Last month at a National Summit to Re-Assess the US Israel Special Relationship in Washington, M.E. Bowman, who had a long career in the US intelligence establishment in the Navy, FBI, and National Counterintelligence office, gave a talk titled “The Jonathan Pollard Affair: What does it mean? What does it not mean?” (Bowman penned an NYT piece on Pollard in January, and was written up in the Washington Post in 2010.)
The highlights? Pollard was in it for money, would have sold to anyone. He gave the Israelis so much they had to install two high-speed copiers to handle the volume. By his own admission, those documents would fill a space 6 feet by 6 feet by 10 feet. He never told authorities all that he gave, and the U.S. hasn’t gotten the stuff back. An extended excerpt:
I have worked every major intelli — every major espionage operation between 1979 and 2009. And quite a few that weren’t major operations as well. In my judgment there are four espionage agents who stand out as the ones who did the most damage to the United States. Chronologically they are John Walker, Jonathan Pollard, Aldrich Ames and Bob Hanson, who I knew personally. I never worked the Aldrich Ames case, that’s the only one that I didn’t work because I was transitioning from the Navy to the FBI at that time.
Now, why do I say that Jonathan Pollard is a major problem or did a major damage to us? Background for him, as you heard, he was a Navy Intelligence Analyst. And he wanted to make a lot of money. And he had ideas about weapons schemes and things like this. But one day he was talking to a friend of his in New York who commented that he had met a very interesting person, a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force named Avi Sella and Pollard said can you introduce me to him?
And he did. And right off the bat, Jonathan Pollard said I can help you, what — you know, what is it you would like to have? Well Sella naturally had Jonathan Pollard checked out and they realized that he was intent on what he said. And so he said yes, we’ll be glad to receive anything that you can get.
Well Pollard had a top secret SCI clearance and he had a courier pass. So he could take classified information out and anything he wanted. And he started giving information to the Israelis and one of the comments they said was, don’t give us any secret information, we don’t need that level. Only top secret and SCI [Sensitive Compartmented] information.
And so that’s what he started doing. And because of his credentials and his courier pass, he could go to the various intelligence libraries and get anything he wanted. And pretty soon the Israelis started tasking him with specific documents they wanted.
And the — the way they were able to do that is they had a book that was published by the DIA that was basically a catalog of all of the things that were available. And Jonathan Pollard didn’t give it to them, they got that from somebody else. So Jonathan Pollard started giving them whatever they wanted.
Now just to recap for a moment what Pollard was trying to do. He didn’t start out to give information to the Israelis, he started out trying to sell anything he could, including classified information. He approached the Pakistanis, he approached the South Africans, he approached the Australians. He turned over classified information to a South African attaché just as a show of good faith.
So you know, he’s not a person who was trying just to help the Israelis, he was a pretty venal person here. At one point when they were — he was meeting with his handlers in Paris, he started commenting you know, I’m really taking a big risk, you know, all this sort of stuff. You know I can really get a lot of time in jail for what I’m doing, it’s a big deal. And the Israelis said well, what is it you want? And he said, Up it by $1,000 a month.
So you know this is — this is really what he is. He’s a person trying to make money. Now what did he do to earn my suggestion that he’s one of the top four? He took so much information to the Israelis, that they had to install two high speed copiers in an apartment to take care of everything that he brought them.
He would take information out every night in a couple of briefcases, give it to them to copy and then because they had high speed copiers, they were able to get it back to him quickly. And then he would replace it as soon as he got to work in the morning.
How much did he give them? By his own admission, he said I gave them enough information to occupy a space that would be six feet by six feet by ten feet. That’s his admission. We never got the documents back from the Israelis that he gave them. Now they did give us a few documents back, they gave us a couple of thousand back.
But really, you know we don’t know all that he gave. Although Jonathan Pollard has a — a almost photographic mind. So he was able to tell us an awful lot about what he did. Now the reason he told us all this stuff is we made a deal that we would — his wife was involved in this too. And we made a deal that we would cap her sentence to five years. And that we would not ask for the maximum punishment for him.
Now the information that he turned over, some of it actually was information covered by 18 U.S. Code 194, which is mostly electronics communication information. It carries the death penalty. But at the time that Jonathan Pollard was — did his espionage work, there was no death penalty in the United States. That had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. And at that time, a life sentence was really in practice 30 years. So that’s what we were looking at.
Jonathan Pollard was pretty good about telling us all the information that he had given over. And as a consequence of that, one of the things that we do usually with espionage agents, or at least that I did, is I would write an Affidavit for a senior officer to sign that explained what the harm was.
So of the things that he gave us, I selected 19 different documents that represented the different categories of information that he had turned over to the Israelis. And I — just using each one, I explained what the harm is from this type of information, not from this document, but from this type of information and gave it to Secretary Weinberger. And Secretary Weinberger made his edits to it.
One of his edits — I have to tell you about this. One of his edits was he put in a sentence in there that said that if the death penalty were available, I would have no hesitation in recommending it. I crossed that out. And the next version I sent in to him, he put the same thing back in. And finally I said Mr. Secretary, if we can’t ask for the maximum punishment which is life, we can’t say that death is appropriate. He finally got the picture.
But anyway, this Affidavit was then given to Judge Aubrey Robinson, who is now deceased and I took it to him personally. I sat in an out room while he read it and gave it back to me and said thank you very much, that’s all he said. And then we went to sentencing. And at sentencing, the prosecutors really didn’t say anything. They got up and they said he’s done harm, he should receive a substantial sentence, but that’s about the character of all they said.
Jonathan Pollard got up and talked about what he had done and how sorry he was, and by the way I really didn’t do anything that caused any harm. And Judge Robinson said come up here young man. And he pulled out the Affidavit which he now had in his hand. And he pulled it open to a few pages and he said okay, now explain this one.
And Jonathan Pollard couldn’t answer what it was, because it was a very big deal. In fact it has been made public now, so I can tell you what Judge Robinson was pointing at. It was something that’s what we all the Raisin Manual. And the Raisin Manual is — was at that time, a document that described all of the communications capabilities of the Middle East and how the NSA could attack them. And Judge Robinson just said explain this one young man and he was done.
So at sentencing, Jonathan Pollard got life, which as I said, meant about thirty years. He has been there for about 27 or 8 years at this point. He has been eligible for parole for some time. He will not ask for parole because he wants clemency so as soon as he steps out of prison, he can leave the United States and go to Israel.
So that is my story of Jonathan Pollard. I am going to finish it looks like 13 seconds early. So I thank you for coming here today, it’s been a pleasure.