Was Jonathan Pollard Another of Tenet's "Mistakes"?

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive VP, National Council of Young Israel
Hamodia - July 25, 2003

A recent Associated Press report stated that when the Bush administration issued its pre-war claims that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa, the CIA had not yet obtained the documents that served as a key foundation for the allegations and these documents later turned out to be forged......even as the CIA found little to verify the reports, Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to put them into public statements.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee-who has been a long time critic of CIA chairman George Tenet for failing to warn the United States of the potential 9/11 terror attacks-commented that there was "not enough evidence to back up" the President's comments that Iraq wanted to buy uranium from Africa. Shelby said that most of the blame should be directed at George Tenet, director of the CIA since July 1997.

If there was "not enough evidence to back up" the CIA claims in this instance, one must wonder what else George Tenet and the CIA presented as fact when, in reality, there was "not enough evidence to back up" their claims? One specific 'George Tenet and CIA action' does come to mind---

In September 1998, during the Middle East Peace Talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland, George Tenet, as director of the CIA, told then President Clinton that he would resign if Clinton agreed to release Jonathan Pollard from Federal Prison, where Pollard was (is) serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel. This was after Clinton personally guaranteed Pollard's release to then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

One wonders, was there (and is there) "enough evidence" in the Pollard case to merit such threats from Tenet? Was (and is) the Pollard case another situation that no one had "obtained the documents" and proof about Pollard's activities before making public statements?

Had everyone thoroughly checked the facts---

  1. Pollard made 11 "drops" and all the material fit into a small briefcase - not enough material to fill a large moving van, as was being claimed.

  2. Pollard - we now know - never had the security clearance which would have been required to enter the file room and the security safe to obtain the code books he supposedly took or much of the intelligence information he supposedly obtained.

  3. The damage that Pollard supposedly caused was, in truth, caused by Aldrich Ames, a senior CIA official and Pollard's superior, and by Robert Hanssen, a senior FBI official. (In fact, once these two spies were caught and the damaged they caused realized, why didn't the proper authorities revisit the Pollard case and admit that Pollard was indicted and convicted for a crime he did not commit?)

  4. Pollard never had a trial. At the request of the United States government, Pollard entered into a plea agreement and cooperated fully. Nevertheless, Pollard received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled - in complete violation of the plea agreement. The Pollard case, is a case of gross injustices-including a grossly disproportionate sentence, use of secret evidence, a false charge of treason, ineffective assistance of counsel, a lack of due process, serious government misconduct, etc. Years after his sentencing, Pollard filed a habeas corpus challenge to the sentence. In a dissenting opinion, Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Williams called the case "a fundamental miscarriage of justice," and wrote that he would have ordered that Pollard's sentence be vacated.

  5. The average prison term for "spying for a friendly country with no intent to harm the United States" normally carries a prison sentence of 2 - 4 years. Pollard is now serving his18th year of a life sentence.

It is due time for all justice-seeking individuals to publicly challenge George Tenet and the CIA - and the entire intelligence community - on the Pollard case. What proof was (and is) there to validate the charges against Pollard. What developments have (and are) been ignored. We must raise our voices in protest. We must insist on the evidence to back up their charges. We must demand that Pollard finally receive the due process he has been denied for so long.

Biographical Note:

Rabbi Pesach Lerner is Executive Vice-President, National Council of Young Israel. Rabbi Lerner and the National Council of Young Israel have taken a leading activist role in the efforts to free Jonathan Pollard. Rabbi Lerner visits Pollard often and speaks with him weekly.
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