Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Pollard Defenders Vindicated

After 25 years, the CIA has declassified documents that show Jonathan Pollard never spied on the U.S. for Israel

Print Email
Jonathan Pollard with parts of the first pages of Foreign Denial and Deception Analysis Committee, Director of Central Intelligence, The Jonathan Jay Pollard Espionage Case: A Damage Assessment, Oct. 30, 1987, released in 2012 by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel. (Collage Tablet Magazine; original photo and document The National Security Archive)
Related Content

Spies Like Us

Spy vs. spy intrigue between the CIA and Israel, centered around the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv

Jonathan Pollard, a former Naval intelligence service analyst, broke the law by selling American secrets to Israel. For that crime, he is currently serving the 25th year of a life sentence—the same sentence handed down to Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, American intelligence officers who sold secrets to the Soviet Union, a dangerous Cold War enemy for nearly half a century.

Since his 1985 arrest, Pollard’s case has sharply divided Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. To detractors, it makes little difference that Pollard gave top secret intelligence documents to an American ally. From their perspective—and this includes many in the pro-Israel camp—one of the most dangerous spies in American history richly deserves to end his life behind bars. But to Pollard’s supporters, including those who continue to demand his freedom, even naming a square for him in Jerusalem, he is a hero of the Jewish state.

Even as Israeli leaders have regularly petitioned their American counterparts for Pollard’s release, so little has been known about the details of the Pollard case that it was easy to assume the very worst. For instance, there was the widespread belief that Pollard had committed “treason,” as then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger wrote in a memorandum to the judge sentencing Pollard. There was also speculation that the intelligence he sold to Israel had found its way into the hands of the Soviet Union, which had led to the deaths of several American agents. Perhaps the truth was even worse: Why else would former CIA director George Tenet have threatened to resign when President Bill Clinton considered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to have Pollard released?

After more than 25 years of speculation, documents released last week to the National Security Archives at George Washington University provide us, for the first time, with many of the details of the espionage activities that have made Pollard one of the most controversial figures in the history of the U.S. intelligence community. What the documents, particularly the CIA’s 1987 damage assessment of Pollard, show is that both Pollard’s detractors and supporters possess vastly distorted views of him. But it is the narrative put forth by those who insisted that Pollard was the most treacherous U.S. spy since Benedict Arnold that has caused real damage to the fabric of this country—more damage, in fact, than Jonathan Pollard ever did.

Contrary to the widespread belief, the CIA report reveals that Pollard did not procure secrets about the United States—nor did Israel ask him to. The intelligence he provided his Israeli handlers consisted of the information that the United States had acquired concerning Arab and other Middle Eastern states. This information may not change the minds of long-time detractors, but it vindicates those who have argued that Pollard, having already served a punishment that fit his crime, should be released.


A Stanford graduate with a B.A. in political science, Pollard started working as a naval intelligence analyst in June 1979 at the age of 24. The newly released documents verify that Pollard was an emotionally unstable man whose erratic behavior, boasting, financial problems, drug use, and fantastical stories alarmed his superiors—so much so that, in August 1980, his top-secret clearance was suspended “owing to evidence of gross unreliability,” and he was sent to a psychiatrist. Nevertheless, less than eight months later, a psychiatrist judged that he was “thoroughly capable of handling the duties of his job and not a security risk.” His top-secret clearance was reinstated in January of 1982.

In June 1984, he began his espionage career, selling secrets to Israel. (This lasted until his arrest Nov. 21, 1985.) Pollard’s initial contact was with Aviem Sella, a former Israeli pilot studying for a graduate degree at NYU. Sella eventually passed him on to Joseph Yagur, counselor for scientific affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York, and working for an Israeli intelligence agency attached to the defense ministry known by the Hebrew acronym LAKAM, the bureau of scientific relations. Yagur, according to the damage assessment, “emphasized that Pollard should seek military and scientific intelligence on Arab States, Pakistan, and the Soviet Union in its role as military patron of the Arabs.”

Israel “did not request or receive intelligence concerning some of the most sensitive US national-security resources,” Pollard told his CIA investigators. “The Israelis never expressed interest in US military activities, plans, capabilities, or equipment. Likewise, they did not ask for intelligence on US communications per se.” The fact that Pollard did not collect intelligence against his native country is reflected in the June 4, 1986, indictment handed down by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Pollard was charged with violating Title 18 United States Code, section 794(a), gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government. This federal law “makes it a crime to deliver defense information to a foreign government ‘with intent or reason to believe’ that the information is to be used in one of two ways: ‘to the injury of the United States,’ or, alternatively, ‘to the advantage of a foreign nation.’ ”

Presumably recognizing that Israel is an ally and not an enemy, the indictment specifies only the second part of the statute, charging Pollard with delivering “information and documents relating to the national defense of the United States, having intent and reason to believe that the same would be used to the advantage of ISRAEL.”

“The indictment is scrupulous,” I was told by Angelo Codevilla, who has followed the Pollard case since serving as a senior staff member for the Senate intelligence committee from 1978 to 1985. Codevilla argues that the swarm of accusations against Pollard over the years is implausible on the face of it. “Pollard was an analyst. He is alleged to have given away information to which no analyst had any access,” he said. “All of what has been said about what he did, including the secret memorandum that Caspar Weinberger wrote to the court in order to influence the judge’s sentence, is nonsense.”

Weinberger’s 1986 memo is available alongside the recently released cache of documents but remains heavily redacted. However, his March 1987 supplemental memo is unclassified. “The punishment imposed,” wrote Weinberger, “should reflect the perfidy of the individual’s actions, the magnitude of the treason committed, and the needs of national security.”

But of course Pollard was not charged with levying war against the United States or aiding America’s enemies—i.e., treason. Codevilla explained that Pollard’s uniquely hard sentence is a function of the Weinberger memo. “When someone is indicted,” said Codevilla, “the sentence has to be conformant with the dimensions of the damage alleged in indictment. Instead, the sentencing of Pollard was conformant with Weinberger’s memorandum to the court. He was sentenced to life on the basis of rumors.”

Indeed, as James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA under the Clinton Administration, noted to me, Pollard is serving time comparable to Ames and Hanssen’s. But unlike those two Soviet spies, said Woolsey, “Pollard did not get anybody killed and was not spying for an enemy. We’ve had South Korea, the Philippines, and Greece, all friendly countries, spy on us. We caught them and they served time, which has turned out to be a very few years, or much less time than Pollard has already served.”

Codevilla suggests that even Weinberger’s memo may have been the end result of bureaucratic bluster. “All of this started in 1981 when Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak,” he said. “The CIA was aghast that the Israelis had done this, because they thought they had a good thing going with Saddam Hussein.” Even as the senators on the intelligence committee, including Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Scoop Jackson, all celebrated the Israeli strike, the CIA was incensed.

“Bobby Ray Inman [then deputy director of the CIA] came into the Senate committee stomping up and down, and said he was going to cut off the satellite intelligence they fed Israel,” Codevilla recalled. “What Pollard did was to ignore these restrictions—which he had no right to do—and continued to supply Israel with the information. His sin was more against U.S. policy than U.S. security. The reason for the animus against him was that he subverted U.S. policy.”

That particular policy dovetailed perfectly with the CIA’s longstanding pro-Arab predisposition. “That the CIA has these prejudices is fact,” said Codevilla. “The opinion of this Italian-American Catholic is that there is also a long residue of anti-Semitism in the agency.”

Woolsey is one of the few figures from the intelligence community, and certainly the only former director of the CIA, who believes Pollard should now be released. “When I was director, I looked into it carefully, and I opposed clemency then,” Woolsey told me. “But now some 20 years have passed and the whole point is to link sentence and comparable sentences. Anyone who thinks what he did is comparable to Ames and Hanssen has no understanding of what they did. If you are hung up on Pollard having spied for Israel, then pretend he is Filipino-American, Korean-American, or Greek-American spy (we have had all three) and the facts are otherwise the same, you’d conclude he ought to be released.”

Still, it’s doubtful that even the revelation that Pollard did not spy against the United States will change minds among his detractors, especially those critical of the U.S.-Israel alliance. After all, for those who think the bilateral relationship is more of a burden than a boon, it’s the Pollard case they cite as the prime example of Israel’s aggressive intelligence collection against the United States—a sign of ingratitude hardly appropriate, the argument goes, for a client that gets $3 billion in aid from Washington annually. Trying to reason with those who see Pollard as Exhibit A of Jews whose loyalty to their country of origin is dubious is hopeless.

Ultimately, the Pollard case is not a referendum on Jews or Israel, or the U.S.-Israel alliance. “The story of the Pollard case is a blot on American justice,” said Codevilla. “It makes you ashamed to be an American.”


Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Yes intellectually you can make any number of arguments about the miscarriage of justice where Pollard is concerned. In fact the recently released documents show what many had been saying for decades that in fact Pollard was blamed for some of the crimes that Aldrich Ames committed, Weinberger was way out of line in what he wrote and the Judge in the case acted terribly unprofessionally .

However, Pollard supporters forget one salient point…it does not matter who Pollard spied for and what information in the long run was relayed. The truth of the matter is that Pollard took classified US documents and gave this information to a foreign nation. He betrayed his oath to the American people. Pollard’s allegiance was supposed to be to the USA not to Israel. If he didn’t like what he saw happening in the Pentagon there were any number of avenues he could have taken instead of spying on his country…primarily resigning and leaving the USA comes to mind.

Personally he can rot in prison to the end of his days as far as I am concerned.

    No one’s saying that he didn’t spy Indy. That’s been noted up front.

    What’s been noted is that those who committed similar crimes, have served their sentences, all apparently, quite fewer in years, and it’s been over and done with.

    The issue raised here is not that Pollard was guilty – obviously he was since he consented to a plea-bargain agreement, but that the sentence, is wholly out of line with the crimes that he was charged with. Worse, that his sentence wasn’t due to crimes he committed, but railroading by the CIA and Casper Weinberger.

    That, to be blunt, is not justice. Oathbreaking, no matter how severe a rhetorical term, does not supersede the law. The law takes the breach of oath into account for sentencing, but “OATHBREAKING” in itself, does not translate into a life sentence or capital punishment.

    None of this justifies Pollard’s conduct or crimes, but keeps his actions within the realm of the law and the US justice system. By contrast your response is personal pique, not justice. That you state your argument even as you point out the fact that justice was miscarried (Pollard was accused and sentenced for crimes he did not actually commit – those committed by Aldrich Ames, and the hijacking of justice by Weinberger and the improper actions of the judge shows a lack of consideration in justice and a search for revenge, not for Pollard’s crimes, but for who he is. Such ideas are not the ideals of a patriot.

      From the readings I’ve done, I think Pollard is as guilty as week-old roquefort is stinky, but two plus decades in jail is more than enough. He should be let out already.

      The “Oath” is the law. When you sign the oath to receive a security clearance you are well aware that if you violate it you break the law and risk prison. It is not a boy scout oath that he broke. He betrayed the American people by what he did. It is by the way, the same “Oath” my father had to sign when he received his security clearance. You are well aware of the penalties of law if you betray your country.

      And yes, you bet its personal. Too many Americans have died to preserve this nations’ freedoms. Too many Americans have risked life and limb to preserve this Union and the Constitution of this country.I have no sympathy for his reasons. Just like I have no sympathy for any traitor. And yes when you spy for any other nation, even a friendly nation, you are a traitor.

      I don’t care what others received. That his sentence is not “justice.” According to whom? Obviously not the court, the judge who sentenced him nor any of those reviewing his appeals. Those who are wasting their time defending Pollard, need to spend their considerable political klout making certain that this nation stays strong. Stop worrying about someone who did not worry about the well being of the United States.

        Jacob Arnon says:

        This isn’t about an oath and it isn’t about “spying.” This is about sticking it to “the Jew.” Independent “patriot” is independent of any sense of justice. He is an old fashion antisemite of the type that voted for Hitler.

          OH I love total fool call me a racist and an antisemite..apart
          from the fact that I am a Jewish conservative and an ardent Zionist what
          I am is an American who despises when the Jewish-American community
          becomes whiny and an embarrassment. It seems you can not tell the
          difference between those who hate the Jewish people and those who
          understand that there is a limit to political good will and I do not
          wish to spend my political good will on defending a traitor. i will use
          my political good will on keeping another 6 million Jews alive. Shmuck

        LtcHoward says:

        “THE JUDGE WHO SENTENCED HIM NOR ANY OF THOSE REVIEWING HIS APPEALS.” The judge (Black) who sentenced him permitted the prosecution to meet behind closed doors with him with the defense not present. They told him that Pollard had spied for the regime in South Africa. The Weinberger memo was not reviewed by the defense since it was sealed by the judge. The appeals were rejected on technical grounds, none of which had anything to do with the facts of the case.


        When I was a young officer I was called for the defense of a professor of mine who was an admitted communist. I despise communists. I testified truthfully that he was a superior professor and never introduced his own political beliefs into the class. I testified in uniform. Later my commanding general commended me for my honesty. I have spent most of my adult life helping our nation remain safe and strong. I do not consider defendingPollard a waste of time but rather an obligation of my oath to defend the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Join me and use your considerable passion to defend the basic liberties of all Americans.

          David_Turner says:

          LtcHoward, it seems you missed the innuendo implicit in his comment that, “THOSE WHO ARE WASTING THEIR TIME DEFENDING POLLARD, NEED TO SPEND THEIR CONSIDERABLE POLITICAL KLOUT MAKING CERTAIN THAT THIS NATION STAYS STRONG.” In 1976 then Chairman JCS Brown fumed against the Jews who, “They own, you know, the banks in this country, the newspapers. Just look at where the Jewish money is.”

          You can’t reason, and certainly not enlist, a racist, Ltc.

          Maybe you have no idea about the history of Jewish American community in the USA. We had no power during the Holocaust and had no way to save our people in Europe. We vowed to never let that happen again. Therefore we worked over the decades to create a political force that makes our concerns important to the powers that be in DC. Never again were we going to let another 6 million Jews die. We have that ability today. It is called lobbying and it is the same right that any American has. it is called political involvement and that is why everyone talks about the “Jewish vote” in Presidential elections.That you are too ignorant to understand the difference between wasting considerable political capital on a traitor and defending the State of Israel makes you a fool. That you immediately jump to call people who you do not know names makes you a shmuck.

          David_Turner says:

          Appears I struck a nerve, IP. I wrote in generalities about precisely the issue you raise, Jewish powerlessness. I’m somewhat familiar with our history here and abroad. Based on that I suspect we had at least as much “influence” in 1943 as today. But that’s neither here nor there. What I was addressing is the fact that Pollard is a symbol of American bureaucratic antisemitsm. And the fact that Jewish “leaders” have, in recent years, found the courage to press for his release, that Pollard remains imprisoned is evidence obvious of the lack of that “power” and influence you seem to believe we have.

          The last time Obama visited Israel… Oh yes, before the first election. What does that suggest regarding Jewish Power to you? Remember that AIPAC bogus FBI “investigation”? What does that suggest regarding Jewish Power?

          I mean no criticism, IP, only suggest that your view of our present/future in this country might be over-optimistic.

        Yes Indy, “the oath is the law” and yes he broke it. However, there are laws on the books for a reason. There are laws, there are penalties for breaching those laws – whether it is a speeding ticket or security clearance. But the penalties for those crimes are already on the books.

        I mean really, you don’t think that the judges make this stuff up on the fly do you? Or perhaps you do. You think that a judge sits there on the bench and says ‘OK, today I’ll wing it. So if the judge has a bad hair day or a fight with his wife, the defendant is up sh*t creek without a paddle.

        That though, is not justice, but personal pique. So too, is your comment that “it’s personal”. While that may make for a good movie line, it’s horrible for an objective and impartial judicial system. Your personal animosity for Pollard, while legitimate, is not justice by any stretch of the imagination and is just as much a breach – if not more – than his espionage. By trashing the US judicial system, you would create more damage to the Union and the Constitution you claim to love so well, than his transferring information about Arab countries to an allied state.

        And that, is why justice is supposed to be objective and impartial, and why there are laws and penalties already debated and ordered so that blood revenge doesn’t have its day. Just as the courts sided with the ACLU and the neo-Nazis back in the 1970’s to let them speak, just as the courts protect the speech of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, so too, do the courts adhere to rules that apply to ALL defendants and convicted.

        Either we are a nation of laws or not. That you choose to believe in some but are ready to trash others because of your own personal animosity doesn’t make for a strong union.

          OH I love total fools call me a racist and an antisemite..apart from the fact that I am a Jewish conservative and an ardent Zionist what I am is an American who despises when the Jewish-American community becomes whiny and an embarrassment. It seems you can not tell the difference between those who hate the Jewish people and those who understand that there is a limit to political good will and I do not wish to spend my political good will on defending a traitor. i will use my political good will on keeping another 6 million Jews alive. Shmucks

          Please go show me where I called you a racist and an anti-Semite. Don’t put your words in my mouth, your arguments are weak enough as they are.

          We are a nation of laws. They were applied in Pollard’s case.It does not matter what info he gave or to whom, he betrayed his country and gave classified information to a foreign nation. Simple. Not hard. Sentence handed down. Too bad.

          The same applies in cases across the legal spectrum. Different sentences are handed down daily to people who commit similar crimes. This is how the law works. Judges and prosecutors are given wide latitude. The judge in this case decided he had huge latitude and to hand Pollard his tuchas.

          And as far as the US Constitution is concerned, no right or obligation has been ignored by the government in the Pollard case. No right or government obligation has been abused in the Pollard case. The Constitution is fine and working.

          You want “justice?” Go feed the hungry, worry about the homeless, help those who are trafficked by modern-day slave traders, make sure that all children get equal education..go help the helpless and the hopeless. Then you will do justice.

          If the laws that were applied were done under false pretense, then you have a miscarriage of justice Indy.

          This is not a case of handing down a different verdict for a similar crime, but manipulation of evidence resulting in a mismatched sentence. While judges (prosecutors don’t get to issue sentences) have a certain amount of latitude for sentencing, it needs to be based on the law. As you continue to point out, your concern is not with the law or the sentence, but that you have a personal axe to grind with Pollard.

        An oath is not the law, no matter where you go. It is part of the law, but in a just trial it is not the only factor that should be taken into consideration. You have a very black and white way of looking at the world, and a high level of vindictiveness. Vindictiveness is not basis for the law or justice. Americans have indeed died to preserve US freedoms, but their deaths do not justify injustice, precisely because justice is one of the most important freedoms they died for. You say you don’t care what other received. You have a cheek to say so. Part of justice (I used to be a magistrate) lies in taking into consideration earlier offences by the accused but also earlier sentences in comparable cases. To say you don’t care about that is arrogant in the extreme. Your kind of arrogance has no place in any criminal justice system. Pollard did wrong, but he has been punished too harshly and deserves the earliest possible release. We know plenty of terrorists with blood on their hands who walk around and taunt us, yet we do nothing to find and arrest and try them. That would be a better cause for you to take up if you are a genuine American patriot and not just a bag of wind.

      ” the sentence, is wholly out of line with the crimes that he was charged with.”


      Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were given death sentences for spying for a then-ally.

      John Walker, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen are serving life sentences. Jerry Whitworth is serving 365 years.

      All were convicted under the same statute as Pollard. Pollard got off easy as he has been eligible to apply for parole.

        David_Turner says:

        NO disparity for death to a Jewish couple, Ethel set up by the FBI to pressure her husband, guilty of nothing (as was Pollard’s wife, Anne, thirty years later), charged with passing information to “a then ally,” and getting the gas chamber while people named Walker or Ames or Hanssen get life for selling strategic information to an enemy? Have you no decency, no conscience?

        Rebecca Klempner says:

        Walker, Ames and Hanssen are responsible for the deaths of other human beings. They are essentially murderers. Pollard is not. The Rosenberg case is so contraversial, it can’t really be used as comparison.

        And others who were convicted of espionage received lesser sentences. The law is not an all or nothing penalty when it comes to sentencing.

        Russia was not an “ally” in the sense that Israel is. Come on. Be intellectually honest. Russia was the enemy of our enemy, but hardly an ally otherwise.

    Fred Campbell says:

    As a Goy, but strong supporter of Israel, I fervently wish that this blot our respective relations would go away.

    I do not judge Pollard. I do suspect that he got caught in a political warp that inflated his sentence.

    So enough already, send him home.

      Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

      Are you sure that “Goy” is the way you want to represent yourself?

        Goy is not a bad or deragatory word. It just means Christian.

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          No it doesn’t.

          Find a Jew and ask her.

          Fed_Up18 says:

          I am a Jew. Yes, it can be used pejoratively. So can the word “Jew”. Doesn’t stop it from meaning “nation”, no matter how stupidly *some* people use it.

          It actually means “nation.” Not nation like the United States, but nation as in an ethnic group such as the Slavs, Roma, and even the Jews.

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          That’s what it means in Hebrew.

          That is not what it means in Yiddish.

          Natan79 says:

          Bullshitter. Tell us what it means in Swahili. Maybe you’ll sound smarter, rosh katan.

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          Is there something … anything … you wish to communicate to the readers of the Tablet?

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          Goy does not mean Christian – not in Hebrew or in Yiddish.

          It means ‘nations’ or ‘the nations.’ BTW, all non-Jews are not Christians. That’s extremely dumb to say. Please be offended!

        Fred Campbell says:

        From Wikipedia:

        In modern Hebrew and Yiddish the word goy is the standard term for a gentile. The two words are related. In ancient Greek, ta ethne was used to translate ha goyim, both phrases meaning “the nations”. In Latin, gentilis was used to translate the Greek word for “nation”, which led to the word “gentile”.[5]

        In English, the use of the word goy can be controversial. Like other common (and otherwise innocent) terms, it may be assigned pejoratively to non-Jews.[6][7][8] To avoid any perceived offensive connotations, writers may use the English terms “gentile” or “non-Jew”.

        In Yiddish, it is the only proper term for gentile and many bilingual English and Yiddish speakers use it dispassionately [9] or even deliberately.

        Fed_Up18 says:

        Why not? Educated people know that it only means “nation”, & that, in the Torah itself, “goy” is sued to describe the Nation of Israel.

          Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

          Educated people know that “goy” only means that in Hebrew – not in Yiddish. It means something else in Yiddish and in English.

          That’s what educated people know.

          qnetter says:

          It is certainly less derogatory than the other common Yiddish word, “sheygetz.”

    Jacob Arnon says:

    I P there is much that is Wong with your sense of justice.

    I hope you are never in a position where you need to argue for mercy.

    David_Turner says:

    Very generous of you to state the case so succinctly FOR Pollard in paragraph one. Especially noteworthy identifying Aldrich Ames, the CIA’s counter-terror man for Eastern Europe, as guilty of causing the uncovering of America’s espionage rings to the Soviets, the deaths of some. Pollard had previously been accused of that also. And that likely was included in the famous “secret memorandum” Weinberger delivered to Judge Robinson justifying the US abandon its plea agreement. And Ames as the mysterious MR. “X”? Ames certainly fit the bill. And he served the administration by keeping also Israel in the headlines.

    In fact, Patriot, it was the administration that violated its obligations under its intelligence sharing agreement with Israel that led Pollard to seek out Aviem Sella. But, following your good advice, not before complaining to supervision.

    Since you are otherwise so knowledgeable, Patriot, how justify with, “he can rot in prison to the end of his days as far as I am concerned,” since you must also know that, despite Weinberger’s theatrics to the press accusing Pollard of “treason,” should have been shot, etc, even the kangaroo hearing before Judge Robinson only provided for a charge/conviction: providing information to an American ally.

    Logic certainly does not account for your reaction, Patriot: why so passionate?

      LtcHoward says:

      To David Turner: everything you say is 100% accurate.

      ” it was the administration that violated its obligations under its intelligence sharing agreement ”

      Israel did not and does not have a formal mutual defense treaty with the US, and Israel is not a part of any multilateral defense communities such as NATO. The US was under no obligation to give ANY intelligence to Israel.

      Furthermore, Pollard was not high enough up in the chain to be able even to judge what would be passed on even if there WERE such an agreement. Instead, Pollard betrayed the secrets of the US in exchange for money.

        David_Turner says:

        I began responding, Charlie, but a quick glance at your activity over the past hour or so simply confirms you are content with your prejudices. Have a good day!

    LtcHoward says:

    To“Independent patriot”. Your feeling was exactly mine: lock him up and throw away the key”. Then I took the time and effort to familiarize myself with the details. For example an Navy officer named Schwartz (not Jewish) spied for Saudi Arabia. The sensitive information he gathered went to the Soviet Union. His punishment (at the behest of Saudi Arabia) was a dishonorable discharge and no prison time. Unfortunately Pollard was hung as a warning to American Jews. His penalty for his crimes, and they were crimes, and Israel should not be forgiven for using an American Jewish citizen to spy, were paid in full a long time ago. Now, his continued imprisonment has been based on lie after lie. My oath is to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Those who subvert the law should be punished. Those who hijacked the American legal system and had back channel communications with the judge and filed False claims as to the damage he created also should be punished. The ideals of America are what I defend. You should reconsider your view as a patriot. The Constitution is there to defend both you and me and Pollard.

    You think he should rot till death. But whatever his wrongs, this article and some comments show very well that his crimes did not amount to anything like a life sentence. So who the hell are you to sentence him further for crimes he did NOT commit. There is a thing called justice, and it governs affairs in the US. If you punish a man far beyond the limits a just sentence would require, you betray American values just as much as he did, and perhaps more.

Raymond_in_DC says:

“The Israelis never expressed interest in US military activities, plans, capabilities, or equipment. Likewise, they did not ask for intelligence on US communications per se.”

Ironically, Wikileaks exposed a directive to US representatives in Israel to obtain intelligence on (among other things) … Israeli communications systems. Yes, the US spies on Israel.

    Fed_Up18 says:

    Even if Israel *did* spy on us – why should they be different from any other country? Once again, higher standards applied *discriminatorily*

of course we spy on Israel. We spy on all of our friends as well as our enemies.

    Natan79 says:

    True. That’s why Israelis should put a US spy in the slammer for 30 years. See how it feels, buddy.

      LtcHoward says:

      @Nathan79. That one of my people would be caught and imprisoned for a lengthy sentence was always one of my fears. Here the United States would react very strongly in the American population would be outraged. This in American eyes would put Israel in the same light as Iran. Unfortunately, Americans have a very low boiling point when we feel we are being infringed on . We have a very high toleration when Israel is being bombarded by rockets.

I am glad this has come out but am so angry that Jonathan has suffered and been behind bars all these years And for what….lies and the hidden agenda of the U.S.

charliehall says:

“The intelligence he provided his Israeli handlers consisted of the information that the United States had acquired concerning Arab and other Middle Eastern states. ”

That in some respects is even worse than directly selling classified information regarding the defense capabilities of the US, as it almost certainly compromised US assets. Pollard’s life sentence — with possibility of parole — is well deserved. Had he bothered to apply for parole he could have been out of prison 17 years ago.

    LtcHoward says:

    No you are wrong. Where do you get your facts from?

    LtcHoward says:


    Weinberger Gave Judge Wrong Information Resulting in Pollard’s Life Sentence

    Caspar Weinberger
    I previously wrote about new documents declassified in the Jonathan Pollard case, which might help us understand his disproportionate life sentence and why he is still imprisoned after 27 years.

    Pollard’s lawyers negotiated a plea agreement with the government: he agreed to plead guilty and gave up his right to a jury trial; in return, the prosecution agreed not to seek a life sentence. By the precedents set by other cases of espionage on behalf of allies, Pollard expected a much lighter sentence.

    Instead, the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented a memo to the court at the last minute accusing Pollard of doing massive damage to the U.S. The prosecution then reneged on its agreement and the judge sentenced Pollard to life imprisonment. Pollard’s lawyers were able to see the document for a few minutes, but were not given the opportunity to respond. The document has been released in a highly redacted form, so it is still not possible to know precisely what was in it.

    Part of the content was probably assertions that information from Pollard found its way to the Soviet Union, exposing several American agents who were then murdered by the KGB. As I explained Friday, it appears that the agents were actually betrayed either by double agent Aldrich Ames or another ‘mole’ in the CIA who was being protected by Ames. Hershel Shanks explains,

    In 1983 Ames was made chief of the CIA’s Soviet counterintelligence branch in the Soviet-East European Division. Ames was recruited by the Russians in 1984. Ames would, of course, have every reason to deflect suspicion from himself and blame someone else for what was happening in the Moscow bureau – and Ames was in a position to do so.

    The information Pollard passed to Israel about Russian weaponry in Arab states was obtained, at least in part, from American agents in Russia.

    In the intelligence community it was well known that in the past KGB moles had penetrated Israeli intelligence. Perhaps a still-undiscovered Soviet mole inside Israeli intelligence passed the secrets to the Soviets that Pollard had passed to Israel.

    Pollard was not sentenced until March 1987. Ames was still in charge of Soviet counter-intelligence within the CIA. Based on what Ames told him, Weinberger drafted his affidavit to the court [my emphasis].
    But the government apparently provided additional “facts” to the judge. When Pollard attempted (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea in 1990, attorney Alan Dershowitz presented the following affidavit to the court:

    My name is ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ. I am a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. I serve as one of the lawyers for Jonathan J. Pollard. During the 1963 – 1964 Supreme Court term, I was a law clerk to Mr. Justice Arthur Goldberg. Between that time and his death, I remained a close friend and associate of Mr. Justice Goldberg. We worked together on many projects, spoke and met frequently, and jointly authored articles and proposals.

    Following the publication of the a letter to the Jerusalem Post, on September 12, 1989, I spoke to Justice Goldberg on the telephone about the sentence imposed on Jonathan Pollard. I promised to send him some comparative sentencing data. Justice Goldberg promised to make some inquiries on his own regarding the sentence.

    Subsequent to this conversation, Justice Goldberg called me to tell me that he had personally met with Judge Aubrey Robinson and discussed the Pollard sentence with him. Justice Goldberg told me that Judge Robinson had told him that he (Judge Robinson) had been provided by the government with evidence that Jonathan Pollard had given Israel American satellite photographs proving that Israel had tested Jericho missiles in South Africa and had provided South Africa with missile and nuclear technology. Justice Goldberg told me further that Judge Robinson was particularly outraged by the Israel-South Africa connection and Pollard’s role in providing Israel with evidence that the United States had satellite evidence of it. Justice Goldberg told me that he understood why Judge Robinson, as a Black man, would be particularly sensitive to this evidence. Justice Goldberg told me that Judge Robinson had told him that Pollard-South African connection had weighed heavily in his (Judge Robinson’s) decision to impose a life sentence. I told Justice Goldberg that I did not believe that Jonathan Pollard had provided Israel with any such satellite information, but that I would check.

    I immediately called Hamilton Fox and Nathan Dershowitz [Pollard’s lawyers] and told them of my conversation with Justice Goldberg. Fox said he would check with Jonathan Pollard and his earlier attorney, Richard A. Hibey concerning the truth or falsity of the evidence provided to Judge Robinson.

    After being assured by Fox that there was no truth whatsoever in the claim that Jonathan Pollard had provided satellite photographs or information to Israel about South Africa, Jericho missiles or nuclear technology, I wrote Justice Goldberg the attached letter (Attachment A).

    On January 15, 1990 I spoke with Justice Goldberg on the phone. He was quite upset at the content of my letter and promised to get to the bottom of it. He told me that he would phone Attorney General Thornburgh for a meeting to discuss this issue and the sentence. He told me that if my facts were correct, then the Justice Department had improperly “pandered” (that was his precise word) to Judge Robinson’s racial sensitivities as a Black judge by providing him with false, inflammatory, ex parte information.

    On Friday morning January 19, 1990, I learned from Robert Goldberg that his father, Justice Arthur Goldberg, had died in his sleep during the night.

    Was there a “South African connection?” It seems unlikely, considering the kind of information Israel sought from Pollard — information about its Arab enemies and their Soviet supporters.

    But more important, even if there were such a connection, Judge Robinson’s outrage that Israel may have aided the hated South African regime is hardly a legitimate reason to doom Pollard to life in prison! After all, even if true, this wasn’t Pollard’s doing.

    If indeed a combination of false accusations and an inappropriate emotional reaction by the judge resulted in Pollard’s life sentence, then a miscarriage of justice occurred.

    The administration should either release Pollard or explain convincingly why he should remain in prison.

      David_Turner says:

      I would only add, LtcHoward, that the the Pollards lawyers, the Hibey brothers, not only did a “poor” job (so poor, that I wondered as I sifted through their defense of the Pollards, whether they might have been colluding with the Justice Department, so incompetent was their “defense”!) defending the couple, but failed to file an appeal within the period provided.

      It is important in evaluating Richard Hibey’s performance to remember that he was previously a Justice Department prosecutor for DC, so ignorance of both the Justice Department and the appeals process can be eliminated as an excuse. And once the appeal date passed appeal was no longer an option.

      It appears that the Reagan Administration “fix” was in from the start. (I could discuss the circumstances surrounding Hibey’s recommendation to Morris Pollard, Jonathan’s deceased father. But that is another story.

      BTW, LtcHoward, I would like to quote your entire response in a new blog, if I may?

        LtcHoward says:

        One major problem quoting me is that for several years I have been using computers to collect information and have been creating my files by copying, and pasting. Therefore I have lost the documentation trail that I used to maintain when I was working with paper.

        Nothing of what I say is original. Everything has originated and been documented elsewhere. For anything to be attributed to me would be plagiarism.

        Since the object of the discussions has been to introduce facts this has not been a problem in posting.

        Feel free to use anything I post but please make it clear that I am not the original author and therefore do not claim credit as an author. I am report writer who seeks the facts.

        Your remarks about the legal representation are 1000% accurate. In many other cases gross incompetence by the defense has been grounds for new trial. If anything this defense and its failures has been demonstratably incompetent.

        Some years ago I communicated with a person who was very much interested in Pollard’s defense. If I remember correctly (I may not) he was a retired administrative law judge who lived in Florida and who had a blog. He was a wealth of information and may have written extensively concerning the trial and the surrounding circumstances of the case. The name Jay Epstein sticks in my mind but that might be wildly inaccurate.

        I am going to try to bring everything I have on my computer concerning Jonathan Pollard together. There will probably be a great deal of redundancy.

        You are on a very worthwhile mission.

          David_Turner says:

          Thanks for permission, and I certainly wont resort to “quoting” you.

          If you are consolidating your research re Pollard for me, I thank you in advance. One issue I write about in my Antisemitism blog (hopefully to eventually see print in book form) is on Pollard. So your info will be very useful and timely. Redundancy no problem. As for my “worthwhile mission,” I see it an obligation. Easy to say, “there but for the grace of God go I,” but in my youth I might well have done the same, with opportunity. But what brings you to the issue?

          David_Turner says:

          Seems we lost track after your appearance on my blog. Just a reminder that I will soon (two months) be turning to Pollard for my blog and am very interested in any progress you may have made in progress you may have made re, “I am going to try to bring everything I have on my computer concerning Jonathan Pollard together. There will probably be a great deal of redundancy.”

          I look forward to remaining in contact.


          LtcHoward says:


          BethesdaDog says:

          Could the judge have been A. Jay Cristol? He’s written extensively about the Liberty incident. He’s the chief bankruptcy judge.

    Natan79 says:

    He didn’t apply for parole because he has some dignity. Unlike yourself.

David_Turner says:

For the naive, and just plain antisemites, all countries spy on their enemies, and on their friends and allies. At the same time Pollard hit US headlines, as I recall (could google it but will leave that to others) the US had an Israeli officer on its payroll. That never even hit the press (came out later in books) because it is so routine that typically it is allowed to vanish without blame, and certainly without press!

So why did Weinberger and the Reagan Administration make such a media event out of Pollard? A hint: Irangate. Administration secretly providing arms to Iran, cash to the Nicaraguan Contras violated the law. The administration, to put it in different words, was engaged in criminal behavior. With a bit of imagination one might wonder if a connection existed between those two events? Particularly since Irangate disappeared from the headlines so long as Pollard was available. Only later, when Irangate fell off radar screens, did the Congress investigate and, as Scooter Libby was sacrifice for GW, so was Ollie North for Reagan.

    storozhnik says:

    A Note: Libby took the bullet to protect Cheney who dispatched him to besmirch Amb Joe Wilson and blow the cover of his wife, an undercover CIA officer, whose cover status was protected by law.. A treasonous act on the part of pseudo patriot dick cheney, who btw was also a war profiteer…reaped millions$$$ from the invasion of Iraq and the no-bid contracts awarded by the USG to his company Halliburton and its affiliates. Cheney banked millions$$$ while we lost over 4,000 sons and daughters and have tens of thousands of returning soldiers with wounds and trauma that will haunt and cause them suffering for the rest of their lives. Enjoy your life, Dick and your wanna be politico offspring Liz..

      David_Turner says:

      GW Admin didn’t even try smoke and mirrors to hide behind. So many insiders from Cheney and Rumsfeld were ex-Halliburton and provided their “former” employer bid-free contracts in Iraq and, not to forget, Louisiana after Katrina. Multi-billion-dollar contracts because, Bush mused, the are most qualified. All of this is, of course, completely off-issue to Pollard. I wish you would have addressed the main issue also.

Sure Weinberger and the CIA were/are antisemitic… but the distinction between information “about” the US, and information about Arab countries seems fatuous. The things he revealed might have themselves revealed something about national technical means of surveilance or about human intelligence assets. To reveal what you know is to put at risk the means by which you know. Whether the damage that was done means he should die in jail is difficult for anyone on the outside to judge. Knowing that Weinberger was a vicious little antisemite doesn’t really tell us anything about Pollard’s crime.

LtcHoward says:

Unfortunately most of this information was available to the American Jewish community and yet the American Jewish community, sensitive to accusations of dual loyalty did not immediately raise hell. Thus Jonathan Pollard has suffered years of abuse in the American prison system. Had any terrorist been subject to this legal lynching and subsequent incarceration most Jewish liberals would’ve been manning the barricades to protest

The question is where are they now?

Nearly every instance of reported Israeli spying on the US was a case of counterintelligence. It takes chutzpah for a CIA spy in Israel to complain that he is being spied upon. Yet if you read the Washington Post or the New York Times (leaked) accounts of Israeli spying you will find that nearly all of them relate to accusations and beliefs that Israel is attempting to intercept the communications of CIA spooks who were engaged in stealing Israeli secrets.

When we sell to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, etc. a tremendous amount of analytical information, much of it detrimental to Israel, goes along with the sale of military equipment and training of the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, etc.

Where are the American Jewish voices. They are protesting the building of housing units in Jerusalem. Or they are supporting peace now, Jay Street, B’tselem, the new Israel fund, etc.

    David_Turner says:

    Ltc, whenever Pollard is the topic self-hating Jews and Christian antisemites surface, each describing themself as “patriot.” We have a serious discussion of the position of Jews in the world on my blog, Antisemitsm and Jewish Survival. You might want to take a look:

    Rebecca Klempner says:

    The Young Israel movement and many other Orthodox Jews have supported Pollard for years. We’ve written letter after letter, phoned the White House and pray daily for his release.

Pity the Israeli Embassy refused Mr. Pollard and his wife entry, when they sought asylum a quarter of a century ago.

    Had they graned Pollard asylum, Pollard would still be there. And he would not be getting out on November 21, 2015.

    BethesdaDog says:

    They also retained the despicable Richard Hibey who threw Pollard under the bus by not filing his notice of appeal, a very deliberate act of legal malpractice.Hibey is now the PLO’s regular attorney.

What about Biden’s recent remark that Pollard could be freed only over his (Biden’s, that is) dead body? Too bad there was no one in Jewish (or just fair minded) community to echo Robert Bork’s reply to another idiot’s “over my dead body” outburst: “Judge Bork is said to have quipped, “To some of us, that sounded like the scenic route.”’

    Biden has no authority to prevent Pollard from being released on his scheduled release date of 11/21/2015. In fact, had Pollard ever bothered to apply for parole, Biden would have played no role in that process, either.

Though his Jewish roots had been severed generations earlier, Weinberger strikes me as the prototypical self-hating Jew, which feelings influenced his stance on Pollard. Thoughts?

    Natan79 says:

    I have yet to meet a self-hating Jew. There are plenty of Jews who hate other Jews pathologically. But they surely love themselves very much. Do you really think that Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein (two men of equally low intelligence and equally high mendacity and aggression) hate themselves?

      Fed_Up18 says:

      The only hate other Jews *because* they hate themselves, & can’t admit it. That’s the point.

20pizzapies says:

To understand WHY Pollard has been treated in this manner , go read The Secret War Against The Jews by John Loftus .
There is more to this than given in this article .Why was Cap Weinberger so insistant in Pollard’s sentencing ? Why did Weinberger’s influence continue to be a factor throughout the Clinton Administration .Indeed to this day ?
The Answers lie in precisely what Pollard’s job was , exactly WHAT information was passed to the Israelis and WHY . Pollards case occurred at the time of Iran/Contra Scandal . That involved Arms to Iran for money, to illegally supply the Contras in Nicaragua , to which Congress had BANNED . Pollards information did not endanger any American Lives or lives of any Allies , nor did it endanger the Security of the United States or any of its Allies .The intelligence info however was exremely damaging to Reagan and his entire cabinet as well as Bush Sr. , his future Presidency and his entire carryover Cabinet .

herbcaen says:

The purpose of Pollards long sentence is very simple-it is to discourage American Jews for working on behalf of Israel. The CIA views American Jews as enemy aliens, and thus Pollard had to made an example of. Otherwise he would have been freed a long time ago

This man is a selfish traitor, nothing more. If he loved Israel so much, why was he charging them $1,500 a month to steal secrets for them (not counting the $10,000 starting fee). Also, you people fail to realize that he tried to sell military secrets to South Africa, China, and Israel’s bestest friend in the whole wide world… Pakistan. He was not a patriot, he was a sniveling worm, betraying his country for a country that he liked to pretend he belonged to. Also, all you people talking about a plea agreement and parole, you need to realize two things.

1. He was offered a plea bargain, and one of the conditions was that he did not talk to the media outside navy authorized occurrences. Guess who he talked to without navy authorization, therefor breaking his plea bargain agreement.

2. He has never applied for parole. He continues to insist that he did nothing wrong, and demands that the Israelis get him out, or even more despicable, that he get a pardon from the president.

In conclusion, Pollard is slime, he is a traitor, and he makes us LOYAL American Jews look bad.

As is always the case with these very controversial stories, the “truth” is probably somewhere in the gray area between what Pollard supporters and detractors insist. There are two facts not discussed in this article, 1. Pollard and wife #1 did receive financially compensation from the State of Israel. That’s why wife #1 had to do some jail time herself. Let’s not whitewash his motives with grand verbiage about a good Jew doing his duty to help the Jewish State. 2. This column fails to mention that before Pollard started spying for Israel, he was selling information to another U.S. ally, Australia. Was Pollard’s sentence excessive? Absolutely. Was he an innocent, law abiding, loyal American? Hardly.

Yeah well Koreans, Philipinos and Greeks never blew up one of ships either…USS Liberty

It’s not anti-semitism it’s a fact. And it must be considered as we consider how to treat espionage by our so called allies, including Israeli. We should also consider the reaction of the Israelis when we tried to investigate. If Israel had been more open about this 20 years ago Pollard would be free. Israeli intelligence leaders treated the American investigators like buffoons. Pollard’s fate rest with them as much as it does with Weinburger. Let him rot.

Burt Schwartz says:

Jonathan Pollard committed a crime and has served enough time in prison. For humanitarian reasons he should be paroled, as he does not pose a security risk to the United States.

I just don’t understand why the headline reads “After 25 years, the CIA has declassified documents that show Jonathan Pollard never spied on the U.S. for Israel” and not 27 years. I guess 1/4 century behind bars, healthy/sick, solitary confinement or not, offering his apologies or not…We simply do not think about what a difference a day makes. Imagine that you were in a coma for one year, one month, one week…How much would you have missed?

    It’s because 25 years is how long it takes for documents to become declassified. It takes longer for people to read them and post the story on the internet.

20pizzapies says:

Pollard knew too much , especially ship movements involved innthe Iran /Contra affair . Arms shipment to Iran , ports of origin etc . implicating the sitting Administration .While true , Pollard violated the same statute as Aldrich Ames , the info passed to an Ally was harmless to the US strategically and militarily , and caused no loss of life .It did however expose the criminal activity that the Administration was engaged in . Pollard did however break the law , but in sentencing there are always mitigating factors regarding the legnth of the sentence .BTW any comparison to the Rosenbergs is ridiculous .

as the Knesset’s coordinator for the pro-Pollard Lobby 1987 – 1992, and as one who visited Jay in 1990 and 1993 in prison, it is not we who are justified as much as the American jewish establishment and Israel’s politicians who have to now justify their attitude and approach.

politackler says:

To be Kantian here (“Act so that you would will the maxim of your action to be universal law”), if an American working for the US government were to sell or otherwise provide information about Israel to Iran, would his/her defenders be justified in claiming, “It wasn’t really espionage because the information wasn’t about the U.S.”?

Okay, bad example–Iran isn’t a U.S. ally, at least not since 1979. But substitute an American with access to top secret material selling or otherwise providing U.S. “allies” with classified information about Israel, and the “it wasn’t really espionage” argument pops like a soap bubble.

Payback for the U.S.S. Liberty?

I think there’s one thing being missed in all of this discussion, and I’ll raise it only because I think it’s important–not because I want to get into any debate about Pollard’s relative innocence or guilt: there is a possibility that he’s being kept in prison past the point at which reasonable justice is being served simply as a matter of deterrence. I suspect that the CIA FEARS Mossad and Mossad’s further espionage activities. It would then seem logical that the agent that could do the most to get Pollard released would be the Israeli
Government itself, if it would give the Obama Administration guarantees of willingness to suspend syping on the United States. Of course, I don’t expect that to happen until Netanyahu leaves office. Until then, I’m afraid, Mr. Pollard will have to remain in jail, so that his excessive punishment may act as a warning to other equally aggressive Mossad operatives.

    David_Turner says:

    The problem with your argument, although well presented, is that a motivated individual is unlikely to allow such deterrence to deter (would it you were you so motivated?). As to its true lesson it is this: don’t trust the word of those offering a “plea bargain” because the Department of Justice and the much heralded US system of justice cannot be counted on to even stand by its promises.

This shouldn’t be a difficult case. You give information about the country you’re serving, then it is treason.
If you’re an Israeli, American, Russian, Egyptian, or German, it makes no difference.

    David_Turner says:

    Correct, it isn’t difficult. Instead of stating an opinion regarding “treason,” google it first, and then enter the discussion.

Jonathan never took money for his secret work, nor did he look at it as a “career”. That is a scurrilous lie.

BethesdaDog says:

The sentencing judge, the late Aubrey Robinson, was known to be an anti-semite, long before the Pollard case.

bfis108137 says:

I have read that one of the big issues is not just what he did but that he lied lie on top of lie during the investigation.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Pollard Defenders Vindicated

After 25 years, the CIA has declassified documents that show Jonathan Pollard never spied on the U.S. for Israel