Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

Pollard Did Not Spy Against The US

As of the writing of this article, Jonathan Pollard has spent 9,888 days in prison. He and thousands of supporters have long argued that it was unjust to for him to receive a life sentence when his espionage was meant for Israel's benefit and never intended to be injurious to USA interests. Last Friday, a newly declassified CIA document damage assessment report strengthened their position. The assessment says repeatedly that Pollard's stated interest was to help Israel and admits that “most of the documents [he gave Israel] address -- at least tangentially -- issues of major concern to Israeli security.” Pollard's wife and supporters insist that this revelation is sufficient reason to demand his immediate release.



The new document was unveiled by the National Securities Archive of George Washington University, an organization dedicated among other things to “defending and expanding public access to government information.” It is a newly declassified 166 page CIA damage assessment relating to Pollard who has been imprisoned for the 27 years after spying for Israel during 1984 and 1985. The CIA was reluctant to release the document.


“The CIA denied release of most of the Pollard damage assessment in 2006, claiming for example that pages 18 through 165 were classified in their entirety and not a line of those pages could be released,” the archive reports. “The archive appealed the CIA’s decision to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel, established by President Clinton in 1995 and continued by Presidents Bush and Obama. The ISCAP showed its value yet again as a check on systemic over classification by ordering release of scores of pages from the Pollard damage assessment that were previously withheld by CIA, and published today for the first time.”


Over and over again, the newly released CIA assessment repeats Pollard’s claim under polygraph surveillance that he was spying solely for the benefit of Israel and not to injure the USA. Under the heading, “What the Israelis Did Not Ask For According to Pollard,” the assessment also admits that Israel was not interested in information relating to the USA.


“The Israelis did not request or receive from Pollard intelligence concerning some of the most sensitive US national-security resources,” it says. “The Israelis never expressed interest in US military activities, plans, capabilities, or equipment. Likewise, they did not ask for intelligence on US communications per se… communications-security deficiencies, or cryptologic systems or keying material.”


From the outset, the assessment states, “Pollard concentrated on providing Israel with US intelligence on the military forces and equipment of Arab and Islamic states and on Soviet military forces, equipment, and technology.”


It mentions that Pollard’s handlers were even adverse to him providing “CIA psychological studies or other intelligence containing ‘dirt’ on senior Israeli officials,” or information identifying Israelis providing information to the United States.


The CIA assessment provides many specific details of exactly what the Israelis asked Pollard to provide.


“We believe most of the tasking levied on Pollard by his handlers was intended to advance Israel’s objectives,” it says. “(-) Pollard’s handlers, Col. Aviem Sella and Joseph Yaqur, emphasized that Pollard should obtain military and technical intelligence on the Soviet Union, Arab states, and Pakistan. The Israelis wanted to be informed of technological advances in Arab military inventories; for example, they wanted Pollard to provide them with information on Soviet reactive-armor technology and on advanced Soviet SAM systems so they could prepare for their appearance in Arab inventories.”


Pollard was instructed to look out for intelligence about Arab (and Pakistani) nuclear intelligence, Arab exotic weaponry including chemical and biological weapons, Soviet air defenses, Soviet aircraft, air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface missiles, and Arab order-of-battle, deployments and readiness.


In addition, an Israeli agent told Pollard that he wanted intelligence “regarding all Middle Eastern countries, which he defined as ranging from Morocco to Pakistan and from Lebanon to the Yemens, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, and Pakistan. Pollard also was to provide indications-and-warning support for the Israelis by contacting them via an emergency telephone number and using a code word, later designated as ‘20 percent,’ if he learned that war in the Middle East was imminent.”


Another section of the assessment includes a section titled “What the Israelis Did Not Ask For According to Pollard.”


“The Israelis did not request or receive from Pollard intelligence concerning some of the most sensitive US national-security resources,” it says. “The Israelis never expressed interest in US military activities, plans, capabilities, or equipment. Likewise, they did not ask for intelligence on US communications per se… communications-security deficiencies, or cryptologic systems or keying material.”


A later section titled, “Overview of Compromised Material,” begins with much the same idea:


“Most of the documents address — at least tangentially — issues of major concern to Israeli security. (-) Many of the documents focus on Iran, Iraq, and the Iran-Iraq War, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and on military developments in Israel itself.”


The most important section of the assessment titled, “Losses and Vulnerabilities: damage to US National Security,” is unfortunately almost completely censored. Almost the only paragraph left untouched is similar, but far milder, than the allegations of then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger mentioned later in this article. Titled, “US Relations with Pro-Western Arab States,” the paragraph states, “Apart from supporting Israeli actions or positions that could harm US relations with friendly Arab states, Pollard’s activities have caused some Arab countries to raise unwelcome questions or make critical observations about US evenhandedness in its Mideast policies.”




The official Pollard website has long insisted that never acted against the United States. It even claims that “Israel was legally entitled to this vital security information according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.”


“The information being withheld from Israel included Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities – being developed for use against Israel,” the site says. “It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets… When Pollard discovered this suppression of information and asked his superiors about it, he was told to ‘mind his own business,’ and that ‘Jews get nervous talking about poison gas; they don’t need to know.’”


“Jonathan Pollard was indicted on only one charge: one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States,” the site reminds us.


Prior to sentencing, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger delivered a 46-page classified memorandum to the sentencing judge. Weinberger declared that “unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping… Such disclosures will tend to expose a larger picture of US capabilities and knowledge, or lack thereof, than would be in the US interest to reveal to another power, even to a friendly one.”


Weinberger even hinted that Pollard’s activities caused potential danger to American lives, stating that by giving the Israelis “sources and methods of information acquisition,” Pollard “jeopardized … the sources of that information, by placing it outside of a U.S. controlled security environment.” Furthermore, “U.S. combat forces, wherever they are deployed in this world, could be unacceptably endangered through successful exploitation of this data.”


Pollard’s lawyers countered that Weinberger was only speaking of possibilities. Nothing of what he was concerned had occurred since Pollard’s arrest and his allegations were “unproven speculation.” The lawyers disputed whether all the information he provided was even outside the American law and pointed out that Pollard’s intent had to be taken into consideration.


Contrary to Weinberger’s stance, the newly unveiled CIA assessment report lays great emphasis on Pollard’s intent to help Israel and not to injure the United States.




Besides exploring Pollard’s motives, the CIA assessment discusses what first motivated Pollard to begin spying for Israel.


“Judging from Pollard’s post-arrest statements and writings,” the assessment says, “he has tried to justify or rationalize his espionage as an effort to help a beleaguered Israel so that it would “win the next war” against the Arabs. The Intelligence Community believes the Israelis readily would accomplish that objective without Pollard’s stolen intelligence.”


The assessment describes how he led an attempt to help out during the Yom Kippur War. At the time, “his volunteer group spent five frustrating days waiting for an El Al flight in Los Angeles before being told the need for them had passed with Sharon’s crossing of the Suez Canal.”


Pollard told his interrogators that another key contributing factor for helping Israel was his concern and frustration over the inadequate US reaction following the bombing of the US Marine headquarters in Beirut in October 1983.


“Pollard rationalized that if the US Government were unwilling to take effective countermeasures to protect its own interests in Lebanon, then it might be unwilling or unable to provide Israel with adequate assistance in the event of critical need,” the assessment says. “Pollard stated he ‘walked out of the memorial service [for the marines] committed to doing something that would guarantee Israel’s security even though it might involve a degree of potential risk and personal sacrifice.’”


The assessment also discusses Pollard’s recruiting process. His first recruiting officer Col. Aviem Sella “emphasized that Israel would not request information on US military capabilities.” He also emphasized that “Israel faced a ‘technological Pearl Harbor’ and badly needed access to the material Pollard could provide.” In addition, “Pollard was assured that US authorities would be unlikely to take any action against him if he were detected, and any action that was initiated could be contained by Israel.”


The assessment mentions Pollard’s claims that he helped Israel execute successful countermeasures against Arabs with his information.


“[The handler] Yaqur asked Pollard for all available information on PLO headquarters outside Tunis and on Libyan and Tunisian air defenses,” it says. “Following the Israeli air attack on the headquarters on 1 October 1985–according to Pollard–Yaqur said a contingency plan had been developed and executed based upon Pollard’s information. Pollard claimed that Yaqur passed thanks from ‘the highest levels of the Israeli Government’ for his intelligence support for the raid.”


“According to Pollard,” the assessment continues, “the CIA had warned Israel of an impending terrorist attack that would occur during the coming week, but had offered no supporting details. Pollard said he found information explaining that the terrorists planned to use a truck with stolen French diplomatic plates. As a result of his information, Pollard said, the Israelis were able to foil the attack.”


In addition to what Israel asked for, Pollard also supplied information to his handlers on his own initiative.


“In the absence of an Israeli request,” the assessment says, “Pollard initiated the delivery of three daily intelligence summaries, prepared by the National Security Agency and by Naval Intelligence and issued by the originators in message format, which the Israelis found useful and asked to receive routinely.”


Ultimately, he handed over roughly 1,500 such messages.




The Jerusalem Post reported that Pollard’s wife claimed that the new information proves that her husband should leave prison immediately.


“After the release of this secret document, which confirms the truth about Jonathan’s actions and dispels endless lies and canards, there is no excuse for President Shimon Peres to allow Jonathan to continue to rot in prison,” she said. “Mr. Peres is directly responsible for Jonathan’s plight and he can bring the ordeal to an immediate end by acting now. He knows what he has to do. Let him get on with it.”


“There are no more excuses on the part of Jewish leaders for silence or indifference,” she added. “This latest revelation should cause an outcry that screams to the Heavens to save Jonathan’s life now! Jonathan Pollard needs to be released now!”


Lawrence Korb former US assistant secretary of defense at the time of Pollard’s arrest agreed that the release of the document is “fortuitous development” that “underscores the case for Pollard’s immediate release,” and urged Israel to urge his release without delay.


“We knew all along that the information that Pollard passed concerned Arab countries, and not the US, but the release of this official document confirming the facts makes it much easier to bring a speedy end to this tragedy,” he said. “After 28 years it is time for Pollard to be released and to go home now.”




Another important section in the CIA assessment is the discussion of a factor that may have contributed to his life sentence — an interview he gave to the Jerusalem Post.


“Accompanying the guilty pleas was a plea bargain which stipulated, in effect, that inreturn for the Pollards’ full cooperation with government authorities, the prosecution would not request the maximum sentences of life imprisonment for Jonathan Pollard or 10years for Anne Henderson-Pollard,” the report says. “While his cooperation in debriefings was most helpful to government investigators, Pollard’s willingness to grant an interview to journalist Wolf Blitzer for The Jerusalem Post without obtaining advance approval of the resulting text from the Justice Department violated the terms of his plea bargain. In the Blitzer interview, which was held on 20 November 1986 at Petersburg Federal Penitentiary, Pollard provided extensive information on his motives and objectives in conducting espionage for Israel.


“He also provided Blitzer a general account; with some important examples of intelligence he passed to the Israelis and emphasized that the Israeli Government must have been aware of and have approved of his activities. The interview, first published in excerpted segments in The Jerusalem Post over several months, was replayed in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Anne Henderson-Pollard followed up with her own commentary on the case in an unauthorized interview on ‘60 Minutes’ on 1 March 1987, just three days before the Pollards were sentenced.”


The report goes on to say that Pollard’s interview backfired on him.


“This publicity, which the Pollards apparently hoped would mobilize sympathy and support from the Israeli Government as well as from within the American Jewish community, backfired on both them and on the Israelis,” it says. “Following a series of delays in sentencing from 10 September 1986 until 4 March 1987, Judge Aubrey Robinson pronounced sentences of life imprisonment for Jonathan Pollard and two concurrent five-year terms for Anne Henderson-Pollard. Although his perception of the severity of the espionage offense probably was the chief factor in Judge Robinson’s sentencing decision, he likely also took into account the Pollards’ plea-bargain violations.”


Esther Pollard insists that this is all false and shows that Pollard was sentenced unjustly. She says that Pollard was authorized to give interviews so long as he had permission from the Bureau of Prisons and kept within established guidelines.


“The government did something highly suspicious by forgetting to send anyone to monitor these interviews,” she said. “Later, at sentencing, the prosecutor successfully inflamed the judge against Jonathan by falsely claiming that not only had the interviews been secretly arranged behind their backs, but that Jonathan had also disclosed highly classified material to Blitzer that compromised the intelligence community’s sources and methods.”


Pollard’s attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said that the government’s claim that Pollard gave an unauthorized interview is baseless.


“The government approved Mr. Pollard’s application, and two interviews took place inside the prison with government approval,” they said. “Under the plea agreement, any interviews had to be approved by the Director of Naval Intelligence. Mr. Pollard had been led to believe that his written requests for authorization had received all necessary approvals within the government. Indeed, it would not have been possible for Mr. Blitzer to enter the prison at all, much less equipped with tape recorder and camera, without government approval.”


Reaction to the publication of the CIA damage assessment is only the latest development in pressure to release Pollard, which has increased in the past year along with a worsening in his health. Last Wednesday, US congressmen circulated a letter calling on their peers to urge President Barack Obama to commute Pollard’s life sentence.


“Mr. Pollard has now served 25 years in prison, many of which in solitary confinement, for his actions,” the letter states. “There is no doubt that he paid a heavy price and, from the standpoint of either punishment or deterrence, we believe he has been imprisoned long enough.”


So far, 40 congressmen have signed the letter. In addition, Pollard’s wife Esther recently asked Obama to grant clemency for her husband, hoping that her husband will be included in the many granted clemency at this time of year. And why not. The maximum sentence today for such an offense is 10 years, and the median sentence for this offense is only 2 to 4 years.




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