The Shadowy War Against Jonathan Pollard

David Twersky, Editor - New Jersey Jewish News - January 15, 1999

There are three positions in the great debate over the fate of Jonathan Pollard. There are those in the United States intelligence and defense community, along with their allies in the U.S. Congress, who oppose Pollard's release ever.

There are those who can see letting him go in three years.

*(See release about this bogus proposal.)

And there are those who want him out now.

The emergence of the middle camp was first reported by NBC Nightly News on Jan. 7. According to NBC, "Administration sources say...the president would commute Pollard's sentence from life to 25 years, but with good behavior, Pollard could be released by 2002, one year after Clinton's presidential term ends."

That report triggered a furious barrage of leaks from the intelligence community, the most detailed of which appeared this week in The New Yorker, in an article by Seymour Hersh, "The Traitor the case against Jonathan Pollard."

Joining the chorus of those who want Pollard to stay in prison for the rest of his life were U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE), the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who wrote the president that his release "would now be viewed as an acquiescence to external political pressures and a vindication of Pollard's specious claims of unfairness." That makes as much sense as the statement by Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott during the Wye conference that Pollard can't be released because, once free, he will go back to spying.

In Israel, meanwhile, the lingering splits over Pollard resurfaced as Labor's

Ehud Barak

apparently refused to sign a joint letter with Netanyahu to Clinton urging Pollard's release. And last month, the continued opposition to Pollard's release from elements of the Israeli defense establishment came out in a column by Ha'aretz's veteran defense correspondent, Ze'ev Schiff, who wrote that when released, Pollard would write a book, "the reverberations (of which) are sure to spread far and wide in Israel."

Why all the noise on Pollard? Because Clinton promised the Israeli government that he would review the case, getting input from "both sides of the issue."

Both sides? Speaking from the federal prison in Butner, NC, Pollard told NJJN that he and his attorneys haven't made any submissions and, critically, are being denied the right to review the documents and presentations offered by those opposing his release including documents shown to Hersh and other journalists.

The flow of intelligence information to journalists like Hersh signals the intelligence community's lack of trust in Clinton, who it is believed could cave in to the Israelis.

So why does Pollard deserve never to get out? The case against early release rests on the charge he gave Israel the keys to the U.S. intelligence store. Pollard, writes Hersh, handed over the secrets of U.S. intelligence gathering to Israel, which, in turn, traded many of these secrets to the Soviets in exchange for the release of Soviet Jews.

Assuming this is true, there is no evidence to suggest that Pollard knew that his material was being used in this way. In fact, the Hersh article offers no evidence that Pollard's material was being traded to the Soviets, only that some Israeli intelligence was getting to Moscow, either because the KGB had penetrated Israeli intelligence or because of the trading suggested by Hersh.

Is this enough to sentence a man to life inside? When Clinton was in Israel last month, the intelligence community leaked reports that Israel had received from Pollard "a top-secret 10-volume manual used by the National Security Agency to tap foreign communications and protect U.S. communications from being intercepted." This charge was recirculated in the Hersh piece. But if true, how come the Americans had such an easy time intercepting and decoding an Israeli transmission from its Washington embassy in May 1997? That was the conversation that appeared to suggest to the Americans that there was an Israeli spy high up in the U.S. administration

(see Mega Spy Scandal).

Apparently, the Israelis could not mask their transmission or use codes that would escape the U.S. trackers a fact that flies in the face of the new revelations in the Hersh piece.

The search for "Mr. X," the higher-up spy at work in Washington, colors the Pollard story.

(See Mr. X' exposed.)

Is Pollard being held until he fingers Mr. X? Hersh quotes a Justice Department official saying that the "top secret control numbers" of documents Pollard was asked to steal for Israel could only have come "from somebody else in the U.S. government."

Those who doubt that America would indefinitely hold a man in jail to get this type of information should consider the Rosenberg case. According to historian Ronald Radosh, who believes that Julius Rosenberg was guilty of espionage for the USSR, the innocent Ethel Rosenberg was convicted and sent to the chair in an unsuccessful attempt to pressure Julius into naming the rest of his spy circle.

It is also curious to read a piece documenting the flow of U.S. intelligence information to the Soviet intelligence that blames it all on Pollard and never once mentions Aldrich Ames, the head of the CIA's Soviet/Eastern Europe Division, who, as McGill University law professor Irwin Cotler writes, "had himself been both the architect of those treasonable acts, and the original source of the disinformation against Pollard on those charges."

There's more: Pollard did drugs. Pollard did it for money. Pollard brokered arms deals with other countries. But, even if these charges are stipulated (which they should not be), why do they require that Pollard remain in jail until he dies? "I did not do these things," Pollard told us. "I wasn't accused of or indicted for these things."

Says Pollard, "I am being done in by a campaign that is a combination of Dreyfus and McCarthy. I can't win a war in the shadows," he said, where unnamed accusers and unexamined evidence are being used to keep him locked away forever.