A Fateful Trip For Pollard

Only by chance did he discover U.S. deception of Israel, which led to his imprisonment for spying.

Jon Kalish, Contributing Editor - The Jewish Week [NY] - June 2, 1995

Jonathan Pollard stumbled onto the Iran-contra affair without realizing it, says a former Justice Department lawyer who has spent the last 12 years writing books about the U.S. intelligence community.

"I think Jonathan doesn't have a clue why he's in jail and, to be honest, the Jewish community doesn't have much of a clue what happened either," said John Loftus, a co-author of "The Secret War Against the Jews."

Loftus was speaking last week at a forum titled "Why Jonathan Pollard is Still in Prison." The two-hour discussion sponsored by Writers and Artists for Peace in the Middle East was held at the America-Israel Friendship House in Midtown Manhattan.

Loftus said that in the spring of 1984 when Pollard was tracking shipping in the Mediterranean for his naval intelligence job, he spotted a pattern of arms freighters leaving Greece and going to Yemen, site of a major PLO base.

The United States wasn't telling Israel about the shipments, but in April 1984 Pollard informed the Israelis and the next month the freighter was raided after Israel informed Greece. Twenty-seven tons of American-type ammunition were seized, Loftus said.

"Pollard and the Israelis didn't know it but they had just busted George Bush's first arms shipment to Iran," Loftus told the packed forum.

He said the confiscated shipment and two subsequent others that were delivered successfully had been arranged at then-Vice President Bush's request by a British Secret Service agent and a Syrian named Monzer al-Kassar.

The investigative author said the 1984 arms shipments mean 'virtually everything you've heard about the origins of Iran-contra was a fraud, The Iran-contra affair happened a year earlier [than widely believed]. So the Israelis didn't start it in July '85."

Of the Mediterranean arms traffic surveillance, Loftus said, "it was the most significant piece of information that Pollard passed the Israelis. The vice president's office was terrified that Pollard knew enough to put them in jail because what they were doing was illegal.

"[Oliver] North, who was working directly for George Bush at the time, thought it was grounds for impeachment of the vice president. If Pollard put the pieces together, he could've conceivably ruined George Bush's run for the presidency."

Loftus said it was North who hired al-Kassar. According to Loftus, al-Kassar was involved in heroin smuggling and financed a number of terrorist attacks, including the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

"Here's the irony of the situation," Loftus said in summation. "Pollard rots in jail not because of what he did but because of what they thought he knew, while the real villain, Monzer al_Kassar is walking around free because he knows too much to ever go to jail.

"Are we sure we want to get to the bottom of the Pollard case? It may be a very large can of worms."

Nevertheless, Loftus said his next book would focus on Jonathan Pollard. The announcement received enthusiastic applause at the forum.

Although Loftus said in a recent article that Pollard "was undoubtedly guilty of a despicable act," he told the forum that he was hopeful that President Clinton would "do the right things" after the 1996 election and free Pollard.

Pollard's sister Carol told the gathering that it was possible the federal parole commission would decide to release her brother when his case comes up in the fall.

"I think we do stand a chance to get him that parole," she said. "The parole commission has to know that we care about him and that we have not forgotten him."

The judge who sentenced Pollard to life in prison has asked the parole board to reject Pollard's petition.

Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-Rockland), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said: "Since his incarceration, Jonathan has repeatedly expressed genuine and deep remorse for his actions."

The congressman, like many of Pollard's supporters, stress the expression of remorse, which will score points with the parole board, while simultaneously defending Pollard's espionage as being crucial to the security of Israel, a rationalization that is used to drum up support in the Jewish community.

"The time has now come for Jonathan Pollard to be granted parole," Gilman declared. "Jonathan Pollard's conviction may have been justified but the sentence certainly was not."

During a brief question-and-answer session, Gilman was asked why not one Jewish senator had come out in support of Pollard. Gilman replied that Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - a Republican candidate for president - was now on board as a supporter of parole.

Among those in the arts and communications professions attending the forum were newspaper columnist Sidney Zion, musician David Amram and former Village Gate owner Art D'Lugoff.