Pollard's Plea To Clinton: Reveal Case Against Me

January 15, 1999 - Stewart Ain - The Jewish Week

Saying he hoped President Bill Clinton would "provide me with the same fair play and due process he has asked the Senate to grant him," convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard would like Clinton to declassify the sentencing documents that led to his life imprisonment.

"I'm being accused by leaks and by rumors in the press without any way of defending myself," Pollard told The Jewish Week by phone from the federal prison in Butner, N.C. "These reports are categorically untrue. If I thought for a moment that I would be hurt by any information in the sentencing documents, I would not be asking for their declassification."

He was responding to a recent flurry of anonymous reports from senior intelligence sources and in defense circles that his spying in the mid-1980s had seriously damaged American intelligence and compromised agents. The sources told The New Yorker magazine that they were coming forth now because they feared Clinton was about to pardon Pollard.

Clinton asked the FBI, CIA and State, Justice and Defense departments for their recommendations on Pollard following an October pledge to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to review the case. All except Justice, which by midweek had not responded, said he should remain in prison.

The president sought the recommendations by Jan. 11, but the White House said no immediate decision was expected.

Pollard, 44, was a civilian Navy analyst before his arrest in November 1985 for allegedly passing classified information to Israel over an 18-month period. He pleaded guilty to espionage for Israel in 1987, and Netanyahu last year acknowledged that Pollard was an Israeli spy. But Newsday quoted intelligence officials on Tuesday as saying Pollard also provided classified documents to Pakistan, South Africa and two other countries.

"If that's true, it alters our understanding of what Pollard was doing," said Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress. "We were told he was disclosing information to Israel because of his deep commitment to the State of Israel. If he was spying for Pakistan, it runs counter to that. But we don't know that to be true.

"This looks like it is an attempt to shake the confidence of the Jewish community regarding Pollard's motivation, and we're stuck because we have no way of assessing the validity of this information."

Baum said that although he found the reports "troubling," he was also upset that this information was "suddenly available to journalistic sources. We and Jonathan's lawyers were told over the years that this information could not be disclosed on pain of damaging the interests of the United States. I'm concerned about the integrity of those who are charged with maintaining the secrecy of this information."

Baum and Seymour Reich are co-chairs of a committee looking into the Pollard case for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Reich said the new allegations against Pollard have not changed his mind "one bit" about Pollard. In fact, he said, they have "made me even more determined to pursue his cause and get him out of jail.

"Why is this coming out now?" he asked. "The government knew what Jonathan did when it agreed to accept his plea bargain."

Reich said also that Clinton should appoint an independent commission to determine the origin of the leaks.

Pollard pointed out that if he had compromised the American intelligence community as the new reports claim, he would have been indicted for intending to harm the country.

"But my indictment says that I tried to aid Israel without intent to harm the United States," he pointed out.

The new allegations also assert that Pollard was not aware of the contents of all the material he gave to Israel. But Pollard insisted he was "not a vacuum cleaner, indiscriminately picking up material wherever I found it. I was specifically assigned to collect intelligence that was being embargoed by the American intelligence and defense establishments."

He said the U.S. had promised to share this material with Israel and had unilaterally breached the agreement.

Asked about the allegation that he spied for Pakistan, Pollard said he made that false claim when he was first arrested in order to hide the fact that he was an Israeli agent. Regarding South Africa, he said he had been involved in an approved "back channel" link to the intelligence services of the apartheid South African government. When that operation was later revealed, the Navy blamed him but he was "eventually cleared and reinstated."

Pollard said that although this information is being leaked to the press, his lawyers "have not been allowed to see it so they can rebut it. These stories are so wild. How can I fight a war in the shadows, with leaks and anonymous sources?"

Among the new allegations is Pollard gave Israel a surveillance manual and details of other systems that were "so secret that they have never been cited by name in public." One document, known as the "Bible," reportedly contained information on how U.S. intelligence collects signals anywhere in the world.

The New Yorker said U.S. officials believe the information was given to the Soviet Union before its 1991 collapse, and that it was of practical use only to the Soviets. In addition, the magazine said he passed along "reams of data" that contained reports filed by U.S. military attaches in the Middle East that would have enabled Israel to identify confidential informers. And he is alleged to have given more than a year's worth of daily reports from a Navy surveillance station in Spain that tracked movements of Soviet nuclear submarines.

Pollard denied each of the allegations and said he was being blamed for the action of other spies. He charged that these attacks against him were being circulated to "blacken Israel and to intimidate the American Jewish community."