Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Will a Freed Pollard Become a Hero and Role Model for Israel and Its American Friends?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Will a Freed Pollard Become a Hero and Role Model for Israel and Its American Friends?

Article excerpt

Jonathan Pollard, the convicted American spy for Israel who has served 30 years of his life sentence, is scheduled to be released from prison on Nov. 21. It seems likely that, upon his release, he will be hailed as a hero in Israel as well as by many of Israel's friends in the U.S., particularly those who have worked actively for his release and argued that, despite his own guilty plea, he was, somehow, a "political prisoner" and the victim of religious discrimination.

What Pollard did is not open to question. He was working as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he was recruited by the Israeli Defense Ministry in the mid-1980s. He delivered suitcases full of military intelligence to Israel, including satellite photos. Among the tens of thousands of secret documents that Pollard stole for the Israelis was The National SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] Requirements List, which revealed which communications channels of which military powers, in which regions, the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting, in what order of priority. It would indicate to the reader where and what actions the U.S. military might take.

Contrary to claims by Pollard supporters that he had only stolen classified documents dealing with Arab military strength in order to help Israel stave offan invasion and that none of his actions harmed American security, the facts tell a far different story. M.E. "Spike" Bowman, a senior counterintelligence officer who was working the Pollard case, has since confirmed that the item in question was a NSA manual called RASIN, short for "Radio Signal Notations" (see September 2015 Washington Report, p. 23). The RASIN was a guide to the physical parameters of every radio signal that the NSA was intercepting, a guide on how the NSA was tracking military communications-not just Israel's but any and every country's, including the Soviet Union's. Pollard gave his Israeli handlers every single page of the 10-volume RASIN.

Pollard also provided a year's worth of memos by intelligence officers in the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet, recording all their observations of Soviet planes, ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea. He turned over documents on how Navy intelligence was tracking Soviet submarines, and material revealing that one of America's most highly classified photo-reconnaissance satellites could take pictures not just straight down but from an angle. Foreign navies might think they could take a missile out of hiding once a satellite passed over but, in fact, it was still snapping pictures. Because of Pollard, they now knew this.

Thus, the material Pollard provided would be of use to many other countries besides Israel. Writing in the Jan. 18, 1999 New Yorker, Seymour Hersh quoted senior U.S. intelligence officials saying that some of these documents made their way to Moscow, perhaps through a KGB mole in the Mossad, who was later arrested. The material may have been shared with Moscow, writes Hersh, "Perhaps by Israeli officials who gave the Soviet Union the documents in exchange for letting more Jews emigrate to Israel." Senior officials told Hersh that Pollard's handlers had asked him to get certain types of documents that seemed of little use to Israel but of great value to the Soviet Union.

Joseph diGenova, the prosecutor in charge of the Pollard case, said that the damage he did to U.S. security was "beyond calculation." Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger told Israeli Ambassador Meir Rosenne that Pollard should have been executed.

Originally, Israel disavowed Pollard, but has now embraced him. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995. By 2013, he became the focal point of a protest movement in Israel. An online petition demanding clemency quickly attracted 175,000 signatures. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for Pollard's release, as has former President Shimon Peres. When Pollard's November release was announced, Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who headed the Knesset's Pollard caucus, welcomed the news with the Shehecheyanu prayer that Jews utter on a monumental occasion. …

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