Saturday, November 08, 2008
The spy who conned me
I have a good friend in Israel who is a retired journalist. Yesterday he sent me a request to call the White House and ask for Jonathan Pollard's release from prison on a charge of espionage. Pollard has a strange history, but the gist of it is that he spied for Israel and sold secrets to West African and Pakistani governments when he was employed by the Navy. He was paid $1500 a month to spy for Israel and also received a $10,000 sapphire and diamond ring and $10,000 in cash for his first transaction. By his own report, Pollard sold Israel 800 documents and more than 1000 cables and was caught walking out of his office with 60 documents in his briefcase.
Pollard wanted to be a spy. He applied first at the CIA and was turned down when he failed a polygraph test. Pollard then went to Navy Intelligence and was hired; they don't require a polygraph test for secret security clearance. This is a man with a checkered background who used his position to sell secrets with which he was entrusted. He claims now that he was acting in Israel's best interest because the U.S. was withholding information Pollard felt Israel should have. I've read information pro and con about Pollard and I have to say my initial reaction is that whether or not he felt he was doing the right thing he went about it in the wrong way. He had no right to compromise his position as an American to sell or give information with which he had been entrusted to any other government.
Pollard said he was sorry and regrets his actions, but isn't that what everyone says when they get caught and have spent a few years in prison, 23 years in Pollard's case. Although Pollard never went to trial because he preferred plea bargain to facing a jury of his peers, and because neither the U.S. or Israeli governments wanted to air their dirty laundry in a public trial, Pollard received a life sentence. Pollard and the Israeli government feel Pollard has served more than enough time for his crimes and that because he is ill he should be pardoned. Violating the terms of his plea bargain, Pollard contacted the media and laid bare the specifics of his actions. The judge, after receiving documents from Caspar Weinberger, then head of the CIA, and taking into account Pollard reneging on the terms of his plea bargain, handed down a sentence of life in prison. Pollard has never filed for parole and instead holds out for clemency and a full pardon. Israel has made Pollard's release part of the terms for some of their treaty agreements and been refused by several presidents, including Clinton who reneged on his agreement with the Israeli government to release Pollard when the head of the CIA at that time threatened to resign if Pollard was released.
Obviously there is more to this picture than anyone is saying. Pollard sees things one way and the U.S. government sees things another. Weinberger stated that Pollard had endangered American lives by selling information to Israel, and other governments, that detailed sources of information, routes and names of operatives.
For me, what it boils down to is this: Pollard sold information to foreign governments. It doesn't matter that he is sorry for what he did and that he's ill. Had he faced a jury he would have received more than one life sentence. He is no longer an American citizen since Israel granted him citizenship in 1995 after refusing for many years to acknowledge Pollard worked for them. Pollard sought employment in the intelligence community with the express intent of becoming a spy and selling classified documents. He doesn't deserve to be pardoned.
There is much more to this case than anyone has admitted and I've no doubt that what is hidden is damning to both the U.S. and Israeli governments, but the bottom line is that an American sold out his homeland for money and continues to sell out the American people. I cannot in good conscience ask for his release and I won't. I respect my friend and I know he believes that Pollard has been imprisoned unfairly, but I don't. Anyone who sells out their country for money or publicity and recognition deserves to stay in prison. If Pollard believed that America was withholding information from Israel they should have had, there were channels Pollard could have used to bring that failure to light, but it wasn't by selling secrets and endangering lives. The fact that he has publicized his actions and seeks the limelight so fervently tells me he feels no remorse. He wants fame. He got it. Had he been so righteously indignant about the U.S. government's actions in keeping information from an ally, Pollard would have given the information free of charge to Israel and he wouldn't have contacted other foreign governments to sell secrets. Pollard is a proven liar and a glory hound who wants to be seen as a martyr. The only factor that keeps Pollard from being branded a traitor is that by law he didn't sell secrets during a time of war.
Pollard is no James Bond spying for his country to thwart megalomaniacal villains from holding the world hostage intent on its destruction. He's a traitor to the land of his birth.
That is all. Disperse.