U.S. Intelligence in 1985 Wasn’t Shocked by Pollard’s Arrest — But Charges Israel Still Spying Here Stem from Angry FBI Agents

[The notion that Israel is unusually active in spying on the United States is again being discussed — because of a Newsweek item —  so we offer this excerpt from Every Spy a Prince, by Dan Raviv & Yossi Melman.  This is from the middle of Chapter 18, “Spying on Friends.”]

Pollard campaign posterWhen Jonathan Pollard was arrested in Washington DC in 1985 and his espionage activities were revealed, most American authorities were not very surprised. The CIA, for one, always assumed that Israeli spies were active in the United States. A secret study by the agency declared that after gathering intelligence on its Arab neighbors, the second and third priorities of Israeli intelligence were the “collection of information on secret U.S. policy or decisions, if any, concerning Israel,” and the “collection of scientific intelligence in the United States and other developed countries.”

Believing that there was now an opportunity to send Israeli intelligence a very stern message—that it should stop all espionage in the United States—federal prosecutors came down very hard on Pollard. The government attorneys declared: “This defendant has admitted that he sold to Israel a volume of classified documents, ten feet by six feet by six feet” if all gathered into one huge pile.

Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger wrote his own letter to Judge Aubrey Robinson: “It is difficult for me to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant.” Weinberger said privately that Pollard deserved to be hanged or shot, adding that repairing the damage he caused could cost the United States a billion dollars.

Pollard, meantime, made the mistake of boasting that he had been “quite literally, Israel’s eyes and ears over an immense geographic area stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.” His own memo to the judge also offered the opinion that the information he gave to Israel “was so unique” that the country’s political leaders must “have known about the existence of an agent working in the American intelligence establishment.”

The way the Israeli handlers had “tasked” him, Pollard wrote, indicated “a highly coordinated effort between the naval, army, and air force intelligence services.”

True as the assessment may have been, inflating the importance of his undercover work certainly did not get him a lighter sentence.
On March 4, 1987, nine months after pleading guilty in a bargain that was supposed to mean he would not have to spend the rest of his days in prison, Pollard was given a life sentence anyway. Weinberger’s letter had swayed the judge.

Pollard’s wife Anne was sentenced to five years, and she served three. The Israeli government, though caught red-handed in November 1985, evaded questions for a few days but then had no choice but to admit that Pollard’s actions were an Israeli operation. Prime Minister Shimon Peres told President Reagan by telephone that it had not been authorized and would not happen again.

[There is a lot more, including America’s use of the CIA to spy on Israel, in our book Spies Against Armageddon.]

May 11, 2014

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