It hasn’t made the news in a big way, but in late July it was reported that the perpetrator of one of the USA’s most controversial espionage cases has been granted parole and will be released from prison at the end of November. When that happens, it will mark the end of 30 years in high security federal prisons for a man who spied against the United States – on behalf of Israel.
It’s Jonathan Pollard’s employer which has made the case controversial. In the eyes of many of his defenders, Israel is a vital US ally and passing information to them isn’t a serious offense. Ever since he was sentenced to life in prison back in 1987, there’s been a steady campaign to reduce or commute his sentence, or even release him into Israeli custody. That pressure has come from Israel itself as well as the USA, especially since Pollard was given Israeli citizenship in 1995. The issue has been raised by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Pollard’s continued incarceration has become a minor controversy in some circles. After all, why jail a man for an action that could do no harm to US interests – passing information to a friend?
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Israel denied any involvement for 13 years, claiming that Pollard’s recruitment and handling was “an unauthorized rogue operation.” It was only in 1998 that Netanyahu, then two years into his first term, decided to end the deception and admit Israeli complicity. Pollard, a civilian analyst with US Naval Intelligence, had made initial approaches to an Israeli officer in early 1984. He was quickly recruited and within days, despite being on the Navy’s Caribbean counterterrorism desk, began signing out massive quantities of material that interested Tel Aviv. In exchange, he was given an initial cash payment of $10,000, a monthly salary of $2,500 and assorted gifts, including jewelry.
Over the next year, Pollard passed tens of thousands of documents to his handlers, including vital handbooks on signals intelligence, before a supervisor found information on his desk that didn’t relate to his work. Some queries soon revealed the number of documents he had signed out and copied, and an espionage investigation was started. A week later, the FBI stopped him as he left work; he was carrying classified documents that he wasn’t permitted to take out of the building – and that he shouldn’t even have had. Shortly afterwards, his handlers scattered-flying to Tel Aviv just ahead of the FBI- and Pollard’s wife was also arrested.
This is where it gets murky. The Israelis tried to obstruct the US investigation, harassing the team sent to Israel to find out what has been stolen. That annoyed the USA, particularly Ronald Reagan – who was not, in reality, particularly pro-Israel – and might have played a part in Pollard’s severe sentence.
Or maybe it didn’t. While Pollard’s defenders portray him as a well-meaning man trying to help a friend of America, the truth is a lot less palatable. Yes, Tel Aviv was his main paymaster – but he also passed secret documents to South Africa and probably to Pakistan. Classified material related to China was passed to his wife who used it to gain an advantage in her business dealings, and Pollard also attempted to broker arms deals to various countries including Iran. There’s strong evidence that at least some of the information he passed on ended up in the Soviet Union, but Pollard didn’t care about that – or any other US interest. He was motivated simply by money; the sums Israel paid him were, compared to what most traitors get, immense.
It doesn’t matter what you think the USA’s relation with Israel should be, or how passionately foreign politicians call for his release. Jonathan Pollard is a criminal who betrayed his country for money – a paid traitor. A judge, who unlike Pollard’s supporters had full access to the facts of the case, decided that his crimes deserved a life sentence. Unless anyone can produce evidence to challenge those facts – which doesn’t really seem likely – that decision should stand. Pollard is a spy and a traitor, and he’s exactly where he should be; in jail.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.