Advocates for the immediate release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard are pointing to new evidence that he is being blamed by the American intelligence community for damage that was actually done by CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames. The newspaper Forward reports that according to a former staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Angelo Codevilla, Ames himself was the CIA agent in charge of the original damage report on Pollard's activities.
Codevilla asserts that Ames took advantage of the Pollard affair to cover up the loss of American intelligence for which Ames himself was actually responsible.
The most persuasive argument offered by those in the intelligence community who have argued for Pollard's continued imprisonment is the wholly unsubstantiated claim that the information that he gave Israel resulted in the death of American intelligence agents. If Codevilla is right, and Ames was the one really responsible for those losses, then the treatment of Pollard will have been exposed as a massive and deliberate miscarriage of justice.
Worse, it would reveal the case of Jonathan Pollard to be one in which the federal government abused its power to declare information secret, in order to deny Pollard, an American citizen, due process of law. As a result, Pollard may have been punished unjustly for a crime for which he was never convicted or even formally accused. The embarrassment of such a revelation is one possible explanation for the American security establishment's obsession to keep Pollard in federal prison.
The truth is that Pollard was the victim of a cruel double cross by prosecutors. Originally, after he was arrested in 1984, he was charged with giving classified information to a friendly country (Israel), a charge for which no American had ever been imprisoned for more than ten years.
But Pollard agreed to tell everything he did in exchange for a plea bargain. A plea bargain means that the prosecutor agrees to recommend a reduced sentence in return for the cooperation of the accused, who agrees to plead guilty. But in this case, the government prosecutor allowed Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who as a Jew who converted to Christianity, was clearly personally embarrassed by the Pollard case, to submit a secret memo to the sentencing judge which accused Jonathan Pollard of crimes so serious that the judge sentenced him to life in prison.
The contents of that memo have never been revealed. Each time Pollard's case comes up for clemency review, the same group of nefarious security establishment figures comes forward with new but totally unproven allegations about what damage Pollard might have done to deserve the extraordinarily harsh punishment that he continues to receive.
As each succeeding allegation is disproved by Pollard's supporters, the accusations grow wilder and more extreme.
He has been accused of releasing huge volumes of documents. After thirteen years in jail, they say that he still has access to sensitive American secrets that could somehow damage the country's security if they were released by Pollard to Israel, one of America's closest allies.
They even say that unless Pollard stays in jail, other American Jews might be tempted to spy for Israel.
Codvilla has recently sent a letter to President Clinton arguing for Pollard's release, as has former Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini, who had access to all the relevant secret information as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before he retired in 1994.
Codvilla has also suggested that another possible reason why the intelligence community remains so furious with Pollard is because he exposed the ill-fated American cooperation with Iraq's Saddam Hussein before he invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Still, aside from mean-spirited revenge or die-hard anti-Semitism, it is hard to comprehend why Pollard's accusers are so unforgiving. Are they covering up their own guilt in his unfair persecution? Are they trying to hide something that may be revealed upon his release? Perhaps they were feeding him false information at the end, before he was arrested, to deliberately mislead the Israelis, something that wouldn't become obvious until the Israelis get a chance to debrief him. Whatever may be the real reason for Pollard's relentless persecution, it is almost certain that the most interesting parts of this story are yet to be told, and will not become known until Jonathan Pollard is finally set free.
Pollard betrayed during the Wye talks
Pollard's case came to the fore most recently at the end of Wye accords, when Clinton finally agreed to Israeli demands for his release, and then quickly changed his mind when the American intelligence community rebelled against the decision.
Reportedly, CIA Directer George Tenet went to Wye and threatened to resign if Clinton did not reverse himself. In order for the Wye deal to go forward, Tenet had to agree to play a key role in overseeing the security arrangements in the Wye accords, Clinton felt he had no choice, and informed Prime Minister Netanyahu that the part of the deal to release Pollard was off.
Netanyahu and the others in the Israeli delegation reacted angrily. They had just agreed to allow one of Arafat's chief security men who was personally responsible for recent terror attacks on Israel in exchange for the promise of Pollard's release. Now Clinton told them that the Palestinian terrorist would remain free, while Pollard would be kept behind bars.
The nasty public dispute came very close to causing the Wye accords to collapse at the very last moment. The Israelis threatened to go home without signing the accord. Clinton then countered that if they did that, he would recognize the Palestinian state that Arafat has repeatedly threatened to announced next May.
The Israelis had no choice. They accepted the deal, and Pollard remained in jail.
In the end, the White House tried to cover up the embarrassing story of how the president went back on his word. The Americans issued a cover story saying that Netanyahu had brought up the Pollard release issue at the last minute, and had misunderstood President Clinton's promise to review the case. But multiple other sources have since confirmed that the issue of Pollard's release had first been raised by the Israelis at the beginning of the Wye talks, that Arafat had been the one who suggested the trade of Pollard's freedom for his security man's freedom, and that Clinton had clearly agreed to the deal and that Tenet and others later twisted his arm to force him to change his mind.
Now Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub is accusing Tenet of "initiating a witch hunt to rid the CIA of Jews holding security clearances." That accusation, if true, raises other worries about how fairly the CIA under Tenet will carry out its supervisory responsibilities for Palestinian compliance with the Wye accords.
Clinton refuses to promise Pollard's release
In Israel this week, Clinton declined to say whether he would decide to set Jonathan Pollard free. Clinton had promised Netanyahu at the signing ceremony for the Wye accords that he would again review Pollard's case, without committing himself as to the outcome of the review. Clinton has reviewed Pollard's case twice before, once in 1993 and again in 1996. On those occasions, the Washington intelligence/security establishment made sure that he was kept in jail. Earlier this month, he made good on that promise by asking for recommendations from his advisers on Pollard.
Netanyahu acknowledged that Pollard had "done something bad and inexcusable... "We think he should have served his time, and he did." Netanyahu noted that Pollard has already served 13 years in prison, most of them in solitary confinement, a sentence far harsher than that meted out to any other American who spied against it for a friendly power. Netanyahu urged that it is now time for the US to release Pollard on strictly humanitarian grounds.
"Since he was sent by us on a mistaken mission - not to work against the United States, but nevertheless, to break the laws of the United States - we hope that, on a purely humanitarian appeal, a way will be found to release him," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with Clinton in Yerushalayim Sunday.
In response, President Clinton promised, "I will review all that, plus whatever arguments are presented to me on the other side for the reduction of the sentence. And I will make a decision in a prompt way." Clinton said he had instructed White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff to sound out all the relevant intelligence and security agencies for their opinions on Pollard's release.
Latest lies against Pollard
The most recent effort to keep Pollard in jail came in the form of a petition signed by seven former American Defense Secretaries calling on President Clinton not to release Pollard. The seven - Rumsfeld, Richardson, Schlesinger, Weinberger, Cheney, Laird, and Carlucci - wrote that Pollard's release "could encourage others who would harm national security."
Other recent accusations claimed that Pollard, after 13 years in jail, could still compromise secret communications protocols used by American intelligence agencies.
Most fantastic of all, the CBS network broadcast an unattributed and unproven accusation this week that Pollard also spied for South Africa and Pakistan, and is still receiving payments in his accounts from those countries for his services.
Pollard's lawyer Larry Dub, called the accusation, "absolute, utter nonsense." If monies were being deposited in Pollard's bank account [by Israel] today, Dub declared that he and his client were unaware of it.
Meanwhile, Pollard issuing a statement from his cell in a North Carolina federal prison, expressed satisfaction with Netanyahu's and Clinton's words. [Not true! See letter to the Jerusalem Post.]
A growing cause
The cause of Pollard's release has won growing support across the ideological and political Jewish spectrum. Many secular American Jews originally greeted the news of Pollard's arrest with horror. As a turncoat American Jew who betrayed the US for Israel, his case revived all of the old bugaboos about divided loyalties.
For years, most American Jewish organizations considered Pollard to be little more than an embarrassment, and concerned themselves little over the procedural injustices that he may have suffered at the hands of the American legal system.
However, as it became clear to all that Pollard was being singled out for particularly cruel punishment, new interest developed in his case.
Pollard has long since expressed his deep remorse for his acts of espionage against the United States.
For many years, the Israeli governments denied responsibility for Pollard's actions, blaming his spying against the US on rogue Israeli intelligence agents operating without official. It was only a few months ago that the Netanyahu government finally formally acknowledged Israel's ultimate responsibility for Pollard's spying.
Now Pollard's release has become a regular request by Israeli government officials in meetings with their American counterparts, and several visiting Israeli cabinet ministers have gone to see Pollard in his North Carolina jail cell.
American Jewish groups, including first the National Council of Young Israel and, most recently, the Conference of Presidents, have joined in the calls for Pollard's release, as have several prominent secular Jewish personalities.
The cause of Pollard's release has also spread right to left across the Israeli political spectrum.
"We expect the greatest power in the world not to show revenge but rather to adopt a policy of generosity and consideration with regard to Pollard," said opposition Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz to a crowd of about 100 adults and youth who were demonstrating on behalf of Pollard's release outside the Beit Hanassi Sunday evening while Clinton was speaking to President Ezer Weizman. Pines-Paz said. "Jonathan Pollard certainly does not present a threat. It is ridiculous to make out that he does. He was wrong and has apologized," said M.K. Rechavan Ze'evi.
Now justice demands that the US at last let Pollard go. While he surely did commit a crime, by now he has suffered more than enough to pay for his admitted mistakes, and clearly deserves to be set free.