Stale Snail Mail From Federal Jail
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
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
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
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
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).
Why This Hate?
A Rosh HaShana Message