The True Motives Behind the Sentencing of Jonathan Pollard

An Interview with Angelo Codevilla - Special Feature

Justice4JP Release - July 17, 2000

Wesley Phelan - The Washington Weekly

(Originally published January 11, 1999.)

Few issues in recent history have caused such heightened political sensitivity as the fate of Jonathan Pollard, the former naval intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s.

The Pollard case hit the public forum again in October 1998, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Clinton to release Pollard as part of the Wye River agreement. According to New York Post correspondent Uri Dan, three days before the conclusion of the talks Clinton gave Netanyahu a commitment to do so. This reportedly angered CIA director George Tenet, who threatened to resign if Clinton carried through on the promise. In an attempt to save face the President sent letters to all senior administration officials, asking for information and advice on the matter. This, in turn, upset officials at the Justice Department, who felt they should have the lead role in a clemency review in a major espionage case.

There the matter stood, with apparent unanimity of all "informed" national security and legal experts, until January 2,1999. On that date the Washington Post published an article by four university professors arguing that the President should indeed extend clemency to Pollard. The article provoked an immediate, negative response, including a rebuttal letter to the Post from Vincent Cannistrano, former head of intelligence programs at the National Security council and a Washington Times article by Representative Porter Goss, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Among the authors of the Washington Post article was Alan Dershowitz, a predictable Clintonista, but also Angelo Codevilla, a conservative Republican. Why would a conservative Republican and noted expert on national security argue for clemency for Pollard? We called Codevilla to find out:

QUESTION: You have co-written an article with Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Lasson, entitled "Justice and Jonathan Pollard." How is it that the four of you came to write this article?

CODEVILLA: We four have very little in common: Alan Dershowitz is a secular liberal law professor at Harvard; Ken Lasson is an orthodox Jewish liberal; I don't know Colter's politics; and I am a conservative Catholic. We have in common a concern for justice. We believe, for very different reasons, that Jonathan Pollard has not gotten justice. The others believe this because of their acquaintance with the legal aspects of the case. I know that he hasn't gotten justice because of my knowledge of the intelligence and policy aspects of the case.

QUESTION: When you say he hasn't gotten justice, what do you mean?

CODEVILLA: Well, let's get one thing out of the way. Jonathan Pollard committed espionage. He violated the law and was rightly sentenced to prison. However, the average sentence meted out to someone who spies for an ally, not an enemy, and who confesses to the crime -- thereby sparing the United States the embarrassment of a trial -- is approximately seven years, with an average time served of about four years. Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison and has served now over thirteen years.

QUESTION: Is it true that Jonathan Pollard is kept in the basement of a building?

CODEVILLA: It was true. For the first 7 years of his imprisonment he was kept in solitary confinement, 3 stories below ground, in the basement of a building. That is an extraordinary punishment. Aldrich Ames was never treated that way, and John Walker was not either. Ames and Walker are the people who, without a doubt, have done the greatest possible harm to the United States. In the case of Walker, it is fair to say that if there had been a war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1970's or 1980's, the Soviet Union would have won itlargely due to the efforts of John Walker. Walker gave them the capacity to read all of our Navy generated messages, and therefore many of other messages generated by U.S. code machines.

QUESTION: What was it specifically that Ames did?

CODEVILLA: Ames was the Chief of Counter Intelligence for the Soviet-East European division of the CIA. He was the man in charge of validating all of the intelligence coming from the USSR, and the man in charge of safeguarding our own agents in the USSR. This man gave to the Soviets the identity of every last US agent working in the USSR. That allowed the Soviets to capture and/or turn those agents. That means all of the intelligence -- and I do mean all -- coming from human sources in the USSR, from about 1985 until the collapse of the USSR, was manipulated entirely by the Soviets. Anyone reading the New York Times got a much truer picture of what was happening in the USSR than did Presidents Reagan and Bush. Those men, sitting at the top of the intelligence establishment, were getting information that was handcrafted in Moscow by the KGB.

QUESTION: How did the sentences they received compare to the sentence Pollard received?

CODEVILLA: They all three received life in prison. But there is absolutely no comparison between them. Jonathan Pollard was a GS-12, intelligence analyst with no access to vital secrets.

QUESTION: What does that mean?

CODEVILLA: That's someone who is making $40,000 per year, maybe,barely in the professional ranks.

QUESTION: What exactly was it that Jonathan Pollard gave to the Israelis?

CODEVILLA: He gave them that part of the flow of U.S. intelligence which they used to receive regularly, but which the U.S cut off after 1981. As you know, the U.S. has a long-standing, mutually beneficial intelligence exchange relationship with Israel. We give Israel a lot of information. In 1981 Israel used some of that information to strike and destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor. Bobby Ray Inman, at the time Deputy Director of the CIA, was very angry, and cut off a good chunk of that information flow.

QUESTION: Because of that strike?

CODEVILLA: Yes. I was in the U.S. Intelligence Committee hearing room when Bobby Ray Inman came in and told us how outraged he was that Israel had destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor. He told us that the US was engaged in a "sophisticated and very successful effort" to turn Saddam Hussein into a pillar of American foreign policy in the Middle East. The Israelis, in theirblundering ways, as he put it, had misunderstood Saddam Hussein. They had figured this nuclear reactor posed a danger of Saddam building nuclear weapons. Our CIA knew better than that, and was outraged that the Israelis had done this. As a result, Inman was unilaterally cutting off the flow of US intelligence to the Israelis.

Now, Jonathan Pollard was a young, Jewish intelligence analyst in the Office of Naval Intelligence, who wrongly took it upon himself to provide to Israel that which had been cut off. This consisted of intelligence 'products.' I emphasize the word 'products.' It was satellite pictures, reports of all kinds, electronic directories, so on and so forth. Jonathan Pollard could not haveprovided codes, because he did not have any access to codes. GS-12 analysts don't.

QUESTION: But he did have access to satellite photographs of US nuclear installations and Soviet nuclear installations?

CODEVILLA: No, not U.S. installations. He had access to all kinds of satellite photographs of interest to the Israelis.

QUESTION: Did he give them photographs of Soviet installations?

CODEVILLA: He gave them primarily Middle Eastern information. You must understand that from an intelligence point of view, the subject of a report, coming from any given source, is not nearly as important as the source. What intelligence people rightly worry about are what they call 'sources and methods.' This is what Pollard did not have access to. Compare what Pollard did -- giving away satellite photographs -- with what William Kampelis did in 1978. He sold the operating manual for the KH-11, which is our only picture-taking satellite. This was a big book which told you how the satellite worked, how it was operated, what its schedule was, etc. Kampelis was sentenced to 40 years, but he was let out about five years ago, after serving about 14 years.

Pollard, who never gave out any operating manual to any intelligence system, is in jail for life. What he gave out was satellite pictures. These pictures were no different in terms of sources from what the U.S. was still giving to Israel. The U.S. was still giving Israel pictures of southern and western Syria. Pollard was giving them pictures of eastern Syria and Iraq. So in terms of satellite intelligence SOURCES his impact was nonexistent.

QUESTION: Well, the news reports say that he gave a whole room full of documents to the Israelis.

CODEVILLA: That's a lie.

QUESTION: They say many cubic feet of documents.

CODEVILLA: A lie is an untruth that is known to be an untruth. The intelligence people who say those things include all of the documents in the bibliographies and tables of contents of the documents Pollard turned over. In other words, if Pollard turned over a book with a bibliography containing 50 books, he was accused -- unofficially, mind you, because a distinction must be made between what he has been unofficially accused and actually punished for and what he was officially indicted for. If you add up all the books in all the bibliographies in all the documents he turned over, you might say that they would fill a small room. But what he actually gave away was seven briefcases full, neither more nor less. Seven briefcases do not a room fill, except in the imaginations of insincere people.

QUESTION: Some people say he compromised an American operation to wiretap Soviet undersea cables. Is there any truth to this?

CODEVILLA: Those people have no idea what they are talking about. The undersea cable was compromised by a man named Ronald Pelton.

QUESTION: In what manner was he responsible for its being compromised?

CODEVILLA: Ronald Pelton was an analyst at NSA who was working on a project translating and processing the takes from the undersea cables. We had two such taps and were working on a third. These were without exception the highest quality sources that the US possessed. Pelton quite simply sold that information to the USSR directly. Pelton got 40 years. Pollard gave away no sources and methods whatever. He got life.

But back to the issue of what Pollard is being punished for. The indictment that he agreed to plead guilty to did not charge him with any breach of sources or methods. It did not charge him with giving away a room full of anything. After the plea bargain had been consummated and before sentencing, there was an ex parte submission to the Judge by Caspar Weinberger. This memorandum was entirely outside the indictment. Its contents have never been made public. Nor have they been shared with the Senate Intelligence Committee or the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board or the Intelligence Oversight Board. But this memo contained the lie that Pollard caused the deaths of countless U.S. agents. It also reportedly said the Israelis sold part of the information to the Soviet Union. All of these things are not only untrue, they were known by Weinberger not to be true.

The issue that our article in the Washington Post addressed was that no American citizen ought to be punished on the basis of information not shared with an impartial body and not subject to refutation. You ask what a conservative has to do with Alan Dershowitz on this kind of matter. This is not about Alan Dershowitz and Angelo Codevilla, this is about George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and Abe Lincoln.

QUESTION: The rejoinder to you by those who have read the article would be that many people make plea bargains, but plea bargains are not binding on a judge. The duty of a judge is to make the best decision he could make based on intelligence and the needs of American security.

CODEVILLA: Judges in the Anglo-Saxon tradition are supposed to write opinions explaining their judgments. Judges are supposed to evaluate the evidence and contrasting arguments provided to them at trials. Judges are not supposed simply to listen to some powerful person whispering in their ear. In the case of this judge, he allowed himself to be used by Weinberger, who lied to him and supplied a false memorandum. I find this behavior by Weinberger to be contemptible, and the judge's behavior to be beneath American standards.

QUESTION: That leads to the next question, what was Caspar Weinberger's motive in presenting to the judge a false memorandum?

CODEVILLA: This is the most interesting of questions, and it comes down to this: embarrassment over a dumb, failed policy, and moreover a policy in which he had a personal interest. The policy was building up Iraq, a policy to which Weinberger and much of the rest of the U.S. government sacrificed true American interests during the 1980s. Up until the very eve of the Gulf War the U.S. Government was still incredulous that Saddam Hussein would play anything other than the role which the best and the brightest of the Reagan and Bush administrations had assigned him.

QUESTION: I remember that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, had a meeting with Saddam Hussein a few days before American troops were deployed to the area. In the Iraqi transcript of the meeting she reportedly told Hussein the border dispute with Kuwait was an "Arab problem" that the U.S. was not much interested in.

CODEVILLA: Oh yes. The Bush Administration hung Ambassador Glaspie out to dry on that one. In fact, she was doing nothing other than following the official line of the U.S. Government. She herself was not naive about Saddam. She was faithfully carrying out a naive U.S. policy. But that is the least of it. The U.S. did a lot more than express views. We supplied Saddam Hussein with not only arms, but with intelligence and forbearance. I remember Bobby Ray Inman coming to the Senate Intelligence Committee and telling us that we had taken Iraq off the countries sponsoring terrorism. The Senatorsguffawed at that one.

QUESTION: When was that?

CODEVILLA: That was in 1982.

QUESTION: What was your position at that time?

CODEVILLA: I was a senior staff member on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

QUESTION: Whom did you work for specifically?

CODEVILLA: Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming. The main thing is we permitted, licensed and financed large American corporations to build plants there, and we encouraged large European countries to build plants there. The infrastructure that is being bombed right now in Iraq and which was bombed during the Gulf War, is mostly American-built, financed, or licensed. Now we get to the deeply and personally embarrassing part. One of the companies involved was Bechtel, with whom Caspar Weinberger and George Schultz, Secretaries of Defense and State, had close personal relations.

QUESTION: How was this company involved?

CODEVILLA: They built one of the factories that later on made chemical weapons. Now, what is Jonathan Pollard's role in all of this? He gave to Israel U.S. satellite pictures of these factories, together with U.S. intelligence assessments of what these factories were doing. These pictures and intelligence assessments contradicted what the U.S. government was officially telling Israel. So the Israelis were coming to America, and in official meetings were calling people like Weinberger liars, which of course these officials did not appreciate.

QUESTION: The truth was hard to bear?

CODEVILLA: The truth is always hard. The only truly punishable offense in Washington is to tell the truth. You will get along in Washington better by lying one way or the other. If you tell the truth you are unlikely to be forgiven.

QUESTION: Some of the rumors going around say Pollard could not have carried on this espionage by himself, that he was too low level a person. What do you think about that?

CODEVILLA: The kernel of truth in that allegation is that the things he is unofficially accused of he most certainly could not have done.


CODEVILLA: He certainly could not have done everything he is accused of because he was too low level. The key document in the Pollard case is the indictment. If you compare the indictment with the fabulous charges that are leveled against him, you will find that they are not comparable to one another. You'll say, "We are talking about two different people." There was a person who was indicted for certain things, then there is the person who is spoken of as the greatest spy of the age.

QUESTION: So he was sentenced not on the basis of the indictment, but on the basis of Weinberger's false information?

CODEVILLA: That's what I've been trying to tell you.

QUESTION: Well, it's hard to get through all the layers of press indoctrination on this matter.

CODEVILLA: He was sentenced on the basis of things whispered in the ear of a compliant judge.

QUESTION: By a person who was personally interested in the outcome?

CODEVILLA: That's right. It is called C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N. It is abuse of power. If you want to know why Angelo Codevilla is involved in this case, it is because I consider abuse of power un-American.

QUESTION: As someone who has been involved in Republican politics at the national level, what impact will the article in the Washington Post and this interview have on your career?

CODEVILLA: That is irrelevant. The Republican Party had better start caring about telling the truth. For some years now it has been trying to make its way on the basis of cleverish behavior. It has flopped, and has deserved to flop. At any rate the Pollard case is just another test of whether we Americans, Republicans and Democrats, care more about the truth or more about protecting the prerogatives of powerful people. Those of us who wrote the article share the view that no American should be sentenced on the basis of words whispered in a judge's ear. And if those words are whispered by someone in a high position, so much the worse.


Angelo Codevilla has had a very distinguished career, serving as a U.S. Naval Officer from 1969-1971 and a Foreign Service Officer from 1976-1978. Hewas a Senior Staff Member for the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1978-1985, and served on the Reagan Administration State Department and Intelligence Transition Teams in 1980. Since 1995 Codevilla has been a Professor of International Relations at Boston University.
See Also: