Pollard became a spy for Israel in June, 1984. He was arrested in November, 1985 outside the gate of the Israel Embassy.

Justice department lead prosecutor Joseph diGenova entered into a plea agreement with Pollard in which the government would be spared a public jury trial, and possible exposure of sensitive intelligence information. In exchange the government agreed to recommend to the judge, Aubrey Robinson, “leniency in sentencing.” The trial was private and swift according to plan, except that Pollard was sentenced to life in prison without parole. According to the press Weinberger had intervened, presented the judge a 46 page “top secret” memorandum describing irreparable harm to American interests. The secretary demanded the harsh sentence. And the prosecution, having achieved its goals, felt justified in setting aside their commitments under the plea agreement.

It matters not whether the “fix” was already in, that diGenova and Robinson had already tossed the plea agreement (subsequent comments regarding the case by diGenova support this possibility), or that the Weinberger performance in court decided his fate. More than twenty-five years later Pollard remains incarcerated in a US federal penitentiary. And, a quarter century after the Weinberger memorandum Pollard’s lawyers, even those with highest security clearance, are barred from accessing them in preparation for appeals. In the case of Pollard even the Constitution does not apply.

Having delivered the memorandum and witnessed the sentencing Weinberger faced the press outside the court house. It was the defense secretary, a lawyer who knew better, who accused Pollard of treason. In his September, 1999 interview in Middle East Quarterly Weinberger was asked, “You have been quoted saying that Jonathan Pollard "should have been shot."4 Is this accurate? Weinberger: Any traitor who did what he did should be shot. Facing the press outside the court house, no stranger to hyperbole, he said that Pollard provided Israel with a quantity of classified document that would fill a space six feet by six feet by six feet. An amazing feat considering Pollard used only a briefcase and was somehow able to smuggle the materials out from one of the most secure facilities in Washington on Fridays, then smuggle them in again on Mondays. And he was able to get away with this for nearly 18 months. An unlikely feat for anybody, but for Pollard, who had been under a cloud of suspicion since his first days on the job; how was it possible to get away with such a brazen act without piquing someone’s suspicion, setting off alarm bells somewhere in Naval Intelligence?

Pollard’s activities have to be viewed in context to surrounding events. His career in NI roughly coincided with the Reagan Administration arms-for-hostages scheme called Irangate, a clandestine operation lacking congressional approval, and so illegal. In the heat of the Iranian revolution “students” occupied the US embassy in Teheran taking the staff hostage. In support of releasing them Reagan turned to Israel and the Saudis for assistance. When Irangate hit the press in 1986 and began to unravel members of the administration, including defense secretary Weinberger, chose Israel (not, of course, the Saudis) to take the fall. Irangate, they suggested, was an Israeli operation gone bad dragging her innocent ally, the United States, along.

In Territory of Lies, a book based on interviews Wolf Blitzer held with Pollard before sentencing, the author described many of the events and issues that appear above. My reading of his book some twenty years ago led me to wonder how, based on his own information, Blitzer failed to realize that something was wrong, that while Pollard was admittedly guilty as charged, others involved in his conviction behaved in a manner at least unbecoming their job description, even representing misconduct in office. Was Blitzer not even suspicious that, with a legal gag order over Pollard, he was allowed access to the prisoner in federal custody, allowed to carry into the interview a tape recorder and camera? Did nothing seem amiss to Blitzer that, following the interview diGenova used that visit as evidence that the prisoner violated the gag order as justification for vacating the plea agreement assurance of leniency? As if Pollard and not the anonymous but certainly high government official who authorized the interview, was responsible for Blitzer gaining access to the prisoner.

When the Pollard Affair broke it immediately served to divert attention away the administration’s criminal activities in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scheme. Even today Pollard provides “anonymous government sources” an always available stick to pressure Israeli policymakers. For example, when Clinton brought Netanyahu and Arafat together at Wye River in October, 1998, when Netanyahu was pressed to make concessions, and balked, stories about Israel’s involvement with the traitor Pollard were mysteriously leaked to sympathetic journalists.

I suggest that Blitzer veered away from the obvious conclusions his own book leads to, that the hiring and grooming of Jonathan Jay Pollard by Naval Intelligence following his rejection by the CIA was no accident resulting from sloppy hiring practices; that his promotions and job placement in spite of his obvious suspicious behavior on the job was again no accident. I suggest that the Pollard Affair was intentional, a trap set for Israel, a club with which to embarrass American Jewry and reduce our support for the state of the Jews. I suggest that the anti-Israel operation was not only successful in harming Israel in 1985-6, but continues so today. I suggest that Pollard’s continuing incarceration is partly due to his availability to influence Israeli policy and Jewish opinion in the United States, partly outright antisemitism. The assertion that Jonathan Pollard continues to represent a threat to national security is obviously transparent and foolish a quarter of a century after his arrest and imprisonment.

Contacted from his prison cell in 1989, Jonathan Pollard requested I lead the effort to publicize his plight, and work for his release. I helped found and headed Justice for the Pollards and, later that year, brought Pollard’s sister to Israel as representative of the prisoner. My purpose was to engage Israel in a coordinated effort with American Jewry to work towards Pollard’s release. One result of that visit was a letter signed by three-quarters of Knesset members, across party and ideological lines, to President Reagan. The emissaries dispatched by the Knesset to deliver the letter were not allowed present it to the president, and it is likely he never saw it.

For an overview of efforts aimed at his release by family, the American Jewish community and the Government of Israel up to 1995 see, The Failure to Free Pollard.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Pollard Affair, a conspiracy theory

30 March, 2008

Thank you, Jerusalem Post, for yet another airing of events surrounding the imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard. The present article, The Pollard spat , was the most factual and level presentation I have read in recent years. But in order for readers to better appreciate those facts some background rarely discussed in print might be helpful. I will limit myself to just two issues never discussed or acknowledged, the Iran-Contra Affair and the involvement of then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger.

1. In the years preceding Pollard’s arrest the Reagan administration was embroiled in the highly illegal Iran-Contra arms debacle and were looking around for a victim to hang blame on. As sometimes happens when a US administration finds itself in a bind Israel is the designated fall guy (Iraq another and more recent example where administration officials and their neocon supporters accused Israel of instigating the war when, in fact, Israel advised Bush AGAINST the war). In the run-up to Irangate Israel was alleged to have been asked by Reagan to use its good offices to broker the arms end of Iran-Contra; the Saudis were asked to quietly provide the finances, in other words, to launder the money.

According to the planners Reagan and the administration were thereby conveniently distanced from illegality thanks to their foreign surrogates. At least until Iran-Contra began to unravel in the press.

2. Reagan’s Secretary of Defense was Casper Weinberger, one generation removed from the heritage his name suggests. Uncomfortable and insecure, Weinberger was known to distance himself as much as possible from both Jews and Israel. In fact some who knew him described Weinberger as both antisemitic and anti-Israel. It is at least coincidental that, having been turned down for employment by CIA that Weinberger’s Naval Intelligence would have hired Pollard, Jew and Zionist. Even more curious is that Pollard was assigned to participate as part of the NI team which actually met with Israelis to discuss and transfer intelligence information. In other words, Pollard was placed in a position allowing him oversight of what intelligence was being passed to Israel, and what was not being provided. Pollard could not fail to appreciate that critical information was being withheld from Israel in violation of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two states. Hard not to draw conspiratorial conclusions, hey?

So lets cut to the chase: in order to avoid an open trial which, if allowed, might have compromised sources and methods the US entered a plea agreement in which Pollard would receive leniency in sentencing if he would agree to a closed court hearing before a federal judge. Pollard agreed and, following Cap Weinberger’s dramatic pre-sentence race to the courthouse with his infamous “secret memorandum,” Judge Robinson supposedly acquiesced to the defense chiefs demand that the plea agreement be set aside, that Pollard be sentenced severely.

Following sentencing Weinberger addressed the press to denounce Pollard, described him a traitor, a crime he was not accused of nor sentenced for. Weinberger was quoted as saying that Pollard deserved death, not life in prison.

So we see that some incumbents and their protectors within government on both sides of the Atlantic might find exposure of the facts leading up to and following the employment of Jonathan Pollard and his subsequent life sentence embarrassing. And it is possible that, as those in the US bureaucracy never tire of reminding us, Pollard continues to have information that could be compromising. The only thing in question is what kind of information could so compromise, be so dangerous twenty-three years old? And the answer may well be that the “compromising information” is not related to the field of intelligence as assumed but rather compromising present day political incumbents, and the bureaucrats who serve their masters. That Pollard’s never-ending torture protects those who continue to argue against his release!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pollard, Israel and American Antisemitism

17 January, 2008
The Pollard Affair haunts the American Jewish community and the State of Israel. It raises questions regarding the status and security of Jews in the United States, the relationship between Israel and the US, and the evolving character of Israel as State of the Jews. How did American Jewry respond to the unfolding events surrounding the arrest and trial of Jonathan Pollard; on what was his life sentence without parole based and justified? How did Israel respond to Pollard's arrest and trial? And who are those "unnamed government sources" who surface in the press obviously timed to pressure Israel and remind us of Pollard's "perfidy."


In an exchange of letters in 1989 during which Pollard ask I lead the effort to promote his freedom Jonathan and I agreed that only Israeli government intervention would achieve that goal. Once I accepted the challenge all postal communication between the two of us came to an abrupt and mysterious end.

In December, 1989, as Director of Justice for the Pollards I arranged for Jonathan's sister and myself to tour Israel in order to build grassroots and governmental support for the effort. We spoke before enthusiastic and overflow audiences at universities; interviewed on the radio and television. Our activities were followed closely and reported daily in the media. My meeting with Israel's Chief Rabbis resulted in a letter from them to President Reagan requesting Pollard's release. My meeting with Interior Minister Hammer won his support for the effort. But the political high point of the trip was our meeting in the Knesset with more than thirty Members from all parties and ideological leanings, left and right, religious and secular. By consensus, they agreed to prepare a Knesset petition to President Reagan requesting Pollard be allowed to come to Israel. Within weeks more than seventy Members had put signature to paper and a Knesset delegation was dispatched to Washington. Reagan assigned the task of receiving the Knesset delegation to a low-level functionary.

Among the communities we visited was the development town Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev . A television reporter accompanying us asked a child if he knew who Ben-Gurion was and was met with silence. Asked who Pollard was the child shouted, "Pollard saved Israel!" On the ride back to Tel Aviv a former ranking Mossad officer told me that within Israel's intelligence community Jonathan's contribution to Israel's security was considered even more important than that of Israel's legendary spy in Syria, Eli Cohen.

Over the years I have been told that, with the possible exception of the present incumbent (I am not personally aware that Ehud Olmert has or not discussed Pollard with Bush), all prime ministers approached US presidents to secure Jonathan's freedom. In fact his release was considered imminent more than once in recent years, blocked in the end by high-ranking, faceless US Government bureaucrats.

Has Israel been as proactive at all times as it might have been? Probably not. But this brings us back to that Knesset vote reported recently in the Jerusalem Post. The second paragraph in that article pinpoints what I had hoped to achieve in 1989: "The bill would have set up a three-pronged effort, including the appointment of a special minister to head the release effort… " (Since writing this Eli Yishai announced that his Shas party would make Pollard's release a condition for his party's support of the goals of the moribund Annapolis summit). The Knesset took the initiative in 1989-90 for Pollard. The Knesset continues to have an important role to play as conscience and motivator to the Government.


The United States and Israel have for many years had an agreement to share intelligence. Mutually beneficial when respected and adhered to, the agreement serves both countries' interests. Pollard, employed by Naval Intelligence as an analyst, discovered that information vital to Israel's security was being intentionally withheld. Most of us, Jews, Zionists, would likely have accepted this quietly as "beyond our pay grade." But Pollard, a young, idealistic and outspoken Jew and Zionist took matters into his own hands. He offered, and Israel accepted. Why, if he knew a crime was in process did he not go to his superiors; why, faced with a crime of such magnitude did he not go directly to the Secretary of Defense? The scope and character of the materials in question suggested that the order to withhold came from high up in the bureaucracy. And at the top of that ladder was the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger. And Weinberger's sympathies were widely known.

Weinberger turned Pollard's trial and sentencing not only into a travesty of justice, but into a media circus. In the spotlight of the press he dramatically "raced" to the courtroom moments before Judge Robinson was to pronounce sentence. He "demanded" the plea agreement, the government's promise of leniency in sentencing in exchange for Jonathan's cooperation, be vacated. With the resulting life sentence in hand Weinberger addressed the press to denounce Pollard as a "mercenary and traitor deserving the death penalty."

A conviction of treason allows for a sentence of death. But Jonathan was not charged with or convicted of treason, and the Secretary, a prior Halliburton lawyer, knew this. But "The Affair" was his creation, his show. Pollard was not convicted of treason but of "passing information to an ally," a charge usually disposed of quietly to avoid public embarrassment, and typically resulting in little or no jail time.


Casper Weinberger was known to be embarrassed by his Jewish heritage so may be "excused" for exaggerating Jonathan's guilt, branding him "traitor." But how explain the embarrassment, the knee-jerk reaction of some American Jews in their passionate denunciation of Pollard?

The obvious explanation is our unease in our land of residence. Before the war Germany, a land in which Jews had lived for more than two-thousand years, was the international exemplar of freedom, acceptance and assimilation. Against the backdrop of the Holocaust we in America know that our position, positive as it appears in the present, is materially the same as that of our pre-war relatives in Germany. Post-Shoah in our hearts we feel what our minds deny, refuse to accept; that wherever we choose to live in Diaspora we will always be at risk. And, as our experience in Germany demonstrates, no degree of assimilation will protect ourselves or our children or their children from that eventual fate.

With recent history as backdrop our awareness of the Pollard Affair forces us to confront our real fear, our primary insecurity in Diaspora, our vulnerability as Jew in Christian society. And we recoil, not at ourselves for knowingly placing our children at risk, but at our prisoner for forcing us to confront directly our fear in face of Denial.


The Reagan Administration seemed particularly vulnerable to infiltration for purposes of espionage and 1985 became known as the Year of the Spy. Spies for China and the Soviets, for allies and enemies seemed to be exposed daily. Certainly the most important was an American home-grown, Aldrich Ames. Finally uncovered several years after Pollard, Ames was CIA chief of counter espionage for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In addition to his responsibility for the deaths of at least 11 American agents, at his trial it was also revealed that he fabricated intelligence information implicating Pollard to divert suspicion from himself. This same fabricated intelligence provided part of the rationale for the harsh sentence meted out to Pollard. Another of those "mysteries" surrounding the Pollard Affair was that Aldrich Ames, the Yankee master mole would become a mere footnote to the Year of the Spy, while Pollard and Israel would be the symbols of betrayal of an innocent and trusting United States.

Within all bureaucracies interest groups emerge to promote or impede policy by the governments they are paid to serve. Antisemites and nativists in the Departments of State and Defense, for example, nearly derailed President Truman's post-Holocaust support for the UN resolution calling for the creation of a Jewish state. Having failed they nearly succeeded in blocking the president's recognition of the new State of Israel. Since such groups hire replacements from among their own they self-perpetuate. Pollard either landed gratuitously into their hands or they were involved in his creation as spy. Either way Pollard provides anti-Israel "unnamed government sources" an instrument by which to influence Israeli decision-making on issues deemed important to her enemies.


Beyond our obligation to achieve the release of Pollard, what are the lessons of The Affair? Regarding the United States as safe haven: out of fear of nativist antisemitism (blatant and significant before and during the Holocaust), American Jewish leadership were muted in response to that unfolding tragedy. Backdoor efforts to influence Roosevelt by our shtadlanim of the day (themselves often Administration insiders) proved no more effective than their reputed backdoor supplications to Reagan on behalf of Pollard forty years later. The anti-immigrant laws enacted by Congress decades earlier to keep out Eastern European Jews remained in force throughout the war at least in part because Roosevelt chose not to respond to the mass-murder of Europe's Jews.

For our Diaspora: Denial regarding the Holocaust continues. We choose to ignore the lessons and precedent of Christendom's long-standing Jewish Problem and its Final Solution. For how else could we continue to live in and to be responsible for raising families in our Diaspora homes while consciously acknowledging the unthinkable, the continuing and accelerating historical precedent? Jewry in the Diaspora is forever dependent on the fickle goodwill and mercy of our host country, of our friends and neighbors. But that acceptance is also sensitive to economic and political conditions, very uncertain variables. That we know but suppress our knowledge, refuse to accept it, this is the very definition of Denial. In our hearts we know what we refuse to accept, that within Diaspora we will forever remain strangers in a strange land.

"Never Again" is more than a near-forgotten slogan and reminder of the dangers of Holocaust. It was and must continue a signpost and reminder for those among us who choose to live as Jews in post-Shoah Diaspora. As for those who choose conversion as a way of enhancing prospects or minimizing risk, Germany continues a chilling reminder. While we may regard ourselves as patriotic and contributing to our country of residence, in the end it is not ourselves but those we live among who determine our fate. And living in the world of the Information Superhighway, tracing us back three or more generations is no more difficult than a computer search of national hospital records. We can hide, but they our identity is one keystroke away.

For Israel: Shoah is also drifting into the mists of history, its lessons fading from national consciousness. What further evidence than the recent proposal by the chairman of the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee to remove the Grandparent Clause from the Law of Return. The Clause is precisely Zionism's commitment of refuge for anyone threatened as Jew from persecution. It is the very reason the Jewish people created a Jewish state. Or take the recent instructions of the Interior Minister to the Jewish Agency: halt activities promoting immigration by Jews not so defined by Halacha! And where will this end, that only persons living according to Halacha, born of a Jewish mother will be considered Jews by the secular Jewish state; that in the end only Halachically-pure and genealogically-provable Jews will be granted refuge by the state built, paid and fought for by Zionism, our almost entirely secular national liberation movement? And how many generations back on that genealogical chart will Israel go to determine Jewish purity, perhaps back to two Jewish grandmothers?

Being a Jewish state subjects Israel to the same discrimination, the same enemies faced by our people in the Galut. But as a state we are at least in a position to take collective, even decisive action against those enemies. But what of enemies hidden in the midst of friends, those anti-Israel constituencies within the US government bureaucracy for example? At both Wye River and Camp David Pollard was vilified in the press for no apparent reason (certainly he had done nothing newsworthy locked away in his prison cell) other than to embarrass American Jews, to pressure Israel at sensitive negotiating moments. Both recent occasions where Pollard's release was raised as part of US-brokered peace agreements bureaucratic interference induced President Clinton to reverse himself, to back away from releasing Pollard.

As for Israel as a country, our survival depends on two primary factors. We must find a way out of our isolation in the Middle East. Israel cannot realistically absorb three million Palestinians and survive, and any other alternative is morally unthinkable and politically unrealistic. So the goal of Greater Israel must be removed once and for all from Israel's political map. If we cannot force the Palestinians to make peace we can at least relinquish claim to the lands over which they fight.

Secondly, Israel must return to her Zionist roots and mission. Over the years we have drifted away from identity as "Zionist;" indeed the term has become passé, almost an embarrassment (today those aware of Zionism at all tend to use "Post-Zionist" to describe Israel-in-the-World). This drift from Zionism is expressed in many ways. By Netanyahu in a speech last year to an American audience; by the recent suggestion of the chairman of the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee to limit the Law of Return; by the recent instructions by the Interior Minister to the Jewish Agency Executive to stop encouraging aliya by communities not Jewish according to Halacha; by the persistent effort of some orthodox politicians to enact Who is a Jew, legislation which would define a Jew according to Halacha for the State of Israel. If enacted Who is a Jew will drive a wedge between the Jewish state and the Jewish people in Diaspora, the majority of whom do not identify themselves "according to Halacha."

Politically and demographically Israel cannot afford to lose the Diaspora. Israeli policy regarding Jewish status must recognize and accommodate no, be sensitive regarding our Diaspora community. Israel's drift towards separation and isolation ignores the fact that the state needs the Diaspora as much as the other way around. And the overwhelming majority of Jews, in Israel and Diaspora, are not orthodox, do not trace lineage or live according to Halacha.
So long as we are subject to others definitions of who is a Jew we must be equally flexible in doing so. Even a self-hating Casper Weinberger should qualify for refuge should the need arise again. Israel is the State of the Jews, not merely the Jewish State, home to our current residents, "the Israelis." Alongside survival, Zionism is Israel's mission and identity.


The genesis of the Pollard Affair remains shrouded in mystery and open to speculation. In his book, Territory of Lies, Wolf Blitzer describes events which hint at Pollard's recruitment as being suspect without actually drawing that conclusion. How, for example, could this young and openly Zionist Jew find employment in Naval Intelligence, an organization within a service with a reputation less than philosemitic; had not Pollard only recently been rejected as unfit for a similar position with the Central Intelligence Agency? And how was it that his handlers in Naval Intelligence included Pollard as part of the team tasked with providing intelligence to Israel, precisely the position that would provide him the platform from which to appreciate the importance and volume of information being withheld from the Jewish state? And how was it possible that Pollard was able to smuggle day-by-day, briefcase-full by briefcase-full, unsuspected and undetected for more than a year photocopies of intelligence documents which, as described by Weinberger, would fill a space "six feet by six feet by six feet?" I suppose all of this could all be dismissed as a total lack of security within Naval Intelligence. But that seems unlikely.


Some Israeli lawmakers are again raising the possibility of releasing Marwan Barghouti, this time as part of a deal to free Gilad Shalit. In fact Barghouti's release is all but inevitable given the chaos of Palestinian politics and the deference of Israeli authorities to this charismatic and potential reformer. But the Bush Administration would also like to see him released. President Bush will leave office in one year, his legacy a trail of regional failure and carnage. His moribund Annapolis "summit" is his last chance for at least one success. But who credibly represent Palestine, an anarchic society in political chaos? Barghouti offers the only available hope of unifying his people. His importance to the peace process makes him a bargaining chip not only for the release of Shalit, but also for Israel's American Prisoner of Zion, Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard has said several times that he does not want his freedom at the cost of freeing a terrorist. Belying the opinion of those who label him "traitor" and "mercenary," after twenty-two years in prison Jonathan is still an uncompromising and principled idealist, a true Zionist who continues to place Israel's welfare above his own. And while I have deep respect for his principles, after 20 years watching him unjustly suffer in American prisons, aware that he is likely to suffer another 20 years or die in custody; knowing that the true criminals are those "unnamed government sources" who derive pleasure in parading him before the public when it suits their fancy, Barghouti for Pollard may be Israel's last and best opportunity to obtain his freedom for years to come.

Whatever its roots, the use made of Pollard over the years leads to an obvious conclusion: Pollard in prison represents a danger to both the American Jewish community and to the State of Israel. The longer he remains in the hands of his jailers the longer they will have him available to serve their dangerous agenda, to be used to threaten and manipulate our community in the United States and the Jewish state. Pollard's release is not merely an act of righting an obvious injustice; it is a matter of primary importance to the security of American Jewry and to the State of Israel.

The Failure to Free Pollard

November 23, 1995 - David Turner


On November 22 the Government of Israel took the long overdue step of granting Jonathan Pollard citizenship. The hesitant manner in which this decision was made, the reactions of Jonathan and his sister, serve to illustrate why, after ten years incarceration, Jonathan faces yet another decade in prison. Esther, Jay's wife, described her husband as "delighted" by the decision. Yet at the same time that Jonathan was celebrating one of the rare victories of his long ordeal, his sister described Israel's action as a "Band-Aid... a dead end issue." Israel, she believes, cannot help; only the US Parole Board can. And, in her view, Israeli citizenship hurts his chances there.

At the time Pollard was sentenced, and in the years immediately following, American Jews at all levels of communal leadership publicly and privately expressed the belief that the Administration's tough stance towards Pollard was merely public posturing in the Year of the Spies. Since America and Israel are close allies, they reasoned, when things settled down Pollard would be quietly released and sent to Israel. In other words, Jewish silence was in Jonathan's best interest.

Family rightly rejected silence and used every opportunity to keep the imprisoned couple in the public eye. Unfortunately, the thrust of their response to unfolding events was misdirected, and inadequate. This was partly the result of a deep suspicion of Israel's commitment towards Pollard. After all, the Israel Embassy in Washington evicted the couple into the waiting arms of the FBI. And afterwards, Israel "cooperated fully" with the US in the investigation which was to become the basis for Jonathan's conviction. As a result, family underestimated or dismissed the willingness and importance of Israel to help Jonathan. Without Israel, family could see but one route available to them, the courts.

In the earliest days of Jay's ordeal Leon Charney, the prominent New York lawyer, volunteered pro bono to help Pollard. Charney, who had served as advisor to President Carter during the Camp David peace talks, and whose legal practice included many of Israel's most influential politicians, was interested in exploring a government-to-government agreement between the US and Israel to free Pollard. He was not interested in getting involved in the court battle. Yet when Pollard's paid Washington lawyers, the Hibey's, learned of Charney's interest they insisted his father choose between them. Morris chose the Hibeys.

During our written correspondence in 1987, Jonathan and I were in complete agreement as to the steps necessary to achieve his freedom. They included the obvious need to defend himself in court. But Jonathan also recognized that the court battle was unlikely to succeed. So a second, and parallel, Israel track was needed. Pollard understood that Israel's political leadership would be unable and unwilling, in the immediate wake of the Pollard Affair, to publicly support him. Justice for the Pollards aimed at building support for the Pollards in the Knesset which, we felt, would eventually be needed to encourage a cautious Israel Government to act on his behalf. We decided to launch Justice for the Pollards with a high profile visit by Pollard's parents to Israel. But illness made a trip by Molly and Morris difficult at the time, so we settled on Carol.

The success of the visit, in the first days of what was to become known as the Intifada, was immediate and concrete. Following several newspaper interviews and a highly successful television appearance, Carol and I were invited to the Knesset. At a meeting attended by 30 MK's, it was decided to draft a Knesset petition supporting the Pollards. By the time the petition was handed to President Reagan two months later, more than 70 Members of Knesset had signed the document. In addition to the Knesset meeting, Carol and I were also invited to meet with the Minister's of Justice, and Education, and with the Chief Rabbis.

Throughout our stay Israeli public opinion was overwhelmingly sympathetic and supportive towards Jay. And Knesset opinion clearly reflected the public. In only ten days Justice for the Pollards had laid a firm foundation of public and political support in Israel.


The failure to free Pollard cannot be blamed on any one party. The United States Government reneged on its promise of leniency under the notorious "plea agreement." But the United States is technically within the letter of the law in not releasing Pollard from prison.

Family should long ago have realized that they were squandering their limited financial and emotional resources in an obviously futile and endless legal battle. Not that they should have abandoned this effort. But Justice for the Pollards, the grassroots political effort, deserved equal interest. Despite early and well-founded concerns regarding Israel's leaders, in the face of the obvious successes in Israel by our trip, family should have put aside their feelings of betrayal. There was always overwhelming public and political support for Pollard in Israel. But nobody was committed to oversee its development. Family failed to appreciate what Jonathan had known all along, that the path to his freedom passes through Jerusalem. Carol's recent comments regarding her brother's Israeli citizenship and his upcoming parole hearings clearly indicates that the lessons of the past are yet to be learned.

American Jewish communal leadership was obligated to do more for Pollard. European Jewry paid severely for their temerity in the 1940's. And Pollard is suffering from their silence 50 years later. A clear and unambiguous American Jewish protest may not directly set Pollard free. But it would certainly send a message to Washington and Jerusalem, and encourage both capitals to speed up the process of his release.

The Israel Government deserves much blame for Pollard's continuing ordeal. Jonathan served Israel well and faithfully. One knowledgeable Israeli described him as the most important spy ever to serve the Jewish state. During our visit, a child in Beersheva was interviewed on television. Asked who Ben Gurion was, he was at a loss. Asked who Pollard was he exclaimed, "Pollard saved Israel!"

For Israel's leaders to have left Jonathan Pollard to his fate for so many years is morally inexcusable and an act of political cowardice. Israel is a country, and has at its disposal many diplomatic possibilities. On the flight to Israel with Carol the EL AL pilot took me aside to ask if newspaper stories about an imminent trade involving Pollard, an Eastern European agent, and an African were true? I confessed to being ignorant of such a trade. But the rumor points to at least one diplomatic avenue not pursued. An Israeli journalist described Pollard as a wounded and abandoned soldier. Israel, he said, does not leave her wounded behind.

Israel's leaders have recently taken a more public interest in Pollard. I was told that Yitzhak Shamir, as his last official act as Prime Minister, contacted the President on behalf of Pollard. An MK told me some time later that Yitzhak Rabin did the same as one of his first official acts as Shamir's successor. It is reported that, anticipating his upcoming visit to Washington, Rabin had drafted a letter to President Clinton regarding Pollard's release. Had he lived it is likely that he would have made his request in person to the President. Rabin's death was a terrible loss for family and country. And a tragedy also for Pollard.

It is ten years since Jonathan began his life sentence, ten years of dramatic change for Israel. For Pollard those years passed in tedious sameness, a gray loneliness and despair punctuated fleetingly by moments of hope. Israel has in her new Prime Minister a seasoned politician and diplomat. In an era of growing US-Israel codependency brought on by a fast changing Middle East, a climate of opportunity exists for Israel to free Pollard. Peres will leave soon for Washington. In the footsteps of his predecessors let him carry the message directly to the President that Pollard's freedom is not only just, but a national priority for the Jewish state. This is the least that Israel owes this man.

Israel is responsible for Jonathan. Israel must set him free.