Jonathan Pollard, I.D. Photograph, U.S. Naval intelligence.
|Born||Jonathan Jay Pollard
August 7, 1954
Galveston, Texas, U.S.
|Alias(es)||Thomas Richered Pollard Jr|
|Charge(s)||Violations of the Espionage Act|
|Conviction status||Incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system|
|Occupation||Former intelligence analyst and spy for Israel|
|Spouse||Anne Henderson Pollard (divorced)
Elaine Zeitz, aka Esther Pollard (current)
|Parents||Morris Pollard (father)
Molly Pollard (mother)
Jonathan Jay Pollard (born August 7, 1954) is an American who passed classified information to Israel while working as an American civilian intelligence analyst. He pleaded guilty and received a life sentence in 1987. Because his crime occurred prior to November 1, 1987, he is eligible for parole, and may be released on November 21, 2015.
Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, but denied until 1998 that it had bought classified information from him. Israeli activist groups, as well as high-profile Israeli politicians, have lobbied for his release. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced particularly strong support for Pollard, visiting the convicted spy in prison in 2002 while not in office. His case was later linked to that of Ben-ami Kadish, another U.S. citizen who pleaded guilty to charges of passing classified information to Israel in the same period.
Jonathan Jay Pollard was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1954, to a Jewish family, the youngest of three siblings. In 1961 his family moved to South Bend, Indiana, where his father, an award-winning microbiologist, taught at Notre Dame.
Pollard grew up with what he called a "racial obligation" to Israel, and says of his troubled childhood, "I got beaten up, but at least I knew the Israelis would beat up a couple Arab countries and maybe I would feel better." Pollard made his first trip to Israel in 1970, as part of a science program visiting the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. While there, he was hospitalized after a fight with another student. One Weizmann scientist remembered Pollard as leaving behind "a reputation of being an unstable troublemaker, the worst case of this kind in the history of the summer camp".
After completing high school, Pollard attended Stanford University, where he completed a degree in political science in 1976. While there, he is remembered by several of his acquaintances as boasting that he was a dual citizen of the United States and Israel and claiming to work for the Mossad and to have attained the rank of colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. None of these claims was true. Later, Pollard enrolled in several graduate schools, but never completed a postgraduate degree.
Pollard's future wife, Anne Henderson (born 1 May 1960) had moved to Washington DC in fall 1978 to live with her (recently divorced) father, Bernard Henderson. According to her father, in summer 1981 she moved into a house on Capitol Hill with two other women and, through a friend of one of her roommates, she first met Pollard. He later claimed to have fallen in love during their first meeting- they were "an inseparable couple" by November 1981, and in June 1982, when her Capitol Hill lease expired, she moved into Pollard's apartment in Arlington, VA. In December 1982 the couple moved into downtown Washington DC, to a two-bedroom apartment at 1733 20th Street N.W., near Dupont Circle. They would remain there until their arrest in 1985, at which time they were paying $750 per month in rent. They did not marry until August 9, 1985 – more than year after Pollard began spying for Israel – in a civil ceremony in Venice, Italy.
In 1979, after leaving graduate school, Pollard began applying for intelligence service jobs, first at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and then the US Navy. Pollard was turned down for the CIA job after taking a polygraph test in which he admitted to prolific illegal drug usage between 1974 and 1978. He fared better with the Navy and on 19 September 1979 he was hired by the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NFOIO), an office of the Naval Intelligence Command (NIC), as an intelligence specialist working on Soviet issues at the Navy Ocean Surveillance Information Center (NOSIC), a department of NFOIO. A background check was required to receive the necessary security clearances, but no polygraph test. In addition to a 'Top Secret' clearance, a more stringent 'Sensitive Compartmented Information' (SCI) clearance was required. The Navy asked for but was denied information from the CIA regarding Pollard, including the results of their pre-employment polygraph test showing Pollard's excessive drug use. Pollard was given temporary non-SCI security clearances pending completion of his background check, which was normal for new hires at the time and assigned to temporary duty at another NIC Department, the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) Surface Ships Division, where he could be employed in tasks not requiring SCI clearance. NOSIC's current operations center and the NISC were co-located in Suitland, Maryland (inside the Washington D.C. "Beltway", the forerunner to today's National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office.
Within two months after Pollard was hired, the technical director of NOSIC, Richard Haver, requested that he be terminated. This came after a conversation with the new hire in which Pollard offered to start a back-channel operation with the South African intelligence service and lied about his father's involvement with the CIA. Instead of terminating Pollard, Haver's boss reassigned him to a navy human intelligence (HUMINT) operation, Task Force 168 (TF-168), an office within Naval Intelligence Command (NIC), the headquarters for Navy intelligence operations (located in a separate building, but still within the Suitland Federal Center complex.) This was apparently because Pollard had a friend from graduate school in the South African intelligence service. In the vetting process for this position, Pollard, it was later discovered, lied repeatedly: he denied illegal drug use, claimed his father had been a CIA operative, misrepresented his language abilities and his educational achievements, and claimed to have applied for a commission as officer in the Naval Reserve. A month later Pollard received his SCI clearances and was transferred from NISC to TF-168.
While transferring to his new job at TF-168, Pollard again initiated a meeting with someone far up the chain of command, this time with Admiral Sumner Shapiro, Commander, Naval Intelligence Command (CNIC) about an idea he had for TF-168 and South Africa. (The TF-168 group had passed on his ideas). After the meeting, Shapiro immediately ordered that Pollard's security clearances be revoked and that he be reassigned to a non-sensitive position. According to The Washington Post, Shapiro dismissed Pollard as a "kook", saying later, "I wish the hell I'd fired him."
Because of the job transfer, Shapiro's order to remove Pollard's security clearances slipped through the cracks. However, Shapiro's office followed up with a request to TF-168 that Pollard's trustworthiness be investigated by the CIA. The CIA found Pollard to be a risk and recommended that he not be used in any intelligence collection operation. A subsequent polygraph test was inconclusive, although it did prompt Pollard to admit to making false statements to his superiors, prior drug use, and having unauthorized contacts with representatives of foreign governments. The special agent administering the test felt that Pollard, who at times "began shouting and shaking and making gagging sounds as if he were going to vomit", was feigning illness to invalidate the test, and recommended that he not be granted access to highly classified information. Pollard was also required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
Pollard's clearance was reduced to Secret. Pollard subsequently filed a grievance and threatened lawsuits to recover his SCI clearance, and subsequently began receiving excellent performance reviews. In 1982, after the psychiatrist concluded Pollard had no mental illness, Pollard's clearance was upgraded to SCI once again. In October 1984, after some reorganization of the navy's intelligence departments, Pollard applied for and was accepted into a position as an analyst for the Naval Intelligence Command.
Shortly after Pollard began working at NIC/TF-168, he met Aviem Sella, an Israeli Air Force combat veteran who was at the time a graduate student at New York University, on leave from his position as a colonel in order to gain a master's degree in computer science. Pollard told Sella that he worked for U.S. naval intelligence, told him of specific incidents where U.S. intelligence was withholding information from Israel, and offered himself as a spy. Though Sella had wondered whether Pollard was part of an FBI sting operation to recruit an Israeli, he ended up believing him. Sella then phoned his air force intelligence commander in Tel Aviv for further instructions, and the call was switched to the air force chief of staff. Sella was ordered to develop a contact with Pollard.
Within a few days, in June 1984, Pollard started passing classified information to Sella and received, in exchange, $10,000 cash and a very expensive diamond and sapphire ring, which Pollard later used to propose marriage to his girlfriend Anne. He also agreed to receive $1,500 per month for further espionage.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigator Ronald Olive has alleged that Pollard passed classified information to South Africa, and attempted, through a third party, to sell classified information to Pakistan on multiple occasions. Pollard also stole classified documents related to China on behalf of his wife, who used the information to advance her personal business interests and kept them around the house, where they were discovered by investigating authorities when Pollard's espionage activity came to light.
During Pollard's trial, the government's memorandum in aid of sentencing challenges "defendant's claim that he was motivated by altruism rather than greed", asserting that Pollard had "disclosed classified information in anticipation of financial gain" in other instances:
The government's investigation has revealed that defendant provided to certain of his acquaintances U.S. classified documents which defendant obtained through U.S. Navy sources. The classified documents which defendant disclosed to two such acquaintances, both of whom are professional investment advisers, contained classified economic and political analyses which defendant believed would help his acquaintances render investment advice to their clients... Defendant acknowledged that, although he was not paid for his unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the above-mentioned acquaintances, he hoped to be rewarded ultimately through business opportunities that these individuals could arrange for defendant when he eventually left his position with the U.S. Navy. In fact, defendant was involved in an ongoing business venture with two of these acquaintances at the time he provided the classified information to them...
During the course of the Pollard trial, Australian authorities reported the disclosure of classified American documents by Pollard to one of their own agents, a Royal Australian Navy officer who had been engaged in a personnel-exchange naval liaison program between the U.S. and Australia. The Australian officer, alarmed by Pollard's repeated disclosure to him of data caveated No Foreign Access Allowed, reported the indiscretions to his chain of command, which in turn recalled him from his position in the U.S., fearing that the disclosures might be part of a "CIA ruse". Confronted with this accusation after entering his plea, Pollard only admitted to passing a single classified document to the Australian; later, he changed his story, and claimed that his superiors ordered him to share information with the Australians.
The full extent of the information he gave to Israel has still not been officially revealed. Press reports cited a secret 46-page memorandum, which Pollard and his attorneys were allowed to view. They were provided to the judge by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who described Pollard's spying as including, among other things, obtaining and copying the latest version of Radio-Signal Notations (RASIN), a 10-volume manual comprehensively detailing America's global electronic surveillance network.
Pollard's espionage was discovered in 1985 when a coworker anonymously reported his removal of classified material from the NIC. The coworker noted that he did not seem to be taking the material to any known appropriate destination, such as other intelligence agencies in the area. Although Pollard was authorized to transport documents and the coworker did claim the documents were properly wrapped, it appeared out of place that Pollard would be transporting documents on a Friday afternoon when many workers were focused more on the upcoming weekend rather than intelligence work. Pollard's direct superior, having to complete extra work at the office on a Saturday, had walked by Pollard's desk and noticed unsecured classified material. Taking the initiative to secure it, the supervisor glanced over it and saw it was unrelated to antiterrorism matters in the Caribbean, which is what the section focused on. Looking at more unrelated documents, the supervisor believed foreign intelligence might be involved, but was unable to determine which nation would be interested. Supervisors began investigating, and upon finding the enormous amount of material checked out by Pollard, and that it was outside of his area of responsibility, asked the FBI to begin an investigation.
Pollard was stopped and questioned about a week later while removing classified material from his work premises. He explained that he was taking it to another analyst at a different agency for a consultation. During the voluntary interview, his story was checked and found to be false. Pollard requested to make a phone call to his wife telling her where he was. As the interview was voluntary the investigators had no choice but to grant the request. During the call to Anne he used the code word 'cactus', meaning that he was in trouble and that she should remove all classified material from their home, which she attempted to do, enlisting the help of a neighbor.
After some time, Pollard agreed to a search of his home, which turned up only a few documents Anne had missed. At this point, the FBI decided to drop the case and leave it as an administrative action for Pollard's supervisors, since there only seemed to be some mishandling of documents and at this point, was no proof that Pollard was passing classified documents. The case broke wide open a few days later when Pollard was asked to take a polygraph. Instead, he admitted to illegally passing on documents, without mentioning Israel. The FBI again became involved. A short time later Pollard's neighbor began calling around the military intelligence community (he was a naval officer) asking what to do with the 70 lb suitcase full of highly classified material that Pollard's wife, Anne, had given him. After being unable to contact Anne or Jonathan Pollard he became concerned about safeguarding the documents. He cooperated fully with the investigation and was not charged with any crime.
After his partial confession, Pollard was put under surveillance but not taken into custody. On November 21, 1985, he and his wife attempted to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., only to be rebuffed by the Israeli guards and was arrested by FBI agents who swarmed the perimeter as soon as Pollard set foot off embassy property. Until this point, investigators could not confirm that Pollard had been spying for Israel; their only lead having been the speculation of Pollard's superiors.
After Pollard was arrested, Anne lost an agent following her and met Sella at a restaurant, where she informed him of her husband's arrest. Hours after Pollard was arrested, Sella and his wife, along with Yossi Yagur and Irit Erb (two other Israelis involved in the operation), fled to New York and caught flights out of the country before the FBI could stop them. Anne was arrested the next day, November 22.
Pollard eventually cooperated with investigators in exchange for a plea agreement for leniency for himself and his wife. Israel claimed initially that Pollard worked for an unauthorized rogue operation, a position they maintained for more than ten years, and agreed to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for immunity for the Israelis involved.
When asked to return the stolen material, the Israelis reportedly only turned over a few dozen low-classified documents. At the time, the Americans knew that Pollard had passed tens of thousands of documents. When American investigators traveled to Israel they were treated with hostility from the moment they arrived in Israel to the moment they left. The Israelis created a schedule designed to wear them down, including many hours per day of commuting in blacked out buses on rough roads, and frequent switching of buses leaving them without adequate time to sleep and preventing them from sleeping on the commute. The identity of Pollard's original handler, Sella, was withheld. All questions had to be translated into Hebrew and answered in Hebrew, and then translated back into English, even though all the parties spoke perfect English. The Commander Jerry Agee remembers that, even as he departed the airport, airport security made a point of informing him that "you will never be coming back here again"; Agee found various items had been stolen from his luggage, upon his return to the United States. The abuse came not only from the guards and officials, but also the Israeli media.
Aviem Sella, Pollard's initial Israeli contact, was eventually indicted on three counts of espionage by an American court. Israel refused to allow him to be interviewed unless he was granted immunity. The United States refused because of Israel's previous failure to cooperate as promised. Israel then refused to extradite Sella, instead giving him command of Tel Nof Airbase. The U.S. Congress responded by threatening to cut aid to Israel, at which point Sella voluntarily stepped down to defuse tensions.
Plea agreement and trial
Pollard's plea discussions with the Government sought both to minimize his chances of receiving a life sentence and to enable Anne Pollard to plead as well, which the Government was otherwise unwilling to let her do. The government, however, was prepared to offer Anne Pollard a plea agreement only after Jonathan Pollard consented to assist the government in its damage assessment and submitted to polygraph examinations and interviews with FBI agents and Department of Justice attorneys. Accordingly, over a period of several months, Pollard cooperated with the Government's investigation, and in late May 1986, the Government offered him a plea agreement, which he accepted. By the terms of that agreement, Pollard was bound to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government, which carried a maximum prison term of life, and to cooperate fully with the Government's ongoing investigation. He promised not to disseminate any information concerning his crimes or his case, or to speak publicly of any classified information, without first submitting to pre-clearance by the Director of Naval Intelligence. His agreement further provided that failure by Anne Pollard to adhere to the terms of her agreement entitled the Government to void his agreement, and her agreement contained a mirror-image provision. In return for Pollard's plea, the Government promised not to charge him with additional crimes.
Three weeks before Pollard's sentencing, Wolf Blitzer, at the time a Jerusalem Post correspondent, conducted a jail-cell interview with Pollard and penned an article that also ran in The Washington Post headlined, "Pollard: Not A Bumbler, but Israel's Master Spy", published February 15, 1987. Pollard told Blitzer about some of the information he provided the Israelis: reconnaissance satellite photography of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters in Tunisia, specific capabilities of Libya's air defenses, and "the pick of U.S. intelligence about Arab and Islamic conventional and unconventional military activity, from Morocco to Pakistan and every country in between. This included both 'friendly' and 'unfriendly' Arab countries." Some commentators identified this interview as a blatant violation of the plea agreement.
Prior to sentencing, Pollard and his wife Anne gave further defiant media interviews in which they defended their spying and attempted to rally Jewish Americans to their cause. In a 60 Minutes interview, Anne said, "I feel my husband and I did what we were expected to do, and what our moral obligation was as Jews, what our moral obligation was as human beings, and I have no regrets about that."
On June 4, 1986, Pollard pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. Prior to sentencing, speaking on his own behalf, Pollard stated that while his motives "may have been well meaning, they cannot, under any stretch of the imagination, excuse or justify the violation of the law, particularly one that involves the trust of government ... I broke trust, ruined and brought disgrace to my family." He admitted and apologized for taking money from the Israeli government in exchange for classified information. Anne Pollard, in her own statement, stated that she did "what at the time I believed to be correct", in helping her husband and attempting to conceal stolen documents, adding "And I can't say that I would never not help him again. However, I would look for different routes or different ways."
The prosecution answered these statements by saying that the Pollards had continued to violate numerous nondisclosure agreements even as the trial was taking place. The prosecutor noted one in particular, which had been signed in June 1986, alluding to Pollard's interview with Wolf Blitzer. The prosecutor concluded:
[I]n combination with the breadth of this man's knowledge, the depth of his memory, and the complete lack of honor that he has demonstrated in these proceedings, I suggest to you, your honor, he is a very dangerous man.
Sentencing and incarceration
Pollard was sentenced to life in prison on one count of espionage on March 4, 1987. The prosecutor complied with the plea agreement and asked for "only a substantial number of years in prison;" Judge Aubrey Robinson, Jr., who was not obligated to follow the recommendation of the prosecutor, imposed a life sentence after hearing a "damage-assessment memorandum" from the Secretary of Defense.
In 1987, Pollard began his life sentence. His wife, Anne, was sentenced to five years in prison but was paroled after three and a half years due to health problems. After her parole ended, she emigrated to Israel. Jonathan divorced Anne, stating he believed he was going to be jailed for the remainder of his life and did not want Anne to be bound to him.
From 1986 until his sentencing in June 1987, Pollard was held in a federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia, about a 3 hour drive south of Washington. Immediately after sentencing, he was moved from Petersburg to a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he was placed in a solitary cell and given a battery of mental health test. After one year in the psychiatric prison, in June 1988, he was transferred to the federal maximum security prison in Marion, Illinois. In 1993 he was transferred to a slightly less harsh facility in North Carolina.
At the time of Pollard's sentencing there was a rule that mandated parole consideration after 30 years of imprisonment for prisoners serving life sentences, who had maintained a clean record in prison. He is currently scheduled to be released November 21, 2015.
His Federal Bureau of Prisons ID is #09185-016. He is incarcerated in FCI Butner Medium at the Butner Federal Correction Complex in North Carolina. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) projects his release date as November 21, 2015.
Should Pollard be released in 2015, he will be escorted by FBI agents to the gates of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. and transferred to Israeli custody.
In the district court, Pollard's attorney filed a motion to withdraw his plea and for other relief; the motion was denied. United States v. Jonathan Jay Pollard, 747 F. Supp. 797 (1990). He unsuccessfully appealed that denial. United States v. Pollard, 959 F.2d 1011, 295 U.S. App. D.C. 7, 1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 4695 (1992). The appeal was also denied. Several years later, with a different attorney, Pollard filed a petition for habeas corpus. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled two-to-one to deny Pollard's petition, primarily due to the failure of Pollard's original attorneys to file his appeal in a timely manner. The dissenting judge, Judge Stephen F. Williams, stated, "because the government's breach of the plea agreement was a fundamental miscarriage of justice requiring relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, I dissent."
In July 2005, the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Pollard's latest appeal. Pollard had sought a new trial on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, and he sought to receive classified documents pertinent to his new lawyers' efforts in preparing a clemency petition. The Court of Appeals rejected both arguments, however, and Pollard remains imprisoned. On February 10, 2006, lawyers for Pollard filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court to attempt to gain access to the classified documents. The brief was based on the notion that the separation of powers doctrine is a flexible doctrine that does not dictate the complete separation of the three branches of Government from one another. The brief argued that the Court of Appeals violated this principle in asserting sua sponte that the judiciary has no jurisdiction over the classified documents due to the fact that access was for the ultimate purpose of clemency, an executive function. In fact, the President's clemency power would be wholly unaffected by successor counsel's access to the classified documents, and the classified documents were sealed under protective order, a judicial tool. The Supreme Court denied the cert petition on March 20, 2006.
Israel and Pollard
Until 1998 Israel denied that Pollard was an Israeli source. Their official position was that he worked for an unauthorized rogue operation.
Israeli officials at one point reportedly considered offering to release Yosef Amit, an Israeli military intelligence officer who was serving a 12-year prison sentence for spying for the United States and another NATO power, in exchange for Pollard. However, Amit torpedoed the proposal, sending a letter to the State Attorney's Office emphasizing that he had no wish to be exchanged.
In 1995, there were reports that Israel was considering a deal in which it would orchestrate the release of American spies imprisoned in Russia in exchange for Pollard. Under the deal, Israel would release Marcus Klingberg, an Israeli imprisoned in 1983 for spying for the Soviets, and in exchange, the Russians would release U.S. agents who had remained in prison since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The United States would then free Pollard.
On May 11, 1998, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted Pollard was a known information source, handled by high-ranking officials of the Israeli Bureau for Scientific Relations (Lekem). The Israeli government paid for at least two of Pollard's trial attorneys – Richard A. Hibey and Hamilton Philip Fox III – and continues to ask for his release. Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, in 1999 in the context of the Israeli elections, exchanged barbs in the media over which of them had been more supportive of Pollard.
In September 2009, Israeli State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released a report that stated the Israeli government has made concerted efforts for years to gain Pollard's release, but the American government refused. The Pollards rejected the findings of the report, calling it a "whitewash" of the Israeli government. However, they did agree with another finding of the report that stated Pollard had been denied due legal process in the United States.
In June 2011, 70 members of the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) lent their support to the Pollard family's request that President Obama allow Pollard to visit his ailing father, Morris. When his father died soon after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel's official support for a new Pollard family request that would allow Jonathan Pollard to attend his father's funeral. These requests were both ultimately denied by the U.S. government.
In the 1990s, University of Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, a family friend of Pollard's who had known him since he was six years old, attempted to broker a deal whereby Pollard would be released and "be banished to Israel", and renounce his U.S. citizenship in exchange. Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune wrote columns in February 1994 supporting the idea. Pollard applied for Israeli citizenship in 1995; the Ministry of Interior initially refused on the grounds that the country did not normally grant citizenship to persons who had not yet immigrated, until reversing its decision and granting his petition on November 22, 1995. However, White House officials expressed little enthusiasm for Hesburgh's plan, and he gave up on further efforts towards pushing it forwards.
Some sources claim that Pollard then renounced his United States citizenship and is now solely an Israeli citizen, and would be deported to Israel if he were released from prison. Others continue to identify him as a U.S. citizen. According to the United States Department of State, with the U.S. not being in a state of war there are no regulations in effect under to empower the Attorney General to process renunciations of citizenship from persons physically present in the United States, and under 8 U.S.C. § 1483, it is not possible for a person to lose U.S. citizenship while physically present in the United States except by renunciation filed with the Attorney General or conviction for treason.
In addition to the release requests by the Israeli government, there has been a long running public campaign to free Pollard. The organizers include the Pollard family, his ex-wife, Anne, and Jewish groups in the U.S. and Israel. The campaign's main points claim that Pollard spied for an ally instead of an enemy, that his sentence was out of proportion when compared to similar crimes, and that the U.S. failed to live up to its plea bargain. Some Israeli activists compared President Bush to Hamas and Hezbollah leaders who have taken Israeli soldiers prisoner.
Pollard's supporters argue that his sentence was excessive. Although Pollard pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain for himself and his wife, he was shown no leniency and was given the maximum sentence with the exception of death, because he allegedly broke the terms of that plea agreement even before the sentence was handed down.
The issue of his imprisonment has sometimes arisen amidst Israeli domestic politics. Benjamin Netanyahu has been particularly vocal in lobbying for Pollard's release, visiting Pollard in prison in 2002. Netanyahu raised the issue with President Bill Clinton during the Wye River peace talks in 1998. In his autobiography, Clinton wrote that he was inclined to release Pollard, but the objections of U.S. intelligence officials were too strong:
For all the sympathy Pollard generated in Israel, he was a hard case to push in America; he had sold our country's secrets for money, not conviction, and for years had not shown any remorse. When I talked to Sandy Berger and George Tenet, they were adamantly opposed to letting Pollard go, as was Madeleine Albright.
Alan Dershowitz has been among Pollard's high-profile supporters, both in the courtroom as a lawyer and in various print media. Characterizing the sentence as "excessive", Dershowitz writes in an article reprinted in his bestselling book Chutzpah, "As an American, and as a Jew, I hereby express my outrage at Jonathan Pollard's sentence of life imprisonment for the crime to which he pleaded guilty." Dershowitz writes:
[E]veryone seems frightened to speak up on behalf of a convicted spy. This has been especially true of the Jewish leadership in America. The Pollards are Jewish... The Pollards are also Zionists, who—out of a sense of misguided "racial imperative" (to quote Jonathan Pollard)—seem to place their commitment to Israeli survival over the laws of their own country... American Jewish leaders, always sensitive to the canard of dual loyalty, are keeping a low profile in the Pollard matter. Many American Jews at the grass roots are outraged at what they perceive to be an overreaction to the Pollards' crimes and the unusually long sentence imposed on Jonathan Pollard.
The Jerusalem City Council has also acted in support of Pollard, changing the name of a square near the official prime minister's residence from Paris Square to Freedom for Jonathan Pollard Square. Tamar Fogel, a 12-year-old Israeli girl whose parents and three siblings were killed in the 2011 Itamar massacre, visited Pollard shortly after the death of his father in June 2011.
Pollard has at times claimed that he provided only information that, at the time, he believed was vital to Israeli security and that was being withheld by the Pentagon, in violation of a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries regarding the sharing of vital security intelligence. According to Pollard, this included data on Soviet arms shipments to Syria, Iraqi and Syrian chemical weapons, the Pakistani atomic bomb project, and Libyan air defense systems.
Official requests for clemency
Yitzhak Rabin was the first Israeli prime minister to ask for the release of Pollard, requesting U.S. President Bill Clinton to pardon him in 1995. Among the many requests for Pollard's release was one at the 1998 Wye River conference, where Netanyahu recalls, "if we signed an agreement with Arafat, I expected a pardon for Pollard." Of his meeting with Netanyahu during the Wye River talks, Bill Clinton writes, "Netanyahu was threatening to scuttle the whole deal unless I released Pollard. He said I had promised him I would do so at an earlier meeting the night before, and that's why he had agreed on the other issues. In fact, I had told the prime minister that if that's what it took to make peace, I was inclined to do it, but I would have to check with our people." Clinton states that Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, and George Tenet were all "adamantly opposed" to letting Pollard out of prison.
Another Israeli request for Pollard's release was made in New York on September 14, 2005, and was declined by President George W. Bush. A request on Pollard's behalf that he be designated a Prisoner of Zion was rejected by the High Court of Justice of Israel on January 16, 2006. Another appeal for intervention on Pollard's behalf was rejected by the High Court on June 8, 2006.
On January 10, 2008, the subject of Pollard's pardon was again brought up for discussion, this time by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during President George W. Bush's first visit to Israel as President. Subsequently, this request was turned down by President Bush. The next day, at a dinner attended by several ministers in the Israeli government (in addition to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice), the subject of Pollard's release was again discussed. This time however, Prime Minister Olmert commented that it was not the appropriate occasion to discuss the fate of the convicted Israeli spy.
As President Bush was about to leave office in 2009, Pollard himself requested clemency for the first time. In an interview in Newsweek former CIA director James Woolsey endorsed Pollard's release on two conditions: that he show contrition and decline any profits from books or other projects linked to the case. Bush did not pardon him.
The New York Times reported on September 21, 2010, that the Israeli government (again under Netanyahu) informally proposed that Pollard be released as a reward to Israel for extending by three months a halt to new settlements in occupied territories.
In 2010 representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) wrote a letter that "notes the positive impact that a grant of clemency would have in Israel, as a strong indication of the goodwill of our nation towards Israel and the Israeli people", On November 18, 2010, 39 members of Congress submitted a Plea Of Clemency to the White House on behalf of Pollard, asking the president for his immediate release: "Such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about his guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted."
On December 21, 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would formally and publicly call for Pollard's release. This was the first formal request made by Israel. On January 4, 2011, Netanyahu formally submitted a letter to President Obama requesting clemency. The White House issued a statement saying the letter would be reviewed, however no official response has been given to date.
Some now argue that Pollard should be released because it would improve U.S.-Israeli relations and enhance the prospects of success of the Obama administration's Middle East peace process. Although that may be true, it is not the reason I and many others have recently written to the president requesting that he grant Pollard clemency. The reason is that Pollard has already served far too long for the crime for which he was convicted, and by now, whatever facts he might know would have little effect on national security.
In August 2011 Barney Frank sought permission from Congress to discuss the incarceration of Jonathan Pollard and called on Barack Obama to "answer the many calls for Pollard's immediate release". According to activists promoting the release of Pollard, Frank said Pollard has paid a price much higher than anyone else that spied on a friend of the United States and more than many who spied for its enemies.
In March 2012, while on an official visit in Washington, both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed they raised the issue of Jonathan Pollard with President Obama. They did not indicate what Obama's response was. To date, there has been no official response from the White House to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 2011 request to commute Pollard's sentence.
In a letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal, published on July 5, 2012 James Woolsey wrote that he now supports release of the convicted spy for Israel, citing the passage of time: "When I recommended against clemency, Pollard had been in prison less than a decade. Today he has been incarcerated for over a quarter of a century under his life sentence." He pointed out that of the more than 50 recently convicted Soviet and Chinese spies, only two received life sentences, and two-thirds were sentenced to less time than Pollard has served so far. He further stated that "Pollard has cooperated fully with the U.S. government, pledged not to profit from his crime (e.g., from book sales), and has many times expressed remorse for what he did." Woolsey expressed his belief that Pollard is still imprisoned only because he is an American Jew.
At the 1998 Wye River Conference, Benjamin Netanyahu demanded Pollard's release, and President Clinton made a public statement about reviewing the case. This precipitated an "incredulous" reaction in the American intelligence community. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as six other former U.S. Secretaries of Defense (Melvin R. Laird, Frank C. Carlucci, Richard B. Cheney, Caspar W. Weinberger, James R. Schlesinger and Elliot L. Richardson) spoke out in opposition to clemency for Jonathan Pollard. They were joined by several senior congressional leaders.
Four past directors of Naval Intelligence, William Studeman, Sumner Shapiro, John L. Butts, and Thomas Brooks, authored a response to the talk of clemency and what they termed "the myths that have arisen from this clever public relations campaign ... aimed at transforming Pollard from greedy, arrogant betrayer of the American national trust into Pollard, committed Israeli patriot". They asserted that Pollard passed information to three other countries before engaging in espionage activity on behalf of Israel, and that he had offered his services to a fourth country while he was spying for Israel.
We... feel obligated to go on record with the facts regarding Pollard in order to dispel the myths that have arisen from this clever public relations campaign... aimed at transforming Pollard from greedy, arrogant betrayer of the American national trust into Pollard, committed Israeli patriot.
Pollard pleaded guilty and therefore never was publicly tried. Thus, the American people never came to know that he 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. They also never came to understand that he was being highly paid for his services....
Pollard and his apologists argue he turned over to the Israelis information they were being denied that was critical to their security. The fact is, however, Pollard had no way of knowing what the Israeli government was already receiving by way of official intelligence exchange agreements.... Some of the data he compromised had nothing to do with Israeli security or even with the Middle East. He betrayed worldwide intelligence data, including sources and methods developed at significant cost to the U.S. taxpayer. As a result of his perfidy, some of those sources are lost forever
... Another claim Pollard made is that the U.S. government reneged on its bargain not to seek the life sentence. What is not heard is that Pollard's part of the bargain was to cooperate fully in an assessment of the damage he had done and to refrain from talking to the press prior to the completion of his sentencing. He blatantly and contemptuously failed to live up to either part of the plea agreement.... It was this coupled with the magnitude and consequences of his criminal actions that resulted in the judge imposing a life sentence.... The appellate court subsequently upheld the life sentence.
If, as Pollard and his supporters claim, he has "suffered enough" for his crimes, he is free to apply for parole as the American judicial system provides. In his arrogance, he has refused to do so, but insists on being granted clemency or a pardon.
Admiral Shapiro, himself Jewish, stated that he was troubled by the support of Jewish organizations for Pollard: "We work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are, and to have somebody screw it up ... and then to have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me."
According to American intelligence expert John Loftus, former U.S. government prosecutor and army intelligence officer, Pollard could not have revealed the identities of American spies as Pollard lacked the security clearance to access this information. In the opinion of Loftus, "Pollard's continued incarceration is due to horrible stupidity."
Ron Olive, retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service, led the Pollard investigation. In 2006 his book, Capturing Jonathan Pollard – How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice, was published. Olive wrote that Pollard did not serve Israel solely, and that Pollard confessed to passing secrets to South Africa and to his financial advisers, shopping his access to Pakistan and recruiting others for money.
New Republic editor (and vocal supporter of Israel) Martin Peretz has argued against freeing Pollard, writing that "Jonathan Pollard is not a Jewish martyr. He is a convicted espionage agent who spied on his country for both Israel and Pakistan (!) – a spy, moreover, who got paid for his work. His professional career, then, reeks of infamy and is suffused with depravity." Peretz called Pollard's supporters "professional victims, mostly brutal themselves, who originate in the ultra-nationalist and religious right. They are insatiable. And they want America to be Israel's patsy."
Former FBI and navy lawyer M.E. "Spike" Bowman, top legal adviser to navy intelligence at the time, and with intimate knowledge of the Pollard case, has issued a detailed critique of the case for clemency, asserting "Because the case never went to trial, it is difficult for outside observers to understand the potential impact and complexity of the Pollard betrayal. There is no doubt that Pollard was devoted to Israel. However, the extent of the theft and the damage was far broader and more complex than evidenced by the single charge and sentence." Bowman wrote that Pollard "was neither a U.S. nor an Israeli patriot. He was a self-serving, gluttonous character seeking financial reward and personal gratification."
In September 2011, Vice President Joe Biden was reported by The New York Times to have told a group of rabbis, "President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, 'Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time. If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.'" A few days later, Biden denied having used those words although he acknowledged that the sentiment attributed to him was, in fact, his position on the issue.
In April 2012, Pollard was rushed to the emergency room after complaining of extreme pain. President Shimon Peres presented a letter signed by 80 Israel legislators and addressed to President Obama requesting Pollard's release on behalf of the citizens of Israel.
According to the CIA's 1987 damage assessment of Pollard's crimes, which was declassified on December 14, 2012, Pollard was not asked by his Israeli handlers to gather information on U.S. military activities, but rather to collect U.S. intelligence on Arab states, Pakistan and the Soviet Union, and especially their weapons systems.
Pollard divorced his first wife, Anne, after her release from prison. Following his divorce, he remarried an activist who had been working to free him, Esther "Elaine" Zeitz. Mrs. Pollard is active in the Israeli media on her husband's behalf, calling for his release or criticizing officials she believes have forgotten about him. In 1996, she embarked upon a public hunger strike, which she hoped would lead to the release of her husband. There have been some questions in the media as to whether the two are actually legally wed.
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