Pollard the Spy — Freed Now, but an Escape Plan Ignored? And Who’s Escaping Responsibility?

[Yossi Melman — co-author of the best seller Every Spy a Prince and the current Spies Against Armageddon — continues his analysis of Jonathan Pollard, the American who spied for Israel and is now being released from a U.S. prison after 30 years.]

The Escape Plan

For years, veteran spymaster Rafi Eitan was accused of not preparing a genuine rescue plan for his valuable agent in the United States. But now Eitan reveals that such a plan was actually prepared. It included code words and phone numbers to be used in case of emergency.

According to the plan, Jonathan Pollard was instructed to take a bus to Canada.

Longtime Israeli spy Rafi Eitan, on RT recently

Longtime Israeli spy Rafi Eitan, on RT recently

But he never followed the instructions. In November 1985, when U.S. Navy counterintelligence and the FBI suspected him, Pollard was questioned. After the first session, he was allowed to go home.

Instead of rushing to the Greyhound bus station, he hesitated. He didn’t know how to get rid of a suitcase that was filled with documents. Precious time was lost. When he made up his mind, it was too late to execute the plan.

His ex-wife Anne Pollard (who served three years in prison) refutes Eitan’s claim, however, and says they did not have any rescue plan. She told me that the only escape instructions given to them were to go to the Israeli Embassy, which they did.

They panicked and decided to take their dog in their car and drive to the Israeli Embassy compound in Washington’s Van Ness neighborhood to seek asylum.  FBI agents were following, in their own cars.

“Right up until today,” says Eitan — who this month celebrates his 89th birthday, “I don’t understand what were his reasons for not immediately, when he felt at risk, executing the rescue plan.”

The Pollards managed to sneak in to the embassy’s forecourt when a security gate was opened for another vehicle. But by order of Eitan, who instructed the security officer at the embassy, they were asked to leave.

“I gave the order,” Eitan admits. “There was no other choice. Had Israel kept them hiding in the embassy, the situation would have only worsened.”

After the news broke out, Israel declared it was a rogue operation. But that was a lie. Israel had spied against the US and on US soil since its independence in 1948 and even before then.

The only unique element of the Pollard case is that he was a U.S. intelligence employee with access to a wide array of classified information.

Lakam also operated another spy in the US – Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, an Israeli whose company illegally purchased and smuggled components for Israel’s nuclear program.

Still, according to Eitan, Pollard — who is now 61 years old — could have been punished with a lighter sentence.

“He could have served no more than 10 years.” Eitan claims that an understanding between the US and Israeli governments was reached for a lighter sentence. But Israeli officials and Pollard, with their behavior, blew it.

Pollard’s interviews with Wolf Blitzer and with CBS’s Mike Wallace angered U.S. authorities — as the captured spy did not seem at all sorry for what he had done.

The Americans were also annoyed by the actions of the head of Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic security agency), Avraham Shalom, who was assigned together with lawyer Ram Caspi to negotiate with US officials the return of the documents Pollard had stolen. Shalom promised full cooperation and transparency but lied and was caught red-handed with his lies.

There were two other reasons for the heavy sentence of life imprisonment. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger wrote a letter to the presiding judge in the case, describing Pollard as one of the most damaging spies ever operated in America. In addition, the Israeli public campaign to release Pollard, accompanied by the visits of members of Knesset and cabinet ministers, contributed to the U.S. decision to retreat from behind-the-scenes understandings.

I asked Eitan if he has any regrets or remorse about the affair. “Of course” was his answer. “I am sorry for what happened to Pollard.”

But he rushes to clarify that he acted only after informing his superiors and that he was authorized to carry out the operation. If this is true, it means that running a spy in the heart of the U.S. intelligence community was approved by prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres and two defense ministers – Moshe Arens and Yitzhak Rabin.

Arens, still a very active commentator at age 89, completely denies that he had any knowledge about the operation.

Rabin was assassinated in 1995, and Shamir died a few years ago.

Peres, who was privy in the 1950’s to the decision to create Lakam. keeps insisting that running Pollard was a “rogue”operation.”

It is irrefutable, however, that the products of Pollard’s operations benefited the entire Israeli intelligence community: the Mossad, Military Intelligence and Shin Bet.

All these years later, it can be said with certainty that since 1985 all Israeli espionage operations on American soil have ceased. The political and social damage — including severely uncomfortable situations for the Jews of the United States — would be far too great to justify the risk.

November 19, 2015

Jonathan Pollard’s Release by the U.S. — Pain and Controversies of Spy Mission Revived

[This post is based on Yossi Melman‘s article in The Jerusalem Post on the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American arrested in Washington in 1985 — caught spying for Israel.  Pollard, as we have written in Every Spy a Prince and our current book, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, was sentenced to life in prison — but the Obama Administration has decided to let him go, after years of requests by Israel’s somewhat apologetic government.]

On Friday (November 20) the American who notoriously spied for Israel in Washington — Jonathan Pollard — is being released from a federal penitentiary in Butner, North Carolina.

The White House has never said this is President Barack Obama doing Israel a favor.  His release is explained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a mandatory parole.  As a spokesperson wrote to JTA this past July:

“Under the laws in place at that time (and which are currently applicable to Pollard), a person with a life sentence is presumptively eligible for mandatory parole after 30 years unless the Parole Commission ‘determines that he has seriously or frequently violated institution rules or that there is a reasonable probability that he will commit any Federal, State, or local crime.’ Pollard is eligible for mandatory parole in November 2015.”

Jonathan Jay Pollard, circa 1984

Jonathan Jay Pollard, circa 1984

However, Pollard will not enjoy full freedom. His liberty is restricted.  It is understood that he agrees not to talk publicly about his espionage activities or about his work as a US Navy intelligence analyst before he was arrested. He is also barred from leaving the U.S. for a period of five years.

So his dream of moving to Israel — “making aliyah” — will have to wait.

(Some pro-Pollard campaigners said they were hopeful of a quick deal in which Pollard will give up his U.S. citizenship, and he would be permitted to make aliyah immediately.)

As of now, there is no guarantee that after five years he will be allowed to leave the United States. That depends on his behavior.

This is the reason his lawyers asked him not to repeat past mistakes by making public declarations. They clearly want him to lower his profile.

It seems that this time Pollard understands the rules of the new game and obeys them. Via the Public Committee for Releasing Pollard, which has campaigned for his release, he has asked to be allowed to remain invisible — living, it is understood, in New York with his second wife, Esther — so that he can rehabilitate his life.

It is regrettable that the policy of keeping a low profile and anonymity did not guide Pollard, the Public Committee, and Israeli politicians who visited him in his jail cell — loudly demanding that he be released, and some implicitly celebrating his actions as heroic — from the outset.

Had that policy been followed, Pollard’s situation would probably have been better. The Israeli right-wingers who embraced Pollard did him great harm.

Poster by campaigners for Pollard's freedom

Poster by campaigners for Pollard’s freedom

This is also the opinion of Rafi Eitan — the legendary Israeli spy (and later politician) who was the head of the disbanded Science Liaison Bureau (an intelligence-gathering unit generally known by its Hebrew acronym, Lakam), which recruited Pollard in 1984 and ran him for a year and a half until he was exposed and arrested.

“The visits, the public campaign and the Israeli behavior in general only caused him great damage,” Eitan told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the expected release of Pollard.

Still the question of who gave the order to run Pollard has remained a mystery. Lakam was founded in 1957 as a secret unit in the Defense Ministry to physically defend the construction of the nuclear reactor in Dimona and to guard the nuclear secrets. It later became the acquisition and procurement arm for clandestine purchases of materials such as uranium and equipment for the reactor and the entire Israeli nuclear program.

Eventually, Lakam was expanded and became Israel’s scientific, technological espionage agency. Its attachés under diplomatic cover and its emissaries around the world collected and stole data, technology, know-how and materials for Israel’s military-defense industrial complex.

Eitan, whose escapades included the kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, was appointed in 1981 by then-defense minister Ariel Sharon to be the head of Lakam — replacing its tight-lipped founder, the wily Binyamin Blumberg (Vered).

It should be borne in mind that this was not truly Israeli intelligence recruiting Pollard. The American Jew, born in 1954, volunteered to be recruited. He was a “walk-in.”

Since his childhood days, Pollard was fascinated by spy stories. When at age 16, in 1970, he studied at a summer camp at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, he asked around how best he could volunteer to be a secret agent for Israel.

At his high school in Indiana and at the universities he attended, Pollard boasted that he was “a colonel in the Israel army.”  On other occasions he astonished his colleagues when he said he was “cultivated” by the Mossad to be a spy in the U.S. government.

Pollard tried to join the CIA but was rejected — apparently based on the Agency’s personality tests. Unfortunately for the U.S., the CIA likely did not share this information with other securityagencies. Hence, Pollard found a job at a counter-terrorism center in Maryland run by U.S. Navy intelligence.

One evening in early 1984, while attending a party in New York City, he met Steven Stern, a Jewish-American businessman, and confided in him about his readiness to help his beloved State of Israel.

A few weeks later Stern introduced Pollard to Col. Aviem Sella, an Israel Air Force pilot who three years earlier participated in the attack that destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Sella was on a year’s sabbatical to study for a master’s degree at Columbia University and was considered a brilliant officer who had the qualities that could qualify him to be the future commander of the air force.

It was customary, in that era, for Israeli military personnel and civilian scientists on study leaves to be in contact with Lakam representatives.

Sella reported to his Lakam contact and air force superiors about Pollard — and the Americans’ intriguing readiness to supply Israel with information. Rafi Eitan requested that Sella maintain contact with Pollard for the time being, until a case officer could be assigned.

Because of his involvement, Sella’s career was ruined when Pollard was arrested in November 1985. The U.S. put pressure on Israel to cancel Sella’s promotion to brigadier-general, and the veteran pilot was forced to retire from the military.

Federal prosecutors also demanded to question Sella. Israel refused, and since then Sella has been blacklisted by the U.S. He fears that if he travels there, he may be arrested and indicted.

Eitan approved the operation to run Pollard, who was invited to Paris to meet with Eitan, Sella and his future handler, Yossi Yagur, the Lakam attaché at the Israeli Consulate-General in New York.

Pollard traveled to Paris with his fiancée (and future first wife) Anne Henderson. Pollard did not ask for money, but Eitan insisted and massaged his ego with an annual salary offer of $20,000 over a 10-year period. Eitan also showed Pollard an Israeli passport under the name of Danny Cohen that would be given to him upon the completion of his mission.

Sella encouraged Pollard to buy Henderson a diamond ring at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.  That served not only as the engagement ring for his future bride. It also represented the “engagement” between Pollard and Israel.

Pollard felt that he was in heaven. His dream had come true. For Israeli intelligence, Pollard was a “gold mine” because of his unrestricted access to the databases of most of the agencies of the US intelligence community.

Pollard did not ask for financial reward, but Eitan insisted on paying him.  Pollard provided Israel with hundreds of thousands of precious documents about Arab armies, the PLO, the chemical and biological programs of Libya, Iraq and Syria, and Pakistan’s nuclear program. Pollard also handed over photos taken by US spy satellites, three years before Israel put its first satellite in orbit.

Pollard’s Motives

Pollard had volunteered to work for Israel for at least three reasons. First, because of the thrill and excitement he got from undercover work, as he was infected by what might be called “spy disease.” The second, very major, reason was his love for Israel — and he may well have denied in his own mind that he was betraying and harming his own country America.

Third, Jonathan and Anne were greedy and wanted extra cash to support a high-spending lifestyle which (according to prosecutors) included illegal drugs.

Their greed eventually led to their downfall. According to U.S. intelligence claims which were not proven, the Pollards realized that it was easy to steal documents so they decided to collect documents that were unrelated to the Israeli espionage operations. The accusation is that the Pollards planned to sell secrets to other countries, such as Australia, South Africa, and Taiwan.

November 19, 2015

White House: When Pollard is Freed, It Won’t be Obama Freeing Him

An interesting update, on this Saturday when President Barack Obama is visiting his father’s homeland, Kenya…

His close aides told CBS News that if Jonathan Pollard — the spy for Israel who was sentenced to life in prison — is released this year, it won’t be because the President is freeing him.

It Wouldn't be Obama Doing it

It Wouldn’t be Obama Doing it

They say the ordinary parole process will proceed, and in November of this year — 30 years after Pollard’s arrest — he will be eligible for parole.  (His lawyers will doubtless plead for his release, in part based on his poor health.)

The White House aides say there is no connection at all with the Iran nuclear deal — and no attempt to sway Israeli opinion by releasing the American who spied for Israel.

They do confirm that the Pollard issue has been an irritant, for years, between Israel and the U.S.  (This information was reported by CBS News Chief White House Correspondent, Major Garrett.)

July 25, 2015

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

History of Israeli Espionage and Security — From Perspective of America’s Jewish Community

DanRaviv CBS cropped shurnkDan Raviv, the CBS News correspondent who is co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars (and the previous best seller, Every Spy a Prince, both written with Yossi Melman) — was a guest for one hour on Shalom TV, which is seen on many cable systems across the U.S.

In a wide-ranging interview with Rabbi Mark Golub, the founder of the Shalom TV channel, Dan Raviv analyzes the goals of Israel’s intelligence community, a range of reactions to the Jonathan Pollard affair, and a lot more.

Rabbi Golub wondered, for instance, if Israel’s security-related activities ever put American Jews in an uncomfortable situation — caught between divided loyalties, perhaps. Raviv and Golub have a vigorous discussion on that and many other points.

[Dan confesses to sharp-eyed readers and viewers that, in the interview, he mistakenly refers to the small airport near Tel Aviv as “Sde Boker” when he meant to say “Sde Dov.”]

To watch the interview, click the screen — or here:  VIDEO LINK.


October 29, 2013

No, Pollard (Israel’s Spy in America) Won’t Be Released Now – But Here’s an Idea


Despite pleas made face to face to President Barack Obama by Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it appears certain that Obama is turning down their request that he order the release of Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard was the civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy who was caught spying for Israel in Washington in 1985.  Peres was prime minister at the time, although he claimed not to know that a branch of Israeli espionage (not the Mossad) was running an agent inside the United States government.  Peres and Obama, both Nobel Peace laureates, clearly respect and perhaps adore each other, but Obama has made clear – in recent public comments – that Pollard committed very serious crimes and should not get favoritism over other convicted Americans held in prison.

Thousands of Israeli have taken part in demonstrations, including one this week near the Obama-Peres talks in Jerusalem, demanding that Pollard – who was sentenced to life in prison and is behind bars in North Carolina – be set free.

While there is no sign that Obama will make such a decision before his presidential term ends in January 2017, Pollard’s supporters are finding some hope in their belief that he can petition the Justice Department in November 2015 – when he has been imprisoned for 30 years – for early release on grounds including good behavior and health problems.  Pollard, in late 2015, would be 61 years old.

Behind the protest signs and slogans stands an Israeli organization, the Committee to Free Pollard.  It operates as a charity, with an annual budget of 200,000 Israeli sheqels (a little over $50,000) per year.  It is funded by contributions from the public, and the managers say they do not receive any government money.

The leaders of the committee are Effi Lahav, who served as office director for an Israeli justice minister, and Adi Ginsburg, who is the group’s spokesman.  They are working as unpaid volunteers.

While Lahav and Ginsburg are known clearly as right-wingers on the Israeli political spectrum – suspicious of Arabs and unwilling to make concessions for often illusory progress toward possible peace – they have succeeded in totally changing the committee and its campaign to free Pollard.  For years it aligned itself only with the political Right – even with radically nationalistic Jews in both Israel and the U.S.  They practically ignored Pollard’s wife Esther (whom he married while a prisoner, after divorcing Anne Pollard, who was convicted of helping Jonathan’s espionage) and dictated the tone of the campaign.

It was highly political and often aggressive, making accusations against Israeli and American dignitaries who refused to join the cause.  A U.S. official who chose not to call publicly for Pollard’s release might be labeled by committee activists as a “self-hating Jew” if he were Jewish – or an “anti-Semite” if he were not.

The change that occurred in recent years can be seen in the fact that Left-leaning Israelis are also interested now in Pollard’s prison conditions and in seeing him freed.  Writers, artists, and jurists are on his side now.  They do not generally hail him as a Zionist hero, but as a man who has been punished enough after 28 years.

The committee has broadened its campaign and has achieved a national consensus.  The strongest sign of that came when 112 members of the last Knesset (out of 120 in the parliament) signed a resolution calling on the United States to release Pollard.

The campaign has also been helped by the fact that after decades of refusing to sympathize with Pollard in any way, there are voices emerging in U.S. military, intelligence, and political circles who call for his release.  These include former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, and a former Director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey.

Jim Woolsey, in recent interviews, stresses that Pollard committed serious crimes, but that 28 years in prison is enough.  Woolsey points to others in America who spied on behalf of friendly countries such as South Korea and the Philippines.  They typically were locked up for less than a decade, not serving a life sentence like Pollard.

The Israeli media have perked up at Lawrence Korb’s statements that Pollard should be released.  A longtime defense expert and Pentagon official, Korb was a senior aide to Caspar Weinberger – the defense secretary at the time of Pollard’s arrest.  Weinberger is believed more responsible than anyone else (except Pollard himself) for the severity of the spy’s punishment.  The defense secretary wrote a memo to the judge in the case, which portrayed Pollard’s actions as extremely damaging to the United States.

The committee is hoping that the major news media in the U.S. will also take up the cause of freedom for Jonathan Pollard, and they are especially targeting the New York Times and its columnists.  They suffered a setback this month when Bret Stephens, considered usually a pro-Israel columnist in the Wall Street Journal, wrote a piece that blasted the campaign to free Pollard.  The suggestion was that Israelis should not be celebrating the actions of an American, who happened to be Jewish, who betrayed his country by selling secrets.

Still, the committee is continuing with its significant and successful shift away from stressing politics – or hailing Pollard as a hero – and instead speaking of the man’s deteriorating health and his miserable isolation.  Freeing him is framed as a humanitarian issue.

An honest look at Israel’s attitude toward Pollard has to include some uncomfortable facts in the background, however.  While the request now is for kind gestures toward the American who spied against his own country, this is the same Israel which was far from gentle and forgiving to Mordecai Vanunu – the Israeli technician who worked in the top-secret nuclear laboratories at the Dimona reactor in the Negev.

He provided photographs and details of his clandestine work to a British newspaper in 1986, and then-Prime Minister Peres made sure to order the Mossad to locate and capture Vanunu.  A female Mossad operative seduced Vanunu in London and lured him to Rome, where an Israeli espionage team pounced on him, apparently injected him with a sedative – which has been in the Mossad playbook for over sixty years – and shipped him to Israel to stand trial.  This happened to have been just a few months after Pollard was arrested by the FBI in Washington.

Vanunu was tried behind closed doors and imprisoned in isolation.  Despite appeals by him and a raft of international sympathizers, Vanunu was compelled to serve his full 18-year term.

Many Israelis would point out that Vanunu was not clamped into prison for life; but almost 9 years after his release from a jail cell he continues to be under a kind of house arrest – with limitations on his right to speak to journalists and many others, and a ban on his leaving Israel.  In an ironic comparison with Soviet Jews who for decades were not permitted to leave the USSR, Vanunu could practically be labeled “a Prisoner of Zion.”

Authorities somewhat ridiculously claim that if he were allowed to move abroad and start a new life – apparently as a fervent Christian now – Vanunu could still harm Israel by revealing secrets.

The general tone is that Israel’s security and intelligence establishment is not forgiving toward Mordecai Vanunu.   Yet they claim it would only be fair for the CIA and other U.S. agencies to drop their harsh attitude toward Jonathan Pollard and signal the President that it would be okay to set him free.

There are valid parallels.  Both Pollard and Vanunu were convicted of betraying their countries’ secrets.  They both appear to have had ideological motives: Pollard, believing he was protecting the Jewish state by providing information that the U.S. was not passing along to Israel; and Vanunu, who had sympathies with the Palestinians and was also alarmed by the dangers to the world of nuclear proliferation – seeing what he believed to be bombs being built right before his eyes at Dimona.

Pollard was recruited and run by a small intelligence and security unit within Israel’s defense ministry called Lakam – a Hebrew acronym for the Science Liaison Bureau.  It specialized in gathering scientific and technical information, and Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars now recounts the history of how Lakam was tasked with acquiring the materials needed at the Dimona reactor for Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.  Lakam also protected the secrecy and security of the nuclear project – the cloak of silence that was pierced by Vanunu.

Lakam was run by a longtime Israeli security and intelligence operative, Rafi Eitan, who later in life would be a member of Knesset with his own small party devoted to the interests of senior citizens.  Eitan, who could never visit the United States after the Pollard affair was exposed, continues to insist that everything he did was fully authorized.

The fact is that Israeli intelligence gathered information in the U.S. from 1948, the founding of the State of Israel, until Pollard’s arrest in 1985.  Israel has publicly pledged not to do it anymore, but the line between espionage and simply using “open sources” — which are read, chatted with, collated and analyzed – can often be blurry.  Records indicate that Eitan himself used to visit nuclear-related facilities in the U.S. as a visiting Israeli “scientist.”

After 1985 the FBI and other American security agencies became more suspicious than ever of Israeli actions and motives.  Some in the FBI believed that Israel had more agents inside the U.S. government, and they also accused the Israelis of selling – or trading – to Russia many of the secrets acquired in America.  There were dark whisperings about Pollard’s information eventually leading to the deaths of CIA agents in Russia.

Those accusations now appear to have been empty and rooted mainly in bitterness.  A spy inside the CIA, Aldrich Ames, was responsible for giving Moscow the information that led to the execution of Russians who were secretly working for the West.

Pollard was working as a lone wolf.  Eitan played him with valuable gifts, cash, and the promise of Israeli citizenship and a role in history as a Zionist hero.

Peres, after Pollard’s arrest, told the United States that the affair was a “rogue operation.”

The time has come for Israel to tell the full truth.  Here is a new idea for the Committee to Free Pollard: recruit President Shimon Peres to your campaign.  Also include former defense minister Moshe Arens (as the defense minister in 1985, Yitzhak Rabin, was unfortunately assassinated in 1994) and the men who led the intelligence agencies at the time: Nahum Admoni, who was director of the Mossad; Avraham Shalom, who served as Shin Bet chief (and is known to some movie audiences for his colorful interview in the documentary, “The Gatekeepers”); and the recently retired minister Ehud Barak, who in 1985 was commander of the military intelligence agency Aman.

Ask them to write a joint letter to their friends in the American intelligence community, to the Justice Department, and to President Obama.

I suggest the letter should open with these words, more or less: “We were responsible for the recruiting and running of Jonathan Pollard – or we knew about his work and benefited from it.  That was for the sake of the security of Israel, as we saw it.”  The letter should certainly include a sincere apology, a request for forgiveness, and a plea for Pollard’s release on humanitarian grounds.

That way the American authorities would not simply see the case as a haughty demand for early release by a notorious criminal who may or may not feel honestly regretful.

It is possible that an original and new approach such as this could touch the hearts of the even the most stony U.S. intelligence authorities who tend never to forgive “an insider” who betrays his legal obligations of secrecy as a trusted government employee.

Even if this approach does not help visibly, it surely could not hurt.  A step toward the truth, with an honest plea, could lead the way toward putting this episode — a festering irritation between the United States and Israel — behind us.


March 21, 2013

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