Whose Crimes? Pollard's or Ames's?

December, 1995 - Hershel Shanks, Editor - Moment Magazine

Was Jonathan Pollard blamed for the crimes of Aldrich Ames? That is the latest question bedeviling this increasingly odiferous (it stinks) case.

The information CIA agent Ames admittedly disclosed to the USSR resulted in the death of at least 10 American agents. Ames was apprehended only in 1994. Pollard, the American who spied for Israel, was apprehended nine years earlier, on November 22, 1985.

Pollard's despicable acts plainly deserved appropriate punishment. But Pollard's plainly disproportionate life sentence - he spied for a friendly ally, not an enemy; he pleaded guilty, saving the government the expense and security disclosures of a trial; he cooperated with the government's investigation of the case - has always been inexplicable. Never before had an American spy been given a life sentence in these circumstances. And many worse offenders have received much less than a life sentence.

Was it anti-Semitism on the judge's part, who to this day declines to explain the sentencing? The disproportionate sentence aside, nothing suggest that the judge was so motivated. Was it something in then-Secretary of Defense "Cap" Weinberger's secret presentation to the court than sentenced Pollard to life in prison? And if so, what could Weinberger (himself the recipient of a felony pardon) possibly have said? The Ames case may provide the answers.

The Ames case offers another contrast to the Pollard case. Books and newspapers are filled with accounts of the specific damage resulting from Ames's disclosures, including the deaths of the American agents who Ames fingered. Why is there no explanation by our American government of the specific damage caused by Pollard's disclosures. Why, after 10 years and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, can't the American people be told the contents, at least in a general way or with some still necessary deletions, of the Weinberger affidavit to the court that formed the basis of the judge's sentence? We know an awful lot about what happened as a result of Ames's disclosures but almost nothing about what happened as a result of Pollard's disclosures.

This leads to speculation as to whether Pollard was blamed for what Ames was then secretly disclosing to the Soviets. The timing is right. So are other circumstances.

Pollard was recruited as an Israeli spy some time in 1983, about two years before he was apprehended.

In the summer of 1984, the CIA bureau in Moscow seemed on the verge of collapse. One American agent was arrested and executed. According to a story on Ames in the Washington Post, 1984 was "the beginning of a very rocky time for the CIA. Not only the Moscow agents, but recruited Soviet officials in a handful of posts around the world were lost." The CIA was desperate to find the leak. Naturally, a mole within the U.S. government was a prime suspect. But who?

In November, 1995, Pollard was apprehended (nearly two years after Ames had begun working for the Russians).

In 1983 Ames was made chief of the CIA's Soviet counterintelligence branch in the Soviet-East European Division. Ames was recruited by the Russians in 1984. Ames would, of course, have every reason to deflect suspicion from himself and blame someone else for what was happening in the Moscow bureau - and Ames was in a position to do so.

The information Pollard passed to Israel about Russian weaponry in Arab states was obtained, at least in part, from American agents in Russia.

In the intelligence community it was well known that in the past KGB moles had penetrated Israeli intelligence. Perhaps a still-undiscovered Soviet mole inside Israeli intelligence passed the secrets to the Soviets that Pollard had passed to Israel.

Pollard was not sentenced until March 1987. Ames was still in charge of Soviet counter-intelligence within the CIA. Based on what Ames told him, Weinberger drafted his affidavit to the court.

In December 1987, UPI reported that "A Russian mole has infiltrated the Mossad and is transmitting highly sensitive American intelligence information to the Russians." The story relied on "American intelligence sources" and reported that "sensitive intelligence material relayed to Israel by Jonathan Pollard had reached the KGB." Although this story appeared after Pollard was sentenced, obviously it was known much earlier by the CIA operatives who provided the information to Weinberger for his affidavit. A week after this story appeared, Shabtai Kalmanowitz was arrested as a Soviet mole inside Israeli intelligence. The assumption is that the Soviets sacrificed Kalmanowitz to protect Ames and to provide a cover for the information that Ames had supplied to his Soviet superiors. In short, Kalmanowitz linked Pollard to the problems in the CIA's Soviet bureau.

According to an unsourced story by Hezi Carmel in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, "Ames's allegation was the primary basis for [Pollard's] sentence of life imprisonment. Ames claimed [Pollard] blew the cover of American intelligence sources."

According to former Justice Department attorney John Loftus, "In order to hide his own espionage for the Russians, Ames successfully pointed the finger of suspicion at Pollard for the spate of serious leaks that crippled U.S. networks inside the Soviet Union."

How does Loftus know? He cites "recent disclosures" in the "intelligence community." "Several investigations from CIA and NIS [Naval Investigative Service] have made sheepish admission that Pollard was the victim of hysterical over-reaction." The first key to this turnaround, says Loftus, is "the recent confession of CIA agent Rick Ames that he (not Pollard) was responsible for leaking top level secrets to the Kremlin." Loftus quotes Naval Intelligence sources as admitting that "90 percent of the things we accused [Pollard] of stealing, he didn't even have access to."

How reliable are these reports (and speculations)? Frankly, I don't know. We do know, however, that since the publication of Carmel's piece and Loftus's piece no one in the intelligence community has leaked any denials. In any event, I am confident it is in the power of our government to tell us more about why Jonathan Pollard is still in jail without compromising national security.