The Case For The Spy Who Should Be Free

June 2, 1995 - Sidney Zion - The New York Daily News

Did Pollard take the fall for the damage done by CIA spy Aldridge Ames?

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Was Jonathan Pollard a victim of mistaken identity? A casual observer of the Pollard case might think me nuts for posing this question - didn't Pollard plead guilty to spying for Israel while working in the Defense Department for U.S. naval intelligence?

But ever since CIA agent Aldridge Ames confessed that he was responsible for the leaking top-level secrets to the Kremlin, causing the deaths of many of America's agents inside the Soviet Union, word has filtered down from the U.S. intelligence community that Jonathan Pollard was small potatoes. He was a guy would never could have done anything to our national security interests that would come close to justifying his sentence of life without parole.

It was Aldridge Ames who deflected suspicion onto Pollard in a desperate effort to take the heat off himself. The moment Pollard was arrested in 1985, Ames started spreading the news that Pollard's info to Israel was delivered by a mole in Mossad to the Soviet Union.

This made sense to the intelligence community, which included journalists working the beat, and it appears to have convinced Caspar Weinberger, then the secretary of defense, that Pollard was the worst spy in American history. What we know for sure is that Weinberger delivered a 40-page secret memorandum to Pollard's sentencing judge that practically demanded a life sentence.

The result was the worst sentence in American history for a person delivering information to an ally - and after a guilty plea. The Justice Department, to get cooperation from Pollard - who, had he kept his trap shut, would have never been convicted, since his Israeli controls had left the country - promised him that they would ask only for a "substantial sentence." No spy who ever dealt with an ally had received more than 10 years.

Weinberger's secret affidavit, never made public, destroyed Pollard - for five years he lived in solitary confinement. Last year, President Clinton denied him clemency after Attorney General Janet Reno bought the line from the intelligence establishment that Pollard posed a present and future threat to American security.

Now the parole board has the case for the first time. Given his life sentence, Pollard had to do 10 years before he could appear before the parole board, which has been asked by the sentencing judge to reject his plea.

On Wednesday night, the Writers & Artists for Peace in the Middle East held a meeting at the American-Israeli Friendship house in Manhattan to promote Pollard's parole. The place was packed, an event in itself. A few years ago, such a meeting wouldn't have filled the telephone booth at Sardi's. When Pollard was arrested, the fine Jews of America took a powder and, worse, they denounced him as a traitor. On their minds was "dual loyalty," the old canard that Jews cared more for Israel than for America.

Still, there was not even a handful of Jewish leaders present. And against all the evidence that Pollard had never harmed America, had only attempted to deliver to Israel that which the U.S. had promised - information that would protect Israel from its enemies - the leading Jewish agencies, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, have yet to say a word in Pollard's defense.

It stood to ordinary Jews and Gentiles of conscience to fight the outrageous injustice done by the justice done by the Justice Department and the rest of the government to Jonathan Pollard.

The most effective advocate for Pollard was John Loftus, an Irish-American who recently published a book called "The Secret War Against the Jews." This book has been deep-sixed by the media - The New York Times spiked a review, and nobody else has touched it. I took Loftus to dinner after the meeting and will report on this extraordinary book in a later column.

Suffice it that he says, and he backs it up, than Jonathan Pollard is "buried alive" because he stumbled upon facts that would have ruined George Bush in the Iran-Contra episode. Stay tuned.