Stale Snail Mail From Federal Jail
or You Can't Blame This One on the Post Office

September 1, 1998 - Si Frumkin
Director of the So. Calif. Council for Soviet Jews

When we corresponded with Jewish activists in the Soviet Union in the bad old days of the Evil Empire, we soon learned that all letters should be carefully numbered and dated. This was just so we'd know when a letter was "lost" in transit by Soviet security or sometimes just delayed for a couple of months out of sheer meanness. I have just been reminded that security services hire the same kind of people worldwide. Only the flags they pledge allegiance to are different, the meanness and cruelty are built in. They come with the job even when the flag is the Stars and Stripes.

I am writing this on August 10, 1998. I have today received a letter that was mailed 1 1/2 years ago. ago. I know because the date is carefully written on the envelope: "mailed:2/3/97". The letter is sent by an American prisoner in an American jail. He is now in his 13th year of imprisonment for a crime that usually gets a sentence of about 4 years.

His name is Jonathan Pollard. A very powerful someone - or several very powerful someones - hate him very much.

When I first became involved with the Pollard case - 8 years ago - I wrote an article I titled "I Didn't Believe It Could Happen Here". Here are just a few of the things I naively didn't believe could happen.

The government promised that if Pollard cooperated and thus avoided an embarrassing public trial he would get a minimum sentence - 3 or 4 years, just like other spies for friendly nations. Pollard was given the maximum: life without parole. Pollard spent the first year of his sentence in a solitary cell in a federal psychiatric facility for the criminally insane. He was allowed to leave his cell to use the shower for 30 minutes each day. There he stood in AIDS infected fecal matter, surrounded by screaming psychotic inmates. There has never been an explanation for Pollard's confinement there.

Pollard spent the next 8 years in solitary. Again and again security agents came to grill him and show him lists of prominent American Jews whom he was expected to identify as his accomplices in spying for Israel. Pollard didn't identify anyone - there was no one to be identified.

There was much else during the 13 years. All of it demeaning, degrading, brutal, cruel, nasty, mean. Much has changed during that time. President Clinton came into office. He had promised during his campaign that he would review the Pollard case. Eventually many of us got form letters from the White House - no pardon, no release, no good news.

Careful leaks from the U.S. security agencies to the media hinted that Pollard's crimes were greater than we suspected, that what he had done resulted in deaths of American agents in the Soviet Union. If this were true it could explain the Presidential hostility towards Pollard, but it turned out to be a lie. After the CIA mole, Aldrich Ames, confessed that he had sold the executed agents' names to the Soviets and manipulated data to implicate Pollard, I hoped that this would mean freedom for Pollard at last. I was wrong.

Hundreds of convicted Palestinian murderers were released after Washington pressured Israel to do so as a goodwill gesture. A release of 140 more is being discussed. The one Israeli prisoner is still in an American jail. He is not a murderer, not a terrorist, not a traitor, just a spy who was very careful not to harm, the U.S. in any way whatsoever.

Six years ago the U.S. fought and won a war against Iraq. American lives were saved because of some of the information about Iraq that Pollard had passed on to Israel 13 years before and because Israel acted on this information.

A SCUD rocket hit American barracks in Saudi Arabia causing the heaviest casualties of the Gulf War. The SCUD was modified by Egypt with the help of a blueprint it got from its spy in America, Abdelkader Helmy, who was then quietly arrested and deported. Later Egypt shared this technology with Iraq.

Israel has finally admitted that Pollard was its agent. Cabinet ministers visited him in prison. Prime Minister Netanyahu sent him a handwritten note of encouragement and hope. And still there is no movement and still he is in prison - by now ill, hemorrhaging, desperate, losing hope after 13 years.

And so I look at the letter he sent me. His return address is on it: Jonathan Pollard/09185-016, P.O.Box 1000, Butner, NC 27509-1000. And the date is in the lower left corner: "Mailed:4/5/97", 16 months ago. Inside the envelope there are clippings he sent me. They are dated March and April of 1997. There is no mistake - it took the U.S. security services 16 months to "lose" the letter and find it again.

I think of the tricks the KGB played on us and the Jewish activists and I have a déja vù feeling. They are the same, I think, they salute a different flag but they are the same. They are mean and cruel. And maybe they have something else in common - they don't like Jews very much.

A final note. Write to Jonathan. Tell him you care. Who knows, the letters might even get by the security spooks.

P.S. The day after I finished this article, on August 11, 1998, I received 4 more letters from Jonathan Pollard. They were mailed on 4/5/97 (16 months ago), 7/28/97 (13 months ago), 12/15/97 (8 months ago) and 12/22/97 (8 months ago).

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