Exclusive Interview with Lawrence Korb: "I will fight for Pollard."

Tzach Yokad - Maariv - front page banner - November 14, 2010

Translated to English by J4JP

Lawrence Korb who served as the US Deputy Minister of Defense and was a senior official in the Regan Administration when the Pollard case broke in the 1980's can't do enough to fight for Jonathan Pollard's release from an American prison.

In a special interview with Maariv, Korb expressed cautious optimism, enumerated what he sees as being the obstacles that have been holding up freedom for Pollard and proposes what he believes is the key to resolving this twenty-five-year affair without delay.

"It is up to Israel to return the master list of the documents which it obtained from Pollard to the United States," he says." This is the one thing which can end all the suspicions and bring an immediate end to the affair.

For Korb, it is very important to speak out, even if it means an interview via trans-Atlantic telephone from Kabul, Afghanistan where he is presently located as part of a team of investigators which has recently met with President Hamid Karzai, and with the Commander of the US Forces in the region, General David Petraeus.

Korb is driven by his conscience - the conscience of a man who even today, nearly 25 years since he left public office, finds it hard to let go of the terrible injustice which has been done to Pollard.

"People say that Pollard should be freed because it would help the peace process," he says, speaking from Milano in Kabul. "Some say he should be released because it would improve relations between Barak Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu. These kinds of calculations are of no interest to me. Pollard should be released for one reason only and that is because the punishment meted out to him does not fit the offense he committed. That is the reason I am willing to fight for his freedom. I have no doubt that this is the right thing to do."

Weinberger's Overblown Claims

In an op-ed which Korb published in the Los Angeles Times about 2 weeks ago, he blames, amongst others, his boss at the time, the former US Minister of Defense Caspar Weinberger for blowing the Pollard affair up out of proportion via the creation of false accusations which claimed that the information that Pollard had provided to Israel found its way into the hands of intelligence agents in the former USSR during the cold war, before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

"I don't think Weinberger knowingly lied," it seems important to him to stress, "I think this is probably what intelligence officials told him at the time, that the information which Pollard passed to Israel had come into the hands of the Russians, and that is what he believed at the time. He was essentially another victim of the institutional paranoia that ruled those at the top levels of the American army and the intelligence community at the time of the cold war with the Russians."

The most disturbing thing in this whole story is that Weinberg never even mentioned the Pollard affair when he wrote his memoirs about those years. When he was interviewed in 2004 (two years before he died) and was asked why the Pollard affair was never mentioned in his book, he replied, "because it was a minor matter." (See Caspar's Ghost)

"In my opinion, there are two reasons which are holding up Pollard's release," Korb continues. "The first is the fear amongst the heads of the intelligence community that his release may send the wrong message to intelligence operatives today. The second thing which keeps Pollard imprisoned is the suspicion held by a number of people that there may have been information which Pollard passed to Israel of the kind we would not want anyone to have, not even an ally. I do not agree with this premise, but this may have been the fear which guided Bill Clinton when he was president and perhaps it may even affect Obama today. Therefore it is very important that Israel come clean and reveal to the Americans the master list of documents which it obtained from Pollard, and in that way put an end to these suspicions once and for all."

Israel's Abandonment

But, Israel, as has been previously mentioned, has done just the opposite. For the first 13 years after Pollard's arrest in 1985, Israel refused to officially acknowledge Pollard. "Israel abandoned him throughout that whole period of time," Korb accuses, "and when it was finally forced to take responsibility (because Pollard sued) it was 13 years after Pollard was sentenced."

Not only that. At that same time, Israeli officials characterized Pollard's espionage as part of a "rogue operation" which means it was a renegade operation. Korb stresses that the notion of a "rogue operation" aroused in many American officials the primal fear that the information may have been shared with other intelligence services such as the Soviets. "Israel is not the only nation that fields agents," Korb explains, "every country does it. But instead of Israel admitting that it ran Pollard and that he worked as its agent, they claimed that it was a "rogue operation" and this caused all kinds of unnecessary speculation to permeate the atmosphere, to Pollard's detriment."

Michael Oren's Slip of the Lip

The State of Israel, it seems, would be hard pressed to dismiss Korb's accusations, when indeed it was only some 5 months ago that the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, in an interview with Washington's top radio news station WTOP, stated that it was "an unauthorized rogue organization" which ran Pollard . His own words were "rogue operation". Subsequently the Embassy in Washington had to put out a clarification in which it stressed that Israel takes responsibility for running Pollard Twenty-five years after the arrest of Jonathan Pollard, Korb says he is optimistic about the possibility of securing Pollard's release and he promises to contribute to the campaign in any way that is needed. "I can tell you that I am far more optimistic today than I was even a year ago. Ten years ago the issue of securing the release of Pollard was at its height, and then it died. Now, once again, there is a new awakening."

Central to the new awakening is the initiative of a number of American Congressmen who are circulating a petition for signature amongst their colleagues which calls for the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard. Dozens have already signed. "I think that this is an important key to his release," Korb stresses. "Intelligence officials and politicians with a security background are rebutting the charges calling for the continuation of Pollard's incarceration. This is the best chance for his release. I believe that if Obama decides to do it, the opposition will be scarce, far less than it would have been ten or twenty years ago. There is a chance."

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