[Jonathan Pollard's comments are in square brackets below]
A former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Athens was sentenced yesterday to 14 years in federal prison for selling classified military documents -some identifying CIA agents- to the Greek government.
Steven J. Lalas, 40, began spying for the Greek government in 1977 when he was with the U.S. Army, authorities said. They estimated that he turned over as many as 700 highly classified documents, including papers describing U.S. activities in Bosnia. Most were obtained during a 10 year career with the State Department.
"This is one of the most serious offenses imaginable, and for one of the basest motives - greed", Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. Hulkower said at the sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Lalas has been jailed since his arrest in April. The sentence handed down by Judge Claude M. Hilton does not allow for parole.
The former embassy employee said nothing in court yesterday but in June he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. Although the charge carries a potential life prison term, prosecutors recommended the 14 year sentence in return for Lalas promise to reveal what documents he had turned over and to whom.
Yet in debriefings this summer prosecutors said Lalas did not reveal the full extent of his spying. They also said Lalas failed two FBI polygraph examinations. [J. Pollard: The amazing thing is that despite Lalas' non-cooperation and his failures, the government still honored its plea agreement with him!]
Investigators said Lalas made a steady income - $24,000.00 in one two year period - by providing information. According to the court documents, he stole and then sold Defense Intelligence Agency cables about troop strength, political analyses, and military discussions contained in cables between the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the White House, FBI communications about counter-terrorism efforts, and the names and job descriptions of CIA agents stationed overseas.
[J. Pollard: I was never, repeat never, accused of compromising such information.]
Although Greece and the United States are allies, U.S. officials say they remain concerned because they have no way of knowing where the papers or the information contained in them could wind up.
"That's the risk," said Frank Scafidi, a spokesperson for the FBI which handled the case. We don't know what happened to that information."
The State Department is trying to assess how much harm Lalas caused, spokesperson Maeve Dwyer said. A CIA spokesman declined to comment.
[J. Pollard: I wish the CIA's response to my case had been this "restrained".]
Authorities said the problems came to light this year in conversations between Greek and U.S. officials. The Greek officials had information that could have come only from a security breach, authorities said. Lalas was later videotaped taking documents, copying them and stuffing them into his pockets.
[J. Pollard: Why wasn't Greece pilloried by the U.S. government and the American media the same way that Israel was in the wake of my arrest? And what about the perceived loyalty of Greek Americans? Why wasn't their patriotism called into question by some anonymously-authored DOD industrial security memorandum as was done to the American Jewish community? Can't people see a double standard being applied here? Or don't they care?]