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Is an Israeli cover-up keeping Jonathan Pollard in prison?

The Americans are convinced Pollard – who spied on behalf of Israel in the 1980’s – didn’t act alone, and have made it clear that if Israel gives up the other name(s), he can go free.

It’s been a mystery for many years why Jonathan Pollard is still in prison, why U.S. president after president refuses to pardon him. The reason in the minds of his hardcore right-wing supporters, those who see him as a Jewish hero, is anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic feeling high up in Washington, which is too stupid and rotten a claim to bother refuting. No, it has to be an American belief that freeing Pollard could do further damage to U.S. security, because Pollard – and Israel – have clearly been taught a harsh enough lesson for the crimes he committed. It’s absolutely true what his supporters say – spies who worked for America’s enemies have gotten off far easier than he did for spying for an American ally. He’s in the 27th year of a life sentence with no pardon in sight, the White House reportedly having turned down Peres’ request this week. (Pollard was hospitalized over the weekend with “severe pain,” hence the renewed push for a pardon, which is getting a lot of publicity here.)

But now, finally, an explanation for Pollard’s exhorbitant punishment is coming to light:  The Americans have believed all along that he wasn’t the only spy working for Israel, and until Israel comes clean, he stays behind bars.

The first mention of this came on Monday in Nahum Barnea’s Yedioth Ahronoth column, where he wrote that after Pollard’s 1985 arrest, the Americans asked the Israelis: Who gave the order to spy on the United States, who else besides Pollard was spying, and who in the political leadership (led at the time by PM Peres, FM Shamir and DM Rabin) knew what was going on?

“They chose to lie,” wrote Barnea. “Thus, the heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced to this day that Pollard was merely one screw in an Israeli spying machine.”

Then today Yedioth reported Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon saying, “Former CIA Director George Tenet once admitted to me that the U.S. is convinced that Pollard had a partner. Tenet said that until they know who that partner is, Pollard will stay in prison.”  Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador in Washington in 2002-2006, added: “I explained to Tenet that it’s not correct, and that Israel is not gathering intelligence in the United States, but I understood from him and from other senior American officials that they see Pollard as a bargaining chip that can land them this partner who they believe is still active.”

Fascinating, isn’t it? The Americans have believed all along that Israel is covering up another spy or spies, and if Israel had given up the name(s), Pollard presumably would have been freed years ago. Israel’s number one journalist, Nahum Barnea, says Israeli officials lied to the Americans about the affair. And notice that while Ayalon says he told Tenet that Israel wasn’t running any spies in the United States now, he didn’t say Pollard had acted alone back then. (Not that Ayalon would necessarily know, nor that he would necessarily tell the truth if he did).

Well, there is at least one living, mentally competent Israeli who knows for sure whether Pollard acted alone or not, and who either knows or can find out whether Israel has been running any spies in America since then, and that man is President Shimon Peres. He’s going to Washington soon to receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Honor, so here’s my suggestion: He takes the most reliable lie detector test available in Washington, where he is asked three questions: Were there any other spies working for Israel with Pollard? Have there been any since his exposure? Are there any working now?

If Peres answers “no” to all three questions and is determined to be telling the truth, Pollard goes free. If Peres answers “no” and is determined to be lying, Pollard stays in prison until Peres gives up the names, after which Pollard goes free while the other spies are arrested and Israel lives with the consequences.

Barnea wrote that after Israeli officials lied to the Americans, “The price was paid by Israeli intelligence agencies, by American Jews who acted in good faith on Israel’s behalf, and by Pollard. Peres, Shamir and Rabin escaped unharmed.”

Everyone knows Israel destroyed Pollard’s life 30 years ago. The question now is whether Israel had the power to give him his life back but refused, and is refusing  even now. Peres, who asked Obama to free Pollard on “humanitarian” grounds,  knows the truth – and it will no doubt die with him.

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    1. Umm, Israel didn’t destroy Pollard’s life. Pollard did.

      Reply to Comment
    2. You write as if it were natural (as, indeed and sadly, it often seems to be) that the USA would do what GOI asks/demands even when against USA’s interests.

      But the USA has a good interest in keeping Pollard in jail forever — to dissuade other potential spies, especially spies-for-Israel. How could the USA keep Bradley Manning and let Pollard go — when Manning (allegedly) acted for justice and to no other nation’s advantage and Pollard was convicted of acting very much for Israel’s (and USSR’s) advantage.

      So now it appears that the USA might let Pollard go in return for another Israeli spy, this one still in action.

      One wonders why USA would expect Israel to let still-useful spy-2 be captured just to let useless spy-1 go free.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Israel took the most cynical advantage of his naivete, it left him behind while it protect “its own” – including Peres, Shamir and Rabin – Pollard’s motive wasn’t to harm America (tho of course he did) but to help Israel, and 26 yrs is more than enough punishment.

      Reply to Comment
    4. eBeth

      Why would anyone assume that an ex spy, in jail for almost three decades have any importance to Israel or any country?

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      There’s certainly more going on in this case than what we see on the surface. But the problem with this theory is, if it’s true, why do Israeli leaders, including Peres, continue to press the issue and bring it up again, over and over? It would only draw attention to themselves and their assumed guilt, which would piss off the Americans all over again.

      Another thing: we never see Israel making any offer of substance in exchange for Pollard. It’s always just – give him up because we want you to. Which Israel would never never do.

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    6. Larry, what naivete? The guy always wanted to be a spy and approached other intelligence services asking to be employed. They had the sense to reject him; a renegade unit of Israeli intelligence didn’t. Walk-in agents – people who turn themselves into spies of their own volition – are many things. They can be greedy, disgruntled, or in a few cases ideological. What they are not is naive.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Lauren

      Pollard is a traitor… period!!!!
      He said at the time that America should be sharing our secrets with Israel. Huh?!!!
      So, he acted against his country and blew away years of state secrets, put our agents in danger and basiclly stole trilions of dollars invested in our security. All for Israel so the USSR would send more Jews to Israel. This act of treason served to benefit a foreign country.
      Let him rot in prison.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Lauren

      On that note… you can see why Americans don’t want him released. The President has no power over this. The fact that Israel demands his release for humanitarian reasons is another slap in the face to Americans like me. How can we care about Pollard’s comfort or health when people died because of his actions?
      Also, Israel stole enriched uranium from us to start their program, continue to have spies infiltrate us and tons of other crimes they are not being confronted with.
      Thanks for taking our TAX PAYER F-35s and selling them to China so they can back engineer it.
      When Israel decides to own up for all they have done to hurt us, then the American people might be more supportive.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Lied? If the Israelis had not handed over incriminating evidence, the Americans would never had had a credible legal case in the first place. “Pollard: the spy’s story” by Bernard Henderson, his former father-in-law.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Dhalgren

      Well, we already know there were more spies involved, at least one more: Ben-ami Kadish, who reported to the same handler Pollard did. So why is Kadish allowed to live comfortably in a New Jersey retirement facility when Pollard remains in prison? A life sentence does seem overly harsh to me.
      As for the Israeli government’s complicity in this: they did fail to cooperate with the Kadish investigation. [www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-04-22-713307401_x.htm] So, I could definitely see Pollard being used as a bargaining chip to force Israel’s hand.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Danny

      Israel merely did what Israel always does in these kind of situations – it betrayed its allies in order to safeguard its own interests. Pollard was an idiot in 1985 and he’s an idiot today by still associating himself with the state of Israel. Had he expressed remorse to his country and helped them to find the second man, he would have been out after 5 or 6 years into his sentence. I have zero sympathy for him, even though I recognize that Israel acted in a despicable manner throughout this sordid case.

      Reply to Comment
    12. de1

      Out of interest, does anyone have a link to the Yedioth report with the Ayalon quote, I haven’t been able to track it down.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Didn’t Israel destroy the life of Mordechai Vanunu? Exposing crimes is a far worse crime in the mindset of powers, than committing them.
      The Pollard case, just as the Shalit case, seems to me to be a necessary asset in a propaganda war. It’s more about who’s on top than about who’s right.

      Reply to Comment
    14. ToivoS

      As an American I find zero sympathy for Pollard. The information he gave to Israel was then passed on to the Soviet Union in exchange for Russian Jews. Sources inside the CIA have estimated that dozens of their assets inside the SU were executed as a result. When Israel tried to get Clinton to free Pollard, there were agency officials who threatened to publicly reveal more about this case if Pollard were to go free.

      At that time, the second spy was mentioned in some reports. The reasons they believed there was one was because Pollard had gained access to information that required codes that he was not authorized to have. It seemed that the Israelis were supplying Pollard with this information but where they got it was never revealed.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Yossi, what I meant by naive is that Pollard was naive enough to believe that if he got into trouble, Israel would endanger its standing w/America to protect him.

      Reply to Comment
    16. aristeides

      It seems logical that Israel is pressing so hard for Pollard’s release now is that he’s threatened to reveal the names himself.

      Reply to Comment
    17. gerry

      Pollard did this to himself, dead on Yossi. Pollard wanted to play spy, you see it clearly in his history. He got his wish and is now paying the price. What is infuriating is the the mythology of Pollard as an Israeli hero created and nurtured by his wife and supporters. He’s a common thief who betrayed his country to fulfill a fantasy.

      Reply to Comment
    18. XYZ

      I find it amusing that so many Liberal-Left-Progressives, committed to universalism and anti-nationalism suddenly become so “patriotic” when Pollard’s name comes up. “Traitor”, “betrayer”, “sold his country out”, even though he was never accused of treason, just of releasing classified information. Yes, suddenly they become big patriots and nationalists, yeah.
      Let’s look at the Rosenberg case in the 1940’s-1950’s, another case where EXTRAORDINARY pushishments, no doubt “coincidentally”, were handed out to Jews. Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg were the first Americans executed for espionage in peace time in American history (yes, the US was involved in the Korean War, but the US was not at war with the Soviet Union for whom Julius Rosenberg spied).
      Rosenberg spied for the US, with the help of his brother-in-law, David Greenglass, who was working on the Manhattan Project to develop the Atom Bomb. One of the major sources of information was German physicist Klaus Fuchs who was anti-Nazi and had defected to Britian before the war and was sent by the British to work on the Manhattan Project. It is important to remember that THE USSR WAS AN ALLY OF THE US IN WORLD WAR II.
      After the war, Rosenberg and others in his spy ring were rounded up by the FBI. Fuchs was arrested in Britain. While Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg were both given the unprecendented death penalty, leaving their two sons orphans (Ethyl’s role in the whole matter was peripheral, although she, like her husband, was a dedicated Communist), Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “SPYING FOR A FRIENDLY COUNTRY”. He was released after eight years and went to live the rest of his life in East Germany.
      What the Rosenberg’s did was terrible, they deserved punishment but not the death penalty. There is no question in my mind that the fact that they were Jews played a major role in the unjust penalty they were given. Same with Pollard. He broke the law and deserved to be punished, but his penalty was far beyond what any other spy who had done comparable things or even worse got. He is being punished this way in order to stick it to Israel. Period. The Israeli Left hates him because he identifies with the political Right. Avrum Burg wrote an article opposing Pollard’s release for that reason, more or less. It’s all political. It has nothing to do with “justice”, “rooting out traitors” and all the other nonsense we see here coming from all the “progressive, anti-nationalist univesralists”. It is antisemitism pure and simple.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Ilan

      XYZ, I’m a leftist, yet I think his punishment was far too severe. By the way, Bradley Manning, like Anat Kam, should have received a medal.

      Reply to Comment
    20. XYZ

      Of course you are right, but I have seen Burg and others attack Pollard for political reasons.

      Reply to Comment
    21. aristeides

      XYZ sez – “There is no question in my mind that the fact that they were Jews played a major role in the unjust penalty they were given”

      The problem is in your mind.

      The Rosenbergs were certainly punished unjustly, but because they were communists, not Jews, and because the secrets they stole were nuclear. The parallel is with Morchechai Vanunu, except that the Rosenbergs’ secrets were of greater significance.

      Reply to Comment
    22. annie

      in 1999 seymour hersh wrote THE TRAITOR, The case against Jonathan Pollard. “During his year and a half of spying, his Israeli handlers requested specific documents, which were identified only by top-secret control numbers. After much internal assessment, the government’s intelligence experts concluded that it was “highly unlikely,” in the words of a Justice Department official, that any of the other American spies of the era would have had access to the specific control numbers. “There is only one conclusion,” the expert told me. The Israelis “got the numbers from somebody else in the U.S. government.” “

      Reply to Comment
    23. annie

      i think some people are underestimating the long term damage pollard caused to our national security. it boggles my mind how anyone would think he should be released. “signals intelligence, or SIGINT, and their world is kept in order by an in-house manual known as the RASIN an acronym for radio-signal notations. The manual, which is classified “top-secret Umbra,” fills ten volumes, is constantly updated, and lists the physical parameters of every known signal. Pollard took it all. “It’s the Bible,” one former communications-intelligence officer told me. “It tells how we collect signals anywhere in the world…..IN the mid-nineteen-eighties, the daily report from the Navy’s Sixth Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Facility (FOSIF) in Rota, Spain, was one of America’s Cold War staples. A top-secret document filed every morning at 0800 Zulu time (Greenwich Mean Time), it reported all that had gone on in the Middle East during the previous twenty-four hours, as recorded by the N.S.A.’s most sophisticated monitoring devices. The reports were renowned inside Navy commands for their sophistication and their reliability; they were based.. on data supplied both by intelligence agents throughout the Middle East and by the most advanced technical means of intercepting Soviet military communications. The Navy’s intelligence facility at Rota shared space with a huge N.S.A. intercept station, occupied by more than seven hundred linguists and cryptographers, which was responsible for monitoring and decoding military and diplomatic communications all across North Africa. Many at Rota spent hundreds of hours a month listening while locked in top-secret compartments aboard American ships, aircraft, and submarines operating in the Mediterranean…. he had provided the Israelis with more than a year’s worth of the daily FOSIF reports… “Pollard gave them every message for a whole year,” the officer told me recently, referring to the Israelis. “They could analyze it” — the intelligence — “message by message, and correlate it. They could not only piece together our sources and methods but also learn how we think, and how we approach a problem. All of a sudden, there is no mystery. These are the things we can’t change. You got this, and you got us by the balls.””

      Reply to Comment
    24. max

      Annie, I strongly doubt that you know more than I do, which isn’t much since – as the case wasn’t fully public – whatever I think I know I read or heard from people with interest.
      So as is quite often the case, I’m left with judgement that American justice isn’t the worse you can find, and my ability to compare, to benchmark.
      And this benchmarking seems to clearly indicate that Pollard’s treatment is worse than you’d expect – by far – and this very assessment is the reason for Larry’s article. However, his proposal doesn’t make the result look more humane or America look more Just.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Gerry

      you’ve got us XYZ. Good thing it’s so simple to categorize everyone as one big group. Us leftists all believe the same things in lockstep. Just don’t treat jews in the same hackney, that’s antisemitism.

      Must be nice to have a bogeyman like that to blamed all your failings on!

      Reply to Comment
    26. Nobody is asking the obvious question – where did the documents end up?
      America may be lenient with some “friendly” spying, I guess.
      However if Pollard was used to attain some key documents, that might have been requested by the Soviets, and if the Americans have reason to believe Pollard knew who these documents would be valuable for, then they may treat Pollard as a traitor.
      Regardless of their relationship with Israel.

      They might view Pollard as an internal matter.

      Reply to Comment
    27. XYZ

      Okay, I apologize. I made an overgeneralization about the Left. I have seen numerous Leftist attack Pollard, but many others say he should be released.

      Regarding these new claims that he can’t be released because there is now something else in the case such as the “other spy” ….I think this is a lot of baloney. Many high ranking Americans such as former Vice President Dan Quayle, Senator Schumer, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger and IIRC even former CIA Chief Woolsey and numerous others have called for Pollard to be released.

      Reply to Comment
    28. annie

      aaron, “Nobody is asking the obvious question – where did the documents end up?”…oh you would be very wrong there. personally, i think this is why pollard is still in jail. i would have to do some prowling around but off the top of my head i sort of recall the US government asking exactly that. and who did they ask? the israeli government. and the israeli government said…no, we won’t tell you…and given the nature of the theft, the US thought they had every right to know. so, my opinion (and only my opinion/hunch) this is a power play between the USgov and goi. goi wants to have their cake (stolen goods) and eat it 2 (release pollard). if the goi coughs up pollard could probably be freed.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Screwtape

      The day Jonathan Pollard dies in an American prison will be a great day indeed. No mercy for traitors.

      Reply to Comment
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