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