Saturday, November 20, 2010

Watch List: Pollard's Father Speaks

Today's Washington Post features a lengthy editorial regarding a possible pardon for Jonathan Pollard, who has now spent 25 years in prison. It is written by Pollard's father and a lawyer in Israel.

First, the piece recognizes that Pollard "was arrested for passing to Israel classified U.S. data concerning Iraq, Syria and other Arab states, including evidence of Saddam Hussein's development of chemical weapons." But it claims that "the type of information [he] transmitted was part of an intelligence flow the United States had previously shared with Israel but that was cut off after Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981."

Second, it is charged that Pollard was "singled out" and that his subsequent life sentence is the only one ever given to someone for "spying for an American ally or neutral country." We are not aware of any specific data on what we assume must be an extremely narrow class of criminal defendants (the piece says "more than 20"), or the relative degree of criminality among them. But the general point is attributed to Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense. Korb also claims former defense secretary Casper Weinberger had an "almost visceral dislike of Israel."

Finally, the argument is made that "no evidence has been put forth of damage caused to the United States as a result of Pollard's actions" - an argument which, to the intelligence community, at best, has a double double edged quality to it.

Throughout the years, Pollard's clemency campaign has been supported by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, members of Congress, "a range of prominent religious and political figures" and Benjamin Hooks. Even Mr. Weinberger is quoted as saying, "The Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance." See full editorial here.

The following is a sketch of Pollard from NOVA online:
Jon Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst in the Navy, wanted to be a spy so badly that he even seemed to think he was a spy long before he actually was. As a college student at Stanford he boasted that he had contacts in the Israeli intelligence services and that his father was a CIA agent who worked in Prague. Both claims were false. He entered phoney education and employment information on job applications and mailed himself telegrams under aliases he made up for himself. Strangely, none of the odd details about Pollard's personality were noted on his Navy background check report.

Pollard became a Navy analyst in 1979, after leaving a graduate program in law at Tufts University. Initially, he was given an unusually high level of security clearance, but it was revoked within a few months after Pollard made unauthorized and suspicious contact with an attaché from the South African Embassy. It is unclear what business Pollard had with the embassy official, and it was never investigated.

In 1984 Pollard was promoted to a position as an analyst in the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NIS), and his security clearances were reinstated. He was placed in a new, high-priority unit, the Anti-Terrorism Alert Center, where he gained access to satellite photographs and CIA reports. At least three of Pollard's acquaintances recall that within months of his assuming his new post he mailed them unsolicited collections of classified information for no apparent reason.

Shortly after he began working at the NIS Pollard met an Israeli intelligence officer in New York named Avi Sella, who was posing as a graduate student at New York University. Sella requested classified information from Pollard—any information he could deliver—and told him that he would be paid for whatever he could provide.

...For about a year after the time Pollard met Avi Sella, he gathered computer printouts, satellite photographs, and classified documents from his department three times a week and brought them to various Washington apartments. There, they were copied and returned to Pollard, who restored them to the Navy the following day. In exchange for his services Pollard received, in addition to the agreed salary, a lavish collection of gifts for himself and his wife, including a honeymoon in a private compartment aboard the Orient Express.

By his own estimates Pollard passed to his Israeli handlers more than 800 classified publications and more than 1,000 cables, probably the largest cache of materials ever passed through espionage ...

Pollard was eventually captured on November 18, 1985, rather unceremoniously, walking out of his office with 60 top-secret documents in his briefcase. His supervisors had become suspicious of his voracious consumption of materials ...

Pollard pleaded guilty to espionage and was sentenced to prison for life. His wife served a five-year sentence for unauthorized possession of government documents. Upon her release, Anne Henderson Pollard divorced her husband. In 1993 Secretary of Defense Les Aspin reported that Pollard had tried 14 times to disclose classified information in letters written to various recipients from his prison cell.
See complete NOVA sketch here.

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