Why This Hate?

Si Frumkin - Graffitti for Intellectuals - February 15, 1999 Edition

Why do they hate him so? Why is it that every time his name hits the news there is a storm of leaks, accusations, innuendos, half-truths, smears? All of them are unsubstantiated, no one presents any proof, but the media eagerly pick it up, disseminate it and once again there is the image of this monster, this traitor, this turncoat who should never see the light of day.

And each time I ask the same question: why do they hate him so? I have looked for the answer for almost 14 years. I haven't found it yet.

The first article I wrote about Jonathan Pollard was in 1990. I called it, "I Really Didn't Believe It Could Happen Here". It isn't long, just 6 pages. If you want a copy, let me know - what I wrote a decade ago still applies today. This case is not just a case against Pollard - American justice is on trial as well, and American justice has lost.

Here are just some of the peculiarities that I didn't believe could happen here.

The trial was a secret one - just a judge, no jury. Some of the materials presented by the prosecution were not made available to Pollard's attorneys - then or to this day. The government persuaded Pollard to plead guilty and thus make a secret non-jury trial possible by solemnly promising that the most lenient sentence would be asked for and imposed. The government lied: the charges were the lowest possible - not treason, just "giving information to a foreign power", but the sentence was the maximum that could be imposed.

The judge, who is black, was apparently told that Pollard spied for South Africa, and later, in a still secret letter from the then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, that Pollard was "a traitor", the "worst spy in America's history", "deserving of the death penalty" and that he committed the crime of "making Israel too strong." During the trial Judge Robinson even compared, unfavorably, the policies of Israel in the West Bank with those of the nazis during World War II!

Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but he wasn't sent to prison. Instead, and still without an explanation, he was sent to the psychiatric ward of the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, a facility for the criminally insane.

Here is what it was like, in Pollard's own words.

"...The inhuman screams of the patients many of whom were suffering from AIDS-related dementia, sounded like something straight out of Dante's 'Inferno'. Although the local rabbi tried on numerous occasions to secure a simple pair of earplugs for me, he was repeatedly warned to 'mind his own business'...Can you even begin to imagine what it was like for me to live locked down in a 9'x6' cell for 23 1/2 hours a day? Apart from my lack of sleep, washing tended to be rather difficult. As most of the inmates were incontinent, the single shower available to us, generally had the appearance of a latrine by the time I was given permission to use it. Although I didn't enjoy smelling like an animal, it seemed preferable to stepping into AIDS infected fecal matter...My commode would regularly back up inundating my cell with organic material I can't even begin to describe. Since I was understandably reluctant to handle the sewage without adequate protective clothing, I was forced to wait 3-4 hours before a team dressed in bio-hazard suits arrived to clean the place up..."

Pollard could have left this environment at any time. All he had to do was to put a few check marks on the lists of American Jews that his interrogators kept presenting him with in the expectation that he would implicate other Jewish "traitors". Although he passed lie detector tests and proved that he had no co-conspirators, the Justice Department persisted in demanding that he give them "someone".

After a year in this hell and Congressional intercession, he was transferred to a high security prison where he remained in solitary for 8 years. Pollard is now in his 14th year of imprisonment. In the history of American jurisprudence there has never been a case of spy sentenced for "giving information to a foreign power" who served more than 4 years.

An Egyptian-born scientist, Abdelkader Helmy, passed extremely sensitive ballistic missile information to Egypt. It enabled Iraq which conducted a joint missile program with Egypt, to modify its SCUD missiles. Helmy served less than two years. Spies for Great Britain and South Africa were out in less than 3 years. More recently a U.S. naval officer who sold secrets to Saudi Arabia for two years was punished only by dismissal from service and loss of pension.

Even genuine traitors, charged and convicted of treason, were treated less harshly than Pollard - Sergeant Clayton Lonetree who opened our Moscow embassy to Soviet spies and allowed to photograph sensitive materials was given a 25-year sentence and released after just 4 years.

So why do they hate him so? I thought that I had the answer in 1992 when the government leaks implied that the information Pollard had given Israel contained hints at the identities of U.S. agents in the Soviet Union, that this somehow got into Soviet hands and that Pollard was thus responsible for the deaths of a dozen of our agents. I didn't believe it, but I thought that if the President was convinced of it, then this might be the justification for denial of clemency for Pollard in 1993.

And then, 4 years ago, after the arrest of Aldrich Ames, the CIA counter-intelligence chief, that theory was proved wrong. Ames confessed that it was he who was responsible for the betrayal of these agents and that it was he who fabricated the evidence implicating Pollard. I thought then that this would be the end of Pollard's suffering and that he would be pardoned after serving the unprecedented 11 years for giving Israel materials to which it was anyway entitled under a US-Israel cooperation treaty.

It wasn't to be. Twice Clinton considered clemency and twice he was persuaded not to act. Right now the storm of lies swirls around Pollard again. Once again he is accused of having spied for South Africa, Pakistan, China, others. Where is the proof? Who says so? We don't know. We do know, however, that Pollard calls these charges "garbage".

Once again we are told that he transmitted materials that could fill either a room, two rooms or a pick-up truck. Really? How could he have taken out all that in a briefcase he carried under his arm, even if he took one out every week? It is absurd, yet it is being said again.

One article even accuses him of being a cocaine addict. This is a new charge that has never been raised before. How come no one knew about this before Seymour Hersh published the article in New Yorker this January and the "respectable" media picked it up without checking.

And again and again, we are told - he is a traitor, he is a traitor, he is a traitor. Really? Why then was he not charged with treason? Why aren't the true charges against him revealed? And what could remain so sensitive that it might still harm the U.S. after 15 years?

And why do they hate him so much that the mail he sends from his North Carolina prison takes 16, 18, 20 months to reach me in California? And are all the people who signed appeals for his release - the widow of Oskar Schindler, the Archbishops of San Francisco and Boston, the European Parliament, over 150 Jewish Federations and over 50 Boards of Rabbis, among hundreds of others - are they all dupes and ignoramuses who want to harm the U.S.? I don't think so.

One of these days we will find the answer to my question. In the meantime he is still in prison, still hated.

See Also:
  • Stale Snail Mail From Federal Jail