Let's Get to the Truth About Pollard

Marvin Schick - February 16, 2001 - Jewish Week (NY)

For those who believe that a plainly guilty man cannot be railroaded, Jonathan Jay Pollard proves otherwise. Even his most ardent proponents now acknowledge his wrongdoing. As yet, there is no corollary recognition that the U.S. government has not acted justly in the case. That will come, although it's far from certain that Pollard will be alive when it does.

Despite the inadvertent governmental efforts to make Pollard a martyr, he is no Dreyfus or, for that matter, a hero. He is the rather unattractive victim of a process that is both Kafkaesque and Catch 22.

The government's misdeeds began shortly after he was arrested. In line with standard procedure in spy cases, there was a plea bargain, with presumed understandings regarding the sentences to be given to Pollard and his former wife. The lead prosecutor found a pretense to disavow what had been agreed to and then there was the infamous top-secret memorandum sent by Caspar Weinberger, who himself was pardoned by President Bush.

The ignoble trail picked up recruits along the way, including the draconian sentencing judge, the two Jewish appellate judges - one was Ruth Bader Ginsburg - who stood idly (but not silently) by as an injustice was given judicial approval, and public officials, including a former senator from New York and a noted Jewish senator from Connecticut, who whispered along the way that spying for Israel was only a part of Pollard's career in espionage, that he did worse things for more dangerous countries.

For all of the attention given the case, its most surprising aspect is how little we know. There was Wolf Blitzer's early book and newspaper stories aplenty telling of efforts to secure Pollard's release. Yet, we scarcely know more now than what we knew when American Jewry was badly rattled by Pollard's arrest and revelations of spying for Israel.

This is unsettling. Put simply, the question is, Why don't we know more? Where are the leaks? Washington is full of insiders eager to talk to investigative reporters and they don't clam up when the subject turns to spying. Blitzer got his information from inside sources. Seymour Hersh has made a career of turning intelligence secrets into journalistic copy. As perhaps exhibit no.1, there is the Ames case which involved espionage for the Soviet Union within the CIA, and the resulting murder of agents who were double-crossed by Ames. We know this and much more because intelligence officials talked and what they said was reported.

The Times, the great bastion of "all the news that's fit to print," has editorialized against Pollard's release but it hasn't seen fit to delve into the case, except early on and even then in a fairly superficial fashion. In contrast, there is the recent exhaustive two-part report on Dr. Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist who was arrested on charges of spying for China and then released when the case against him collapsed. In its own words, "The Times undertook an extensive re-examination of the case, interviewing participants and examining scientific and government documents, many containing secrets never before disclosed." (my italics)

The Times articles on Dr. Lee are, I am confident, required reading throughout China's intelligence establishment and probably by agents in countries around the world. FBI and CIA officials were ready to talk without qualms about compromising U.S. security, even though this meant that secrets were now being disclosed. It may be that Pollard's case is different. Maybe he is the master spyman of all time, so that what he did is for all eternity super secret and lips must be sealed shut like Weinberger's communication.

I don't believe it. I believe that a perhaps understandable reluctance to disclose information at the outset has escalated into a phony faade of secrecy and officials now protect their earlier decisions to be tough toward Pollard by claiming that his sins are too great to bear or discuss or pardon.

We won't ever know if the government has its way. Pollard has a new lawyer, Elliot Lauer, a creative and experienced litigator who may come up with a legal strategy that works. The odds are not favorable.

It is of great importance to American Jews to get to the bottom of what has happened. If the fund to provide for Jewish investigative reporting is still operational, an examination of this case should become the first priority. If it isn't, our organizations ought to put together the resources needed to engage an experienced investigative team. Let them seek and they shall find, hopefully before it is too late.

See Also:
  • The Facts Page
  • The Court Case 2000 Page