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Allan C. Brownfeld
News 2015

Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. intelligence analyst who spied for Israel and was  
sentenced to life in prison, could be released as early as November when he  
becomes eligible for mandatory parole, according to the Justice Department.  
The Justice Department said that although Pollard was ordered to serve life  
in prison after being convicted of selling U.S. secrets to the Israeli  
government, the terms of his sentence require that he be released after 30  
years, a date which will arrive this fall, unless the government can prove  
that he violated rules in prison or is likely to commit additional crimes.  
Pollard is in poor health and there is a compelling case for his release on  
humanitarian grounds. But we must make clear that his long time supporters  
and advocates have been wrong in claiming that he was in any sense treated  
unfairly. Consider the long campaign on behalf of Pollard, who pled guilty  
to spying on behalf of Israel.  
The campaign for Pollard seems incomprehensible. Going back to 1989, for  
example, the Central Conference of American Rabbis called upon the entire  
Reform Jewish movement to express support for Pollard. In a resolution  
passed unanimously by the executive board of the CCAR, a worldwide  
organization of Reform rabbis, the organization proposed that major Jewish  
and Christian organizations "encourage the U.S. Government to re-evaluate  
the Pollard case..." Rabbi Mark Golub, a spokesman for the CCAR declared,  
"All the images about Pollard by the press turned out to be a terrible  
On April 25, 1989, a group of 15 rabbis and others participated in a  
Passover "freedom Seder" in front of the maximum security federal prison in  
Marion, Illinois in support of Pollard. The Seder, led by Rabbi Avi Weiss of  
the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York, began with a brief ceremony on  
the front steps of the historic Old Courthouse in St. Louis, where the  
landmark Dred Scott case was argued in 1846. Rabbi Weiss referred to Pollard  
as a "Jewish political prisoner."  
Shortly after the convictions of Pollard and his wife, a Justice for the  
Pollards Committee was organized. It portrayed Pollard as a victim of a  
vindictive and anti-Semitic Justice Department. "We have before us a new  
Dreyfus affair," said a newsletter put out by the committee. Discussing this  
outrageous analogy, Robert Friedman, writing in the Village Voice, noted  
that, "Unlike Dreyfus, who was framed by the French army, Pollard is an  
avowed spy."  
Ever since Pollard's incarceration, there has been a concerted campaign for  
his release by his American supporters and by the Israeli government. To  
understand the real issues involved in this case, it is instructive to  
review the actual evidence.  
In May 1987, Pollard, an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was found  
guilty of espionage, having sold some 360 cubic feet of classified documents  
to Israel. So damaging to U.S. security was Pollard's role as a spy that  
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger told Israeli ambassador Meir Rosenne  
that Pollard should have been executed. Joseph di Genova, the prosecutor who  
handled the Pollard case, says that the damage he did to American security  
is "beyond calculation."  
Di Genova noted that "the severity of the sentence is the best evidence of  
the gravity of the damage done to the national security by Mr. Pollard's  
operation." Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles E. Leeper declared: "The  
defendant has admitted that he sold to Israel a volume of classified  
documents 10 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet." He said that Pollard provided Israel  
with thousands of pages, including secret information on the location of  
American ships and training exercises.  
In an affidavit, Secretary Weinberger said, "It is difficult for me...to  
conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the  
defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S. and  
the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel."  
Pollard reported that one of his Israeli ""handlers" sought details of the  
National Security Agency's electronic eavesdropping in Israel as well as  
names of Israelis spying for the U.S. Pollard said that Israel's 1985 raid  
on the Tunisia headquarters of the PLO was aided by materials he passed  
The U.S. Government said that the damage resulting from Pollard's spying  
exceeded that caused by Ronald W. Pelton, a former NSA employee, who was  
convicted in 1986 of selling classified electronic surveillance secrets to  
the Soviet Union. Prosecutors said that, "Pelton compromised specific  
intelligence-gathering methods in a specific area, and damaged the U.S.  
position relative to the Soviet Union...Pollard compromised a breadth and  
volume of classified information as great as in any reported espionage case  
and adversely affected U.S. interests vis a vis numerous countries,  
including, potentially, the Soviet Union."  
They also disclosed that Pollard, who was paid more than $50,000 by the  
Israelis expected to earn "ten times that amount" for continued spying. But  
he was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, on his way to the Israeli Embassy in  
Washington, D.C. to request asylum.  
Those who argue that Pollard's sentence was excessive have not made a  
persuasive case, and their motives for suggesting that Pollard is, somehow,  
a "political prisoner," or a victim of "anti-Semitism" is unclear, since  
such charges are without any basis in fact. Ronald Pelton, for example, was  
sentenced to three life terms plus 10 years for selling secrets to the  
Soviet Union about electronic eavesdropping that he learned in 14 years as a  
NSA technician. A memorandum prepared by two U.S. Government prosecutors,  
Charles Leeper and David Geneson, said: "Pelton disclosed no classified  
documents to the Soviet Union. Rather, following his retirement he met with  
Soviet agents on approximately nine occasions over a five-year period during  
which he orally relayed classified information he could recall."  
Some U.S. intelligence analysts believe that documents stolen by Pollard  
were handed over to Moscow by Soviet moles within the Israeli intelligence  
service. Neil Livingstone of Georgetown University argued that, "There's no  
question that Mossad's penetrated. A lot of what Pollard stole wasn't  
related to Israeli security. Israel is a great trader in intelligence. To  
get an advantage someplace, they get something someone else wants and they  
create an indebtedness."  
Many in the U.S. intelligence community feel strongly that Pollard should  
not be released prematurely. In 1998, George Tenet, then director of the  
CIA, apparently suppressed a deal with Israel on Pollard by threatening to  
resign if the spy went free. In an article in the Washington Post in 1998,  
former directors of naval intelligence William Studeman, Sumner Shapiro,  
John L. Butts and Thomas Brooks argued that as Pollard's case never went  
trial, because of his plea deal, it never became public that Pollard  
"offered classified information to three other countries before working for  
the Israelis and that he offered his services to a fourth country while he  
was spying for Israel." The article also said that the "sheer volume" of  
documents passed on by Pollard was almost unrivaled.  
Israel has been campaigning for Pollard's release for many years, as have  
many of its most vocal American supporters. This campaign has not been  
simply for his release on humanitarian grounds, but persists in falsely  
charging that this admitted spy is either a "political prisoner" or the  
victim of religious prejudice, charges with no foundation whatever. While  
some Jewish organizations have embraced Pollard, for reasons they have yet  
to properly explain, most American Jews have recoiled from his actions.  
Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, in his book "Ally: My Journey Across  
the American-Israel Divide," recalls that, " 0ne senior member of the NSC  
told me over breakfast, "As an American Jew, I believe Jonathan Pollard  
should get out of prison..." He paused and said, "In a coffin."  
Pollard was disavowed by the Israelis upon his 1985 arrest, but later  
embraced and was granted citizenship in 1995 and, by 2013 had become the  
focal point of a protest movement. An online petition demanding clemency  
drew 175,000 signatures. If Pollard is released in November, it might be a  
serious mistake to permit him to go to Israel, where he seems to be  
something of a hero for spying on the U.S. It might be best to require him  
to remain in the U.S. under supervision. What legal standing does Israel's  
granting citizenship to an American it paid to spy on his own country really  
Jonathan Pollard is not a victim of political persecution or of anti-  
Semitism but of the Zionist philosophy he learned as a boy, which told him  
that Israel was his real "homeland" and that he was in "exile" in America.  
Most young Americans who hear this refrain recognize how little it has to do  
with truth or with the reality of their lives. Jonathan Pollard evidently  
believed it all and acted on it. He has paid a heavy price, but not an  
unreasonable one. He may merit release after all of this time, but it should  
be made certain that he can do us no further harm. And the motives of those  
who have so eagerly embraced him are certainly a legitimate subject for  
future examination.  
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