The Wall Street Journal report that jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard will be released on the thirtieth anniversary of his conviction – November 21 – is clearly an attempt by the Obama administration to quiet Israeli opposition to the Iran deal. And it is just as clearly not working for the simple reason that the Israelis cannot be appeased, as this New York Times story makes all too clear:
“‘If this is the motive, it’s naïve,’ said Amnon Rubinstein, a law professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, who joined the growing movement calling for Mr. Pollard’s release in recent years. ‘The two things are totally separate. One is a human consideration, and one is a strategic issue, which most Israelis, including myself, regard as existential.’
“Aaron David Miller, a State Department veteran on Middle East affairs who is now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said any such move would look bad for President Obama, given that Americans remain in Iranian prisons. And he added that it would probably make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel ‘fight harder’ against the Iran deal ‘so he’s not thought to have colluded.’
“‘Pollard is apples and the Iran deal is oranges,’ Mr. Miller said. ‘The Pollard card is not just of limited value, but potentially damaging.'”
On this last point, at least, Miller is on target: Pollard’s release would underscore the adversarial relationship underlying the “special relationship,” i.e. the fact that, beneath the surface, beyond the declarations of undying friendship and “no daylight,” the Israelis have treated us like an enemy. As The Intercept reported:
“Top-secret NSA documents … state that Israel targets the U.S. government for invasive electronic surveillance, and does so more aggressively and threateningly than almost any other country in the world. Indeed, so concerted and aggressive are Israeli efforts against the US that some key US government documents – including the top secret 2013 intelligence budget – list Israel among the US’s most threatening cyber-adversaries and as a ‘hostile’ foreign intelligence service.
“One top-secret 2008 document features an interview with the NSA’s Global Capabilities Manager for Countering Foreign Intelligence, entitled ‘Which Foreign Intelligence Service Is the Biggest Threat to the US?’ He repeatedly names Israel as one of the key threats.
“While noting that Russia and China do the most effective spying on US, he says that ‘Israel also targets us.’ He explains that “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate]ranked [Israel] as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.” [Emphasis in original]
The Israelis have been spying on us for years, as is only natural for a country so completely dependent on the United States for its very survival. A settler colony in the midst of an Arab sea, its population continually threatened with demographic inundation, the Jewish state has been linked to a vitally important outside support system from its very inception. After initially getting arms from the Soviet bloc, Moscow’s turn toward the Arabs forced Israel to cuddle up to the West, using their American lobby to forge a powerful political machine that eventually ensured the kind of unconditional support they required.
But of course this kind of blind support could never be secure, and so the Israelis continually probed and pushed, extending their spying operation into the innermost sanctums of US policymaking – as evidenced by the Larry Franklin/AIPAC spying case. That case was only dropped after the defense threatened to expose vital US secrets: the defendants, two top AIPAC officials, were never officially exonerated.
So what did Pollard steal? Seymour Hersh gives this damning account in a New Yorker piece that outlines the depth and breadth of his treason. Another useful source is Edwin Black’s comprehensive account of the case, published in full in The Forward.
Black outlines the breathtaking scope of Pollard’s thievery, reporting that he stole what are regarded as the crown jewels of the intelligence community: documents detailing the sources and methods utilized to safeguard American interests and agents throughout the world. This material was categorized SCI – Sensitive Compartmentalized Information, which is strictly confined to those individuals with a “need to know.” In this case, a special code word was added to the files: only those with knowledge of the code could gain access. Pollard was one of those individuals.
When Pollard’s attorneys – paid for by the Israeli government – tried to claim that their client’s actions didn’t cause any real damage, Caspar Weinberger was asked by Judge Aubrey Robinson to submit an affidavit outlining the damage, and the so-called Weinberger Declaration was entered in evidence. In it, the then Secretary of Defense averred that Pollard had photocopied all ten volumes of the RASIN manual, the Radio and Signal “Bible” that, according to Black, “details America’s global listening profile, frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” And stealing this wasn’t just Pollard’s bright idea: Black reports that “Pollard’s handlers required the spy to locate and copy the most up-to-date edition.”
What Pollard did was equivalent to what Edward Snowden did, except for two crucial details: instead of revealing this information to the American people, as Snowden did, Pollard handed it over to a foreign power – Israel – in exchange for money. And rather than exposing the illegal and unconstitutional activities of a rogue government program that had been operating under the radar, Pollard betrayed the American people by revealing the entirely legitimate and legal efforts of their government to protect them from foreign aggression.
In short, Snowden was spying on behalf of the American public, which had no idea its online communications and other private activities were being illegally collected and examined by the government: Pollard, on the other hand, was spying on behalf of a foreign power, one that was ostensibly an ally but acted no different than would an enemy.
Yet Pollard is going to be set free, while the US government’s pursuit of Snowden continues unabated. If only Snowden had been spying on behalf of the Israelis, perhaps then he’d have a better chance at escaping Uncle Sam’s wrath.
The theft of the RASIN manual hardly exhausts the scope of Pollard’s treason: “more than 1,000 unredacted messages and cables” were handed over to the Israelis, according to Weinberger, of which a large proportion were “codeword sensitive.” Taken together, this material was a veritable road map pointing to the identities of overseas sources. To this day, we don’t know how many US agents were killed due to Pollard’s treason.
That’s because the Israelis – our treasured “allies” – didn’t just sit on this material. They traded it to other countries, as Hersh notes, notably the Soviet Union:
“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 émigrés. ‘How’s that for cheating?’ he had asked.”
In addition to all this, Pollard handed over to the Israelis
- A secret “Compendium” of highly classified documents, which revealed to Tel Aviv precisely what our intelligence community was withholding from them in the aftermath of the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor
- Reports on Soviet missile systems that revealed the sources and methods of US analysts.
- Documents detailing air reconnaissance activities in the Mediterranean, which allowed the Israelis to evade our efforts to keep track of their activities, both in Israel and in the region.
Attempts to justify Pollard’s actions, often made by his defenders both in Israel and in this country, are framed in terms first enunciated by the traitor himself, who continues to claim that Israel had a “right” to this information since we’re “allies,” after all. The sheer scope and nature of Pollard’s burglary – as well as the fact that vital US intelligence wound up in Soviet hands – should put that notion to rest. Also: Pollard approached the Pakistanis, the South Africans, and even the Australians with offers of valuable intel, in hopes of making a quick profit. Whether his Israeli handlers knew about this is unknown, although in my view its quite probable. Some “allies”!
Another notion that should be put to rest is the misconception, bruited about in several news accounts, that this November marks the point where Pollard’s “mandatory parole” kicks in. The US government is using this as a subterfuge to give the impression that Pollard’s release is just part and parcel of the normal procedures that accompany any parole process for federal prisoners charged with a comparable crime.
This is nonsense. There is no such thing as “mandatory parole.” What’s mandatory is that the Parole Commission must consider parole in Pollard’s case, but they are free to deny it on the grounds that a) Pollard violated rules while in custody, and 2) that he may commit crimes if released. Although the government has made it clear it will not oppose parole, both conditions apply to Pollard and constitute grounds for denial.
To begin with, Pollard’s conduct while in prison was hardly expressive of remorse. As Black puts it:
“The same inexplicable behavior streak that caused him to alienate his prosecutors, judge and defense counsel, have survived during Pollard’s 17 years of incarceration. Although, most convicts have learned to conduct themselves passively and speak in a fashion that will play to parole boards, Pollard has gone on the offensive. Pollard’s voluminous handwritten letters to supporters insult the integrity of prosecutor [Joseph] diGenova.”
Members of Congress, in an effort to get Pollard clemency, had him sign a letter composed by a prominent rabbi, in which he supposedly expressed remorse for violating Jewish law – but Pollard, in a stunning reversal, repudiated the letter. No, Pollard declared in effect, he wasn’t sorry.
And his supporters weren’t sorry, either: indeed, they have continued to valorize him as an Israeli patriot persecuted by American “anti-Semites” who apparently sit in the highest councils of the US government. And their ire extends to anyone in the Jewish community who deviates from their fanatic devotion to their traitorous “hero.” As Black relates, when David Luchins, a senior advisor to Sen. Daniel Moynihan, became involved in the letter of remorse fiasco,
“Luchins’ life was threatened by Pollard supporters, who circulated a flyer that the Jewish Forward called a Salman Rushdie-style religious decree calling for Luchins’ murder. A source close to Sen. Moynihan says federal marshals were summoned to protect Luchins.”
Aside from all this, after agreeing to plead guilty and entering into a written plea agreement, Pollard brazenly violated its terms by doing two interviews with Wolf Blitzer, then a correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. The written plea agreement specifically forbade Pollard from doing interviews, or otherwise engaging in any written or broadcast accounts of his crimes, without the permission of the Director of Naval Intelligence. The intent here was to prevent the public dissemination of any more classified material, and Pollard and his lawyers agreed to these terms in exchange for the promise of leniency for himself as well as his wife, who had assisted him in his crimes. Yet Pollard went behind his lawyer’s back and did the Blitzer interviews, in a clear attempt to chuff himself up as a martyr to the cause of Israel and to mobilize the Jewish community behind him.
Prosecutors – and the judge – retaliated by throwing the book at him.
The second condition for granting Pollard’s parole is assurance that he will not replicate his crimes once freed, and yet there is no guarantee this won’t occur. Indeed, quite the opposite is likely the case.
That’s because the full extent of Pollard’s treason is unknown. While a portion of Weinberger’s “declaration” has been released, a 46-page accompanying statement outlining what he took and what it’s value is remains highly classified – an indication that Pollard may yet have secrets to reveal. And can there be any doubt he intends to start flapping his lips the minute he lands in Israel, where he hopes to be greeted as a conquering hero? As Weinberger put it:
“Pollard has recently analogized himself to an Israeli pilot shot down behind enemy lines, and has stated his hope that he will yet be able to immigrate to Israel. Whatever else his analogy suggests, it clearly indicates that his loyalty to Israel transcends his loyalty to the United States. Nor, apparently, does any residual loyalty to the United States persuade him that he should protect US national defense information at all.”
The last time a US President tried to free Pollard, the head of the CIA – and a large number of top intelligence officials – threatened to resign. Will they resist this time around?
Finally, what makes this concession to the Israelis so obnoxious is the very idea that we have to somehow appease Tel Aviv in order to prevent them from exercising their power over our domestic politics to nix the Iran deal in Congress. Since when does a President openly submit to such blackmail? It’s an outrage – and itself a kind of treason.
Can it be that the Israelis are threatening to attack Iran, and preempt the deal with Tehran? If so, then the proper answer to that isn’t groveling, it isn’t freeing a convicted traitor, it’s sending a clear message to the Israelis so they think twice before acting. It’s the same message suggested by Zbigniew Brzezinski in a now famous interview with the Daily Beast:
“DB: How aggressive can Obama be in insisting to the Israelis that a military strike might be in America’s worst interest?
ZB: We are not exactly impotent little babies. They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?
DB: What if they fly over anyway?
ZB: Well, we have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a [USS]Liberty in reverse.”
When is this country going to regain its pride and stop kowtowing? Israel’s amen corner in the US is constantly inveighing against “appeasement” – and yet they would have us appease a tiny little country that couldn’t survive on its own without US military protection, diplomatic support, and massive amounts of aid. Its extremist leaders, embarked on a campaign of repression and outright savagery directed at the indigenous Palestinians, have chosen a path that marks the end of Israeli democracy and the beginning of something quite ugly. And yet still their leaders persist in threatening war – a war that would inevitably drag in the United States and sacrifice more American servicemen and women on the altar of Israel’s unmitigated aggression.
It’s high time we reminded them who is the senior partner is in this rapidly fraying “alliance.”
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.