A 20th-century Drefyus?

U.S. Navy Man Knew of Iraq's Secret Weapons:
Was Warning Israel Really Such A Crime?

October 21, 1991 - William Stevenson - The Toronto Sun: Saturday Spotlight

Jonathan Jay Pollard was jailed for life because, while serving in U.S. naval intelligence, he secretly warned Israel in 1985 against Iraq's development of doomsday weapons. When Israel prepared to attack Iraq's nuclear and chemical facilities, the Reagan administration objected strongly because it was then helping Iraq in its war against Iran.

Now, President George Bush's choice for directing the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert M. Gates, defending the CIA for intelligence failures, testifies on the contrary that many failures arose from the Reagan administration's reliance on Israeli intelligence.

Neither Pollard nor Israel can win the argument before Washington lawmakers, because the CIA, like Humpty-Dumpty can "make words mean just what I choose them to mean - neither more or less."

Pollard, and a brilliant Israeli combat pilot-cum-strategist, Aviem Sella, are now being punished for actions based on intelligence the U.S. government rejected in the mid-1980s.

The Gulf War proved the Israelis right.

President Bush, eight months later, pointed up the dangers posed by Iraq's nuclear and chemical facilities. Sella planned the long-range bombing of Iraq's first nuclear complex in 1981 and wanted to strike again after obtaining U.S. spy satellite maps pinpointing Iraqi facilities. Those maps were provided by Pollard because

the U.S. government broke intelligence-sharing agreements with Israel.

Sella had been in Toronto, seeking Canadian help to build a synagogue on an Israeli air base, when on Nov. 16, 1985, he flew to Washington D.C. to see Pollard. Five days later, Pollard's bizarre attempt to seek political asylum at the Israeli embassy broke the story.

Pollard was wrong, he readily confessed, to pass intelligence to Israel. He had asked colleagues in the U.S. Navy's Terrorist Alert Unit why they terminated vital intelligence to Israel. Getting no answer, he felt compelled to tell Israel what has finally been confirmed long after the "victory" over Iraq, which left Saddam Hussein intact and free to conceal his machinery for mass destruction. That machinery was not ready because Israel crippled some parts and prevented western suppliers from completing other weapons before the Gulf war broke out.

"What, in fact was Pollard's crime?" asked the Baltimore Sun recently. "He informed the Israelis that Iraq was building both nuclear facilities and what we now know as the Condor II missile, whose range enabled it to reach Israel ... He betrayed the fact that nerve and biological gases were being shipped to Iraq ...

When he asked his superiors why such intelligence was not being relayed to Israel, he was told, " Jews are too sensitive to gas.' "

Pollard was never put on trial. His wife was seriously ill and he co-operated so fully with U.S. authorities that investigators say his help was


and his motives understandable. In return, he was offered

implicit and explicit promises

to mitigate the charges.

Enter Caspar Weinberger, then U.S. secretary of defence, and former vice president and legal counsel to the Bechtel Group, which he now once again assists in its multi-billion dollar business with Arab states.

Weinberger said Pollard should be shot

, and the former naval intelligence analyst was stashed away in a

mental hospital

, and then in a

maximum security prison reserved for those criminals singled out for the harshest punishment

as a warning to others. He spends 23 hours a day in an underground cell which, claim his supporters, is regularly flooded with human sewage.

His then-wife was jailed as an accessory; but after protests from horrified visitors who saw her wasting away from her illness, she has been released. Painfully thin to begin with, she lost 55 pounds in three months.

Pollard is serving a life sentence, although conservative newspapers like the Washington Times feel what we now know because of the Gulf War should re-open the case.

"What I did," says Pollard, "was endanger the Reagan administration's pro-Arab political agenda, not the intelligence community's sources and methods.' "

But President Bush's nominee to direct the CIA, Gates, blames the Reagan administration's over-dependence on Israel for past mistakes.

The U.S. media, with no institutional axes to grind, takes a different view.

"Because the United States relied heavily on Israeli intelligence for its own operations abroad, it is quite possible that by enhancing Israel's capabilities and intentions,

Pollard was instrumental in preventing terrorist attacks

," the Baltimore Sun commented. So far as the prosecution's offer to make a deal, "

they kept none of their promises. A plea bargain violated is not better than a contract breached


William Casey, then CIA director, urged the justice department to drop the charges. Casey during his directorship was frustrated by failures to take action on Israeli intelligence warnings against such terrorist outrages as the mass killing of U.S. Marines in Lebanon.

There is a danger Pollard will become another Dreyfus, causing deep disaffection on all sides. Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer of Jewish descent who was convicted in 1894 for betraying secrets to Germany and sent to Devil's Island. Clemenceau took up his case and Emile Zola wrote J'accuse before Dreyfus was finally exonerated in 1906 on evidence of anti-Semitism within the French army.

As for the Israeli combat pilot, Sella, who was instrumental in destroying Iraq's first nuclear reactor, the Pentagon boycotted the air base he commanded, forcing his resignation. He had been deputy commander of the unit that downed five Russian-manned aircraft over the Sinai, and as a top fighter-pilot, obtained advanced models of Soviet combat planes for U.S. analysis. He was awarded the Israel Air Force Prize for developing a computerized operational system activated when Israeli planes wiped out batteries of Syrian missiles.

Two Israeli investigations decided Sella should have known better than to help Pollard forewarn the Jewish state. This was an attempt to dampen mounting anti-Israeli feeling among those in Washington who considered Israel no longer useful in a dying Cold War. When Sella was obliged by Pentagon pressures to leave the air force, he worked for a company developing sophisticated electronic equipment for combat aircraft. The U.S. Air Force, the company's biggest customer, threatened to cancel contracts until Sella quit. Sella set up his own business. His hi-tech skills need foreign markets, but foreign firms are afraid of U.S. retaliation if they hire his talents and knowledge.

These men are guilty of crimes of conscience.

Governments, presumably, are above the law when they break agreements to help one another in times of great danger. A former U.S. defence secretary who made sure they were punished is certainly never going to be charged with anything worse than moral delinquency for looking to make more bucks from Arabs who regard Saddam Hussein as the hero who survived the Gulf war to continue the fight against Israel.


Israel rejected U.S. complaints about Israeli Air Force flights over Iraq this month, saying Iraq, "set a new record in hypocrisy" by protesting such Israeli missions, given its unprovoked missile attacks on Israel during the Gulf war. Israel "will take any steps necessary to defend itself."

On the same day of the U.S. complaint, Pentagon officials said intelligence failures prevented U.S. bombers from destroying


important Iraqi nuclear weapons installations. "High-ranking Pentagon officials acknowledged that intelligence shortcomings on Iraq's nuclear programs raised serious concerns," reported the New York Times on Oct. 10.

Pentagon officials have said privately that Jonathan Jay Pollard was able nonetheless to locate such intelligence in U.S. hands -

and was punished for making sure someone, somewhere, did not let a private political agenda get in the way of using it.

WILLIAM STEVENSON is a distinguished journalist, having been a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for British and Canadian newspapers. He is the author of numerous books including A Man Called Intrepid - which is the chronicle of the world's first integrated intelligence operation and of its chief, Sir William Stephenson - (no relation to the author) - whose code name, INTREPID, and bold mission were given to him by Winston Churchill.

William Stevenson is a Canadian, although born in England. He was a naval flyer during World War II and met Sir William on special assignment to Intelligence. More recently Stevenson has been a television writer and producer.

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