A year back we called for Jonathan Pollard’s release on humanitarian grounds– the guy’s been in prison 30 years. But we’re both a little irritated by the media’s coverage of his crimes. The media aren’t talking about an issue at the center of the case: how much of Pollard’s disclosures were turned over to the Soviet Union, and put others’ lives at risk.
Typical is a New York Times piece on Pollard by Ronen Bergman, an Israeli, saying that the reason Pollard spent so much time in prison was the “nationalistic campaign” mounted by Israelis and his wife, which evidently irked US authorities. Bergman writes:
At the heart of their campaign was the argument that Mr. Pollard acted purely out of concern for Israel’s security, that he stole classified documents only when he found out that America wasn’t sharing information vital to Israel’s security. They also claim that Mr. Pollard has been imprisoned “six times longer” than any other spy – proof of anti-Semitism, in their eyes.
This is simply not the case. The reason that Pollard was kept in prison for so long is that American authorities knew that he had taken a vast amount of US intelligence, including a top secret manual detailing methods for the collection of intelligence around the world. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is adamant that Pollard shouldn’t be freed; he publishes a letter he wrote to his boss George W. Bush in 2001, in which he was joined by seven former Defense Secretaries opposing Pollard’s release.
The Times has ignored the Soviet question here and here. The Washington Post ignored it in the main news story and in a followup story on the extent of Pollard’s damage. Politico merely touches on it. Tim Phelps in the LA Times gets to it nine paragraphs down in his story:
“It was a gigantic amount of information, and stuff of the highest top-secret code word classification,” Joseph diGenova, the Washington lawyer who prosecuted Pollard, said in an interview Tuesday.
DiGenova said that U.S. intelligence authorities suspect that some of the material obtained from Pollard was bartered to the Soviet Union in return for the release of Soviet Jews to Israel, and that U.S. intelligence “assets” in the Soviet Union were compromised and possibly killed as a result.
The American public would be interested to know about this angle; and legislators ought to demand an accounting of the damage before Pollard is freed.
Some U.S. intelligence analysts believe that documents stolen by Pollard were handed over to Moscow by Soviet moles within the Israeli intelligence service. Neil Livingstone of Georgetown University argued, “There’s no question that Mossad [Israel’s intelligence agency] is penetrated. A lot of what Pollard stole wasn’t related to Israeli security. Israel is a great trader in intelligence. To get an advantage someplace, they get something someone else wants and they create an indebtedness.”
The leading source of the theory is The Traitor, a 1999 piece by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, detailing the allegations that the material ended up in Soviet hands, as a trade for Soviet emigres to Israel:
A number of officials strongly suspect that the Israelis repackaged much of Pollard’s material and provided it to the Soviet Union in exchange for continued Soviet permission for Jews to emigrate to Israel. Other officials go further, and say there was reason to believe that secret information was exchanged for Jews working in highly sensitive positions in the Soviet Union. A significant percentage of Pollard’s documents, including some that described the techniques the American Navy used to track Soviet submarines around the world, was of practical importance only to the Soviet Union. One longtime C.I.A. officer who worked as a station chief in the Middle East said he understood that “certain elements in the Israeli military had used it” — Pollard’s material — “to trade for people they wanted to get out,” including Jewish scientists working in missile technology and on nuclear issues. Pollard’s spying came at a time when the Israeli government was publicly committed to the free flow of Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union. The officials stressed the fact that they had no hard evidence — no “smoking gun,” in the form of a document from an Israeli or a Soviet archive — to demonstrate the link between Pollard, Israel, and the Soviet Union, but they also said that the documents that Pollard had been directed by his Israeli handlers to betray led them to no other conclusion.
High-level suspicions about Israeli-Soviet collusion were expressed as early as December, 1985, a month after Pollard’s arrest, when William J. Casey, the late C.I.A. director, who was known for his close ties to the Israeli leadership, stunned one of his station chiefs by suddenly complaining about the Israelis breaking the “ground rules.” The issue arose when Casey urged increased monitoring of the Israelis during an otherwise routine visit, I was told by the station chief, who is now retired. “He asked if I knew anything about the Pollard case,” the station chief recalled, and he said that Casey had added, “For your information, the Israelis used Pollard to obtain our attack plan against the U.S.S.R. all of it. The coordinates, the firing locations, the sequences. And for guess who? The Soviets.” Casey had then explained that the Israelis had traded the Pollard data for Soviet emigres. “How’s that for cheating?” he had asked.
In subsequent interviews, former C.I.A. colleagues of Casey’s were unable to advance his categorical assertion significantly. Duane Clarridge, then in charge of clandestine operations in Europe, recalled that the C.I.A. director had told him that the Pollard material “goes beyond just the receipt in Israel of this stuff.” But Casey, who had many close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, hadn’t told Clarridge how he knew what he knew. Robert Gates, who became deputy C.I.A. director in April, 1986, told me that Casey had never indicated to him that he had specific information about the Pollard material arriving in Moscow. “The notion that the Russians may have gotten some of the stuff has always been a viewpoint,” Gates said, but not through the bartering of emigres. “The only view I heard expressed was that it was through intelligence operations” — the K.G.B.
In any event, there was enough evidence, officials told me, to include a statement about the possible flow of intelligence to the Soviet Union in Defense Secretary Weinberger’s top-secret declaration that was presented to the court before Pollard’s sentencing. There was little doubt, I learned from an official who was directly involved, that Soviet intelligence had access to the most secret information in Israel. “The question,” the official said, “was whether we could prove it was Pollard’s material that went over the aqueduct. We couldn’t get there, so we suggested” in the Weinberger affidavit that the possibility existed. Caution was necessary, the official added, for “fear that the other side would say that ‘these people are seeing spies under the bed.’ “…
The Justice Department further informed Judge Robinson, in a publicly filed memorandum, that “numerous” analyses of Soviet missile systems had been sold by Pollard to Israel, and that those documents included “information from human sources whose identity could be inferred by a reasonably competent intelligence analyst. Moreover, the identity of the authors of these classified publications” was clearly marked.
A retired Navy admiral who was directly involved in the Pollard investigation told me, “There is no question that the Russians got a lot of the Pollard stuff. The only question is how did it get there?” The admiral, like Robert Gates, had an alternative explanation. He pointed out that Israel would always play a special role in American national security affairs. “We give them truckloads of stuff in the normal course of our official relations,” the admiral said. “And they use it very effectively. They do things worth doing, and they will go places where we will not go, and do what we do not dare to do.” Nevertheless, he said, it was understood that the Soviet intelligence services had long since penetrated Israel. (One important Soviet spy, Shabtai Kalmanovitch, whose job at one point was to ease the resettlement of Russian emigrants in Israel, was arrested in 1987.) It was reasonably assumed in the aftermath of Pollard, the admiral added, that Soviet spies inside Israel had been used to funnel some of the Pollard material to Moscow.
A full accounting of the materials provided by Pollard to the Israelis has been impossible to obtain
Hersh’s piece suggests that Pollard’s disclosure placed a lot of real people at risk:
DIAL-COINS is the acronym for the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Community On-Line Intelligence System, which was one of the government’s first computerized information-retrieval-network systems. The system, which was comparatively primitive in the mid-nineteen-eighties — it used an 8088 operating chip and thermafax paper — could not be accessed by specific issues or key words but spewed out vast amounts of networked intelligence data by time frame. Nevertheless, DIAL-COINS contained all the intelligence reports filed by Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine attaches in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East. One official who had been involved with it told me recently, “It was full of great stuff, particularly in HUMINT — human intelligence. Many Americans who went to the Middle East for business or political reasons agreed, as loyal citizens, to be debriefed by American defense attaches after their visits. They were promised anonymity — many had close friends inside Israel and the nearby Arab states who would be distressed by their collaboration — and the reports were classified. “It’s who’s talking to whom,” the officer said. “Like handing you the address book of the spooks for a year.”