Analyze This: Why Jonathan Pollard is Still in Prison

New Jersey Jewish News, March 11, 1999 Editorial

When the Monica Lewinsky scandal first surfaced, some Arab newspapers actually accused the California Jewish woman of working for the Israelis. The idea was that a scandal hurting President Bill Clinton would distract him from applying pressure to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had just finished talks at the White House days before the Lewinsky story broke. Now Washington is spinning from allegations leaked last week from a forthcoming book that Israel's Mossad secretly taped Clinton's phone-sex talks with Lewinsky, and then blackmailed the White House to protect an Israeli mole.

According to this tale, the "secret mole" is no other than "Mega," the long-sought Israeli super spy who, in US intelligence believes told the Israelis which top secret documents they should have Jonathan Pollard copy for them. Now combine the two stories and here's what you get Israel sought to keep Lewinsky a secret in order to blackmail Clinton into turning a blind eye towards "Mega" and simultaneously ran Monica into the open to distract Clinton from pressuring Netanyahu.

The search for "Mega" there is scant evidence to support the thesis that he even exists lies at the heart of the crusade to keep Pollard locked away in federal prison. Now we all "know" what terrible things Pollard did the intelligence community told all, in a series of major press articles, opinion pieces and congressional letters that amounted to an unparalleled orchestrated national campaign. Pollard handed the keys to the intelligence store to the Israelis who then traded much of it to the Soviets. Unfounded, unconfirmed and unsubstantiated charges all and, more crucially, crimes for which Pollard as neither indicted nor convicted. (Ironically, the author of one of these articles, Seymore Hersh, spent an earlier part of his career sniping at the legendary chief of CIA counter-intelligence, James Jesus Angleton, a strong friend of Israel (there is a statue dedicated to him in Jerusalem) who believed there was a Soviet mole in the CIA. So Hersh attacked Angleton over the Soviet mole, but plays patsy for the CIA tales about an Israel mole,"Mega".)

This sense of Israel the all-powerful contrasts starkly with the emerging portrait of Washington's view of China. Just this week, the Department of Energy finally fired Wen Ho Lee from his post at Los Alamos, only acting after The New York Times' reported that investigators had concluded that someone at the New Mexico Nuclear laboratory was handing the Chinese technology to miniaturize nuclear bombs. (Remember that semi-annually US officials charge Israel with selling US-made military equipment to China). The CIA's former chief spy hunter, Paul Redmond, who made his name by uncovering Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, told the Times the newly reported Chinese theft "was far more damaging to the national security than Aldrich Ames." More damaging than Ames but meanwhile, Lee has only been fired. For handing over a technology that could level the nuclear playing field in Asia, now stacked in America's favor.

The last Chinese spy busted here, physicist, Peter Lee, admitted in a plea bargain agreement that in 1985 he gave China classified information involving the use of lasers to simulate nuclear detonations. Lee got 12 months in a half-way house.

According to Walter Pincus, writing in the Washington Post of March 7, a previous Chinese espionage case concerned a scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was alleged to have passed to Beijing secrets about the neutron bomb. After being confronted by U.S. authorities, he resigned from the Livermore laboratory; that case is still open. The real issue is that the Clinton White House didn't want to hear about Chinese nuclear espionage, because it conflicted with the larger commercial aims of selling to Beijing. The Times's story was headlined "China Stole Nuclear Secrets for Bombs, U.S. Aides Say" and subheaded "Espionage Case at New Mexico Lab Is Said to Be Minimized by the White House."

If true, this puts the Clinton administration regarding China on a par with the Reagan/Bush administrations regarding Iraq, right up to the invasion of Kuwait. Pollard's crime was in the days when Washington was tilting towards Baghdad. Pincus reports that a "White House official" that the administration had not tried to sweep the reports of Chinese espionage under the carpet. "We recognize as a fact of international life that countries spy on each other,' the official said, but we have other strategic interests to pursue. We carry on with a lot of countries, including allies, that we feel are spying on us. . . . There are very few countries we could cooperate with if spying were a defining issue.'"

So spying isn't a "defining issue", and even Pollard's long sentence hasn't disrupted US-Israel relations. But Pollard's treatment , when contrasted with what has been meted out to the two Lees and the guy who handed China the neutron bomb, tells us that there are those in Washington who want Israel taken down a peg, to "nontraditional adversary" in the language of a 1996 Defense Department memo*. That's why Pollard's fate matters not only as a matter of justice but as sign of which way the Washington winds blow.

* See articles on Defense Department Memo referenced above:

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