Why Is the Navy Stonewalling on the Pollard Case?
August 22, 1997 - Richard Z. Chesnoff - The New York Daily News
An open letter to John Dalton, Secretary of the Navy
Dear Mr. Secretary:
You may remember our meeting last May. The fleet was in
town and you came by to brief the Daily News editorial
board about the state of the Navy. I took the opportunity to ask
you about one of the Navy's biggest bogeymen: Jonathan Pollard --
the former Naval intelligence aide who was caught passing US
security information to Israel 13 years ago and is now serving a
life sentence in the federal prison at Butner, North Carolina.
Pollard broke the law and he clearly deserved to be soundly,
if reasonably punished for that. No question. But he doesn't
deserve to be treated like the Man in the Iron Mask. So my question to you was why the Navy was making it impossible for me or any other journalist to interview
prisoner Pollard without compromising our civil rights and the
basic rules of free press; specifically, without turning over
interview tapes and interview notebooks to the U.S. government.
What could Jonathan Pollard possibly reveal after 13 years in
jail that might endanger US security?
I also wanted to know why Pollard had become such a mega-villain for both the Navy and the Washington intelligence
community? Why a man who'd helped Israel with strategic
information about Iraq and other enemies, received so tough a
sentence, while another navy officer who sold secret data to Saudi Arabia was merely discharged from the service. Why
turncoats like the army's Robert Lipka, who spied for our Soviet
enemies, recently received an 18 year sentence, while Pollard, who
spied for an American ally was condemned to life behind bars, the
harshest sentence ever meted out in such a case. Why the US railroaded Pollard into a plea-bargain during his trial, then
threw the book and the entire bookcase at him. Some bargain: life
At the time, Mr. Secretary, amazingly you expressed
unfamiliarity with the Pollard case. But you promised to
look into it. And in front of me and my Daily News colleagues,
you ordered your senior public affairs aide, Capt. Charles Connor,
to investigate and get back to me.
I'm still waiting. Despite months of calls to the Pentagon, both to Capt. Connor,
to his successor Capt. Michael John, and to Commander Frank Thorp
of Media Operations, all I've received are the stones
the Navy keeps piling on its increasingly high stonewall.
The US Navy isn't the only one stonewalling. The Israeli
government, which has never acknowledged Pollard as anything more
than an employee of "a rogue operation" (and did nothing to bring
him out of the cold), still seems to do little to plead his
case. Despite promises by Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin,
Shimon Peres, and now Benjamin Netanyahu to seek US presidential
clemency for Pollard, Pollard's problems appear to have moved to
Israel's backburners. So much so, that he's now suing in an
Israeli court, demanding the Israelis acknowledge he was their spy!
The American Jewish community has also failed to do all
that it could to help. Some communal leaders
actively seek clemency. But most tsk-tsk about Pollard's
plight, then do nothing. And many in the mainstream community
still cringe with embarrassment when they hear his name.
Pollard has expressed remorse for what he did. All he asks now is
to receive clemency and be allowed to immigrate to Israel and live
out his life there -- the type of arrangement we've made in the
past for people who spied not for our friends, but for our
There seem to be hidden agendas here, implications about details
that haven't been revealed, hints -- but never any evidence or
even specific charges -- that somehow Pollard endangered lives.
When a senior White House official was asked about the case, he
warned the questioner: "don't push-- you don't want to know".
Well, we do want to know. If there's more to the Pollard case
than has been publicly revealed, then release it. If there
isn't, then release Pollard.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Richard Z. Chesnoff
See also: Jonathan Pollard - Still The Man In The Iron Mask