Pollard Says He Made A "Big Mistake"

May 15, 1998 - Estes Thompson - Associated Press

A former US naval intelligence clerk who passed military secrets to Israel said Friday (May 15, 1998) he didn't work against the United States, but made a big mistake in trying to serve two countries that he loved.

"There is nothing good that came as a result of my actions," Jonathan Pollard said in an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correctional Institution here. "I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work."

The interview with Pollard came after he met with Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh. The official came to North Carolina from Washington where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with the US government on the future of the West Bank.

On Monday the Israeli Government acknowledged that he had worked as an agent. Naveh said his visit was to inform Pollard personally of the decision, seen by Pollard's supporters as critical before the US would consider releasing him.

Naveh said his visit was also designed to draw attention to Pollard in hopes the United States will take a "humane approach" and release him.

"I can just express my hope that the case will be reconsidered," Naveh said. "The guy has expressed his regret. He has spent more than 12 years in prison. It's time for a humane gesture here.

"The emotions of the people in Israel are such that they feel that this is the right thing to do."

Pollard was sentenced in 1987 to life without parole after a judge ignored a plea agreement under which Pollard thought he would get a five-year sentence. He said Friday the sentence he received was unusually harsh.

Pollard said his case attracted attention from Israeli citizens because they serve the government as soldiers and expect the government to protect them.

"People could identify with my predicament...because they knew that they could be in my place through love of the State," Pollard said as a Department of Defense agent sat nearby, ready to stop the interview if the topic veered into security matters.

Pollard expressed remorse several times, an expression that previous Israeli officials visiting him said was important for the US Government to hear before it might consider a release.

If released, Pollard said, he wants to live in Israel where he has a water and energy company.

"I'm a very ordinary person who was caught up in an extraordinary situation," Pollard said.

He said he has learned a lesson. "There can be no justification for violating the trust given an intelligence officer. I made a mistake," he said.