Post Bush Redux: The Case of Jonathan Pollard Raises Troubling Questions
By Richard Cummings
J4JPnews - January 25, 2009
President George W. Bush is gone and Jonathan Pollard remains in prison.
Of all the clemency petitions that remained unsigned on George W. Bush's
desk when he left office on January 20, 2009, Jonathan Pollard's was the
only one which morally compelled the president to take action to rectify a 2
President Bush abdicated his responsibility as the president of the United
States when he failed to invoke his powers of clemency to rectify a case
where the injustice is so clear, and no other avenue of relief exists. His
failure to act in this case, merely compounds the injustice done to Jonathan
J4JP has been repeatedly asked why President Bush, who boasts of such
strong ties to Israel and of such friendship to the American Jewish
community, would just walk away from a case that is so often exploited to
call into question the reliability of Israel as an ally and the loyalty of
the American Jewish Community.
We continue to be asked how it is that President Bush could just ignore
the glaring injustice and leave Jonathan to languish in prison, G-d forbid,
We don't know why.
But perhaps the following article, written by renown author, Richard
Cummings may shed some light on the question and explain why Jonathan
Pollard has been treated so harshly and why he remains in jail, unjustly, to
this day. Originally published just before Mr. Bush left office, J4JP
recommends reading this article again, in light of Mr. Bush's failure to
rectify this gross miscarriage of justice in the waning hours of his term in
The Case of Jonathan Pollard Raises Troubling Questions
Richard Cummings - WorldNetDaily - [Original date of publication: December
21, 2008 ]
The federal medium security prison in Butner, N.C., is a grim, long, low
building surrounded by a high wire fence. It is where, since 1993, Jonathan
Pollard has served a life sentence for spying for Israel.
Seven years prior to his transfer to Butner, Pollard was held briefly in a
Washington, D.C., jail following his arrest and then was confined for more
than a year in Springfield, Mo., in a ward for the criminally insane. He
then spent six years in solitary confinement, three stories underground, cut
off from the world.
Since his arrest Nov. 21, 1985, Pollard has consistently expressed remorse,
but the hostility against him is still manifested by those who describe him
as a traitor who acted not on behalf of Israel, but for money - a charge he
I arrive at Butner Wednesday, Oct. 24, with Pollard's pro bono attorney,
Eliot Lauer, a highly respected litigator specializing in white-collar crime
and Securities and Exchange Commission civil suits at Curtis,
Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, a prestigious New York law firm founded in
1838 with offices all over the world.
Visitors are greeted on entering the prison lobby by a flashing, colored
sign that says, "WELCOME TO BUTNER. HAVE A NICE DAY."
Nick appears, a slight, pleasant man with rosy cheeks, who is to monitor our
visit. He is from Naval Intelligence, where Pollard worked when he engaged
in espionage for the Israelis. The three of us are led by an officer down a
long, immaculate hallway lined on one side with Ansel Adams photograph
Nick leads us through secured doors until we reach the cheerful, brightly
lit cafeteria, with low, child-sized plastic blue tables and uncomfortable
red plastic chairs.
Pollard appears. Now in his early 50s, he has a neatly trimmed graying beard
and closely cropped hair, a change from his previous incarnation when he let
his hair grow long.
He wears a small yarmulke and a khaki prison jump suit, and has the built of
a wrestler. He quickly zeroes in on the background of one piece of
information that the Israelis were particularly anxious to have.
In 1981, Israel, using information supplied by American intelligence, bombed
Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear facility without consulting the U.S. Pollard
found out while working as an analyst for Naval Intelligence that the U.S.
had an agreement with Israel that the two counties would share intelligence.
But after the attack at Osirak, the U.S. started to secretly punish Israel
by stopping the flow of intelligence.
Without knowing this, the Israelis approached American military intelligence
regarding something going on in Samarra they thought was suspicious.
According to Pollard, he learned that Casper Weinberger, then-secretary of
defense, had "assured them that nothing was going on." When Pollard
discovered, before he volunteered to spy for Israel, that there was, in
fact, a chemical weapons plant under construction there, he asked his
superiors at Naval Intelligence why the U.S. had not informed Israel. One of
them quipped that "Jews are sensitive about gas."
Pollard learned as well that Bechtel - the American construction giant for
which Weinberger had served as general counsel and for which then-Secretary
of State George Shultz had served as CEO - was facilitating the construction
of the plant through a number of different companies. The firms were
camouflaging it as a "dual-use facility that could be explained away as a
"How much fertilizer does Iraq need?" Pollard speculates with irony.
According to Pollard, the plant cost "hundreds of millions of dollars to
build" and required waivers from the Department of Defense and the State
It was at this point that Pollard decided he had no choice but to spy for
Israel. As a Jew, he was haunted by the Holocaust and concluded that what he
had learned meant Israel was faced with an "existential threat" about which
it knew nothing.
Israel did not know that the U.S. was providing Saddam Hussein with weapons
of mass destruction, even though he had pledged to annihilate Israel. The
weapons were deemed necessary for Saddam to use against Iran, the home of
the Islamic revolution.
When Pollard's handlers asked him to provide them with the information to
confirm that what Weinberger had told them was true, he produced the
"irrefutable evidence" - there was, in fact, a large chemical weapons
Examining the photographs, one of them said, "This is the stuff that doesn't
exist." Pollard's handler then observed that "sometimes it's better to deal
with a reliable enemy than an unreliable friend."
Not knowing where it stood with the U.S., Israel flew RF-4 reconnaissance
planes to confirm what Pollard had shown them, losing one plane.
In addition to the information, Pollard also supplied Israel with the U.S.
handbook on communications intelligence, a reference manual of radio-signal
notations. The prosecution would argue this was a major breach of security,
based on Weinberger's affidavit to the court, but later were forced to
acknowledge it was part of the legal flow of information to Israel.
The court records show that when challenged, the U.S. government grudgingly
acknowledged that one third of the compendium had nonetheless been
officially denied to Israel. Citing "national security" considerations, the
government also declined to provide the court with the list of foreign
intelligence agencies that had received the entire document.
Silenced in solitary
But there well may have been other reasons why the Reagan administration
wanted Pollard silenced in solitary and then at Butner.
Pollard had an official assignment with regard to Iran and Israel. His job,
he explains, was to "write an assessment of what air defense systems were
available on the open market so that Israel would make the equipment
available to Iran."
This was the method used to circumvent the arms embargo against Iran. Israel
would sell the equipment to Iran at a premium, with profits from the sales
going, though a series of conduits, to the Contras fighting in Nicaragua.
The result was that he was indirectly providing Iran with the tools it
needed to protect its strategic Kharg Island, where its oil pumping
facilities were located. Iraq had been pounding the site, using strategic
intelligence provided to Saddam by the CIA and the Pentagon.
Pollard says he also had knowledge of the Raptor-Hawk missiles that were
shipped from Israel to Iran by way of Portugal.
"Bill Casey wanted me out of the country," he asserts. "To understand my
case," Pollard sums up, "it has everything to do with Iran-Contra."
Pollard also supplied Israel with the exact location of Arafat's
headquarters in Tunisia and with information about Libya's radar
capabilities, enabling Israel to bomb it without detection as its Lockheed
Martin F-16s flew towards their target. Arafat escaped, but a number of his
aides were killed.
Moreover, Israel was using American aircraft that the U.S. had made possible
for them to buy with American military aid, to hit targets the U.S. did not
Pollard also insists he never sold the information to Israel and that he
didn't spy for any other country. The suspicions that he sold information to
Pakistan come from what he said to the FBI when he was first arrested.
Pollard's Israeli handlers had told him to say that he was a spy for
Pakistan, so that Israel would not be implicated.
And when he delivered the first information that the Israelis had requested,
he turned down the $10,000 they had offered him. It was only after he had
made several deliveries to them that his handlers explained that they had to
pay him a salary, as he was now an official Israeli agent of LAKAM, the
science and technology spy agency.
LAKAM, as Pollard describes it, was, in actuality, a "black bag operation
that "supposedly got the nuclear trigger" for Israel." It was an official
intelligence agency operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense.
LAKAM was a competitor of the Mossad, and the two agencies, which ought to
have cooperated, were fiercely combative. LAKAM severely embarrassed Mossad
with the quality of information provided by Pollard, engendering Mossad's
animosity towards LAKAM and Pollard. Regarded as a rogue agency by Mossad,
it succeeded in shutting LAKAM down in 1988 after the Pollard scandal.
The Israeli government, at the time, asserted that the Pollard operation was
an unauthorized deviation from its policy of not conducting espionage
against the U.S., an assertion Israel would eventually withdraw when it
recognized Pollard as its agent.
Pollard was indicted under 18 USC 794(c) of the 1917 Espionage Act on one
count of conspiring to pass classified information to "the advantage of a
foreign nation," in this case, Israel.
Specifically, Pollard was not indicted for treason under 794(b), which
involves giving classified information to "the enemy of the United States in
time of war," or under 794(c) "for the "intent or reason to believe" that
the information "is to be used to the injury of the United States."
What Pollard did was to violate the Espionage Act in the least harmful
manner, since he passed information to an ally of the U.S., Israel, that had
a right to the information under an existing treaty. Pollard contends the
U.S., itself, breached the treaty, placing its ally Israel in serious
Pollard admitted his guilt and acknowledged that what he did was wrong. On
the advice of his attorney, Richard Hibey, he entered into a plea deal. In
return for giving up his right to a trial and to remain silent, Pollard
agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit espionage.
He also agreed to cooperate fully with the government, which he did over a
period of 15 months, during which time he willingly underwent polygraph
tests to confirm the veracity of the information he provided. In exchange,
the government promised not to ask the court for a sentence of life in
prison, the maximum sentence it could have imposed for Pollard's offense.
Yet the government placed the admission in a section titled "Factors
Compelling Substantial Sentence," thereby denigrating the cooperation
without any factual or legal basis. This, according to Pollard's current
attorneys, was a breach of the plea agreement. The agreement required the
government to bring to the sentencing court's attention the nature and
extent of the cooperation. The attorneys regarded it as an extreme violation
of the requirement that the government act in "good faith."
When Pollard appeared before Judge Aubrey Robinson III, the judge asked if
he was prepared to enter a guilty plea, advising him that, irrespective of
the plea agreement, the judge could still sentence him to life in prison.
Pollard responded in the affirmative. There was, at that time, no reason to
believe that would be the case. But soon after accepting the plea deal,
Pollard found everything was falling apart.
Joseph diGenova, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, submitted a
Victim's Impact Statement, or VIS, to show Robinson the extent of the harm
that Pollard had done to the U.S., the purported victim of the crime. The
damage, the statement alleged, was the harm done to relations with other
Middle Eastern countries, which "skewered the balance of power in the Middle
Pollard also, the document alleged, deprived the U.S. of "the quid pro quo
routinely received during authorized and official intelligence exchanges
with Israel." The VIS alleged Pollard, by virtue of his actions, had
"significantly damaged office morale and caused considerable emotional
distress." It also pointed to the "thousands of pages" delivered to Israel.
DiGenova had Secretary of Defense Weinberger provide a memorandum to the
court, explaining why Pollard's actions merited life in prison. Pollard's
defense counsel argued that even the sealed portions of the Weinberger
Declaration did not allege that any agents died, or were even compromised or
"that it had to replace or relocate intelligence equipment, that it had to
alter communication signals, or that it has lost other sources of
information, or that our technology has been compromised."
Indeed, the memo only discussed the possibility that "sources may be
compromised in the future, thus requiring countermeasures."
DiGenova's boss was Attorney General Ed Meese, a longtime Ronald Reagan
confidant from California when Reagan was governor, just as Weinberger had
been. And Meese was up to his ears in Iran-Contra. His involvement was as a
"counselor" and "friend" to the president, not technically as the nation's
chief law enforcement officer, since what Meese advised Reagan raised
serious questions of illegality.
Chapter 31 of the official Final Report of the Independent Counsel for
Iran/Conta Matters discloses Meese's direct involvement: "Meese knew of the
1985 HAWK transactions, in which the National Security Council staff and the
CIA were directly involved without a presidential covert-action finding
authorizing their involvement, raised serious legal questions. The president
was potentially exposed to charges of illegal conduct if he was
knowledgeable of the shipment and had not reported it to Congress, under the
requirement of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and in the absence of a
Finding. ...When Meese got answers in his inquiry that did not support his
defense of the president, he apparently ignored them, as he did with
Secretary of State George P. Shultz's revelation on November 22 that the
President had told him that he had known of the Hawk shipment in advance."
Meese clearly knew that Pollard had known about the HAWK missile
transaction. That his U.S. attorney in Washington was recruiting Weinberger
to denounce Pollard was no accident. This was a high profile case in which
Reagan had taken an interest. He was furious with the Israelis about the
Pollard affair and had summoned them to a meeting to explain themselves.
The Israelis implausibly continued to deny any knowledge of Pollard,
claiming it was a "rogue operation," which only inflamed American sentiments
further. In an attempt to pacify the Americans, then-Prime Minister Shimon
Peres committed himself immediately to return all of the documents that were
then used as evidence against Pollard
Weinberger, himself, had much to hide in Iran-Contra. He participated in the
transfer of U.S. TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran, and following the
disclosure of his role, he resigned as secretary of defense. Independent
Counsel Lawrence Walsh placed Weinberger under indictment in 1992 after his
resignation on five counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and making
false statements in connection with congressional and Independent Counsel
investigations of Iran-Contra.
The court dropped the obstruction count and one count charging a false
statement made in a second indictment, leaving four counts. Before the
January 1993 trial date, President George H.W. Bush pardoned Weinberger,
denying any personal knowledge of Iran-Contra himself.
The U.S. District judge that presided over the case was Thomas Hogan.
According to Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, Judge Hogan kept delaying
the Weinberger trial until the fall of 1992, when Bush lost the election and
pardoned Weinberger. In 2003, the Pollard case was assigned to Judge Hogan,
who was called upon to decide the claim that his trial lawyer, Richard
Hibey, was ineffective for having failed to challenge the Weinberger
Declaration. Judge Hogan denied all relief.
Determined to go after Pollard, Weinberger first submitted the 46-page
pre-sentencing declaration, setting forth the government's views regarding
damage allegedly caused by Pollard's actions, including predictions of the
possible harm that might arise as a result of his conduct. Both Pollard and
Hibey examined the declaration. Pollard and Hibey submitted their own
memorandum, and the government replied.
However, portions of the government's submissions, some 35-40 pages
distributed among five documents - including Weinberger's specific
projections of possible harm and the sentencing transcript - were redacted
from public view based on the government's assertion that the portions
contained classified information.
On March 3, 1987 - the day before sentencing - Weinberger submitted a
four-page Supplemental Declaration in which he now accused Pollard of having
caused as much or greater harm to national security that any other spy in
the "year of the spy" -a well-understood reference to the recent espionage
cases of John Walker (head of the infamous Walker Spy Ring,) Jerry
Whitworth, (a member of the Walker Spy Ring,) and Ronald Pelton. Each had
spied for the Soviet Union, and each had been sentenced to life in prison
just a few months earlier.
In addition, Weinberger's Supplemental Declaration falsely accused Pollard
of "treason," a crime for which he had not been charged and which he had not
committed. Treason, a capital offense, entails aiding an enemy of the U.S.
in time of war. (Over four years later, an attorney for the government would
admit in court that the government's use of the word "treason" at sentencing
was "regrettable." However, the damage had been done). By comparing Pollard
to Walker, Whitworth and Pelton, each of whom had been sentenced to life,
and asking for a sentence commensurate with the harm done, Weinberger was
unambiguously asking for life in prison. This was a material breach of the
Based on what Judge Robinson considered a breach of the plea agreement by
Pollard, and by virtue of Weinberger's two declarations, Robinson sentenced
Pollard to life in prison. He made the decision even though the average
sentence for others who had committed the same offense - passing classified
information to another country without intending to harm the U.S. - was in
the neighborhood of four to five years.
But Pollard's lawyer failed to file the one-page Notice of Appeal of the
sentence, which he could have done by walking down the hall to the
appropriate office. Pollard's current lawyer, Eliot Lauer, points out that
since the government was in substantial violation of the plea agreement,
there was no question but that the sentence would have had to be set aside
and that a new sentencing hearing would have been ordered.
Lauer, who, with his colleague Jacques Semmelman became Pollard's lawyers on
a pro bono basis after the sentencing, says he cannot fathom why the notice
of appeal was not filed, particularly since Hibey was an experienced
criminal attorney. Hibey served as an assistant U.S. attorney and appeared
as counsel of record for a number of high profile cases.
Lauer and Semmelman describe Hibey's failure to file the Notice of Appeal as
"mind boggling." By not doing so, he deprived Pollard of any chance of
direct appellate review of his life sentence. Any review could only be done
thereafter via habeas corpus, which carries a much greater burden of proof
than direct review and which was the major reason why Pollard's first habeas
corpus petition was denied.
In 2005, an item appeared on the U.S. Prisons website saying "Pollard's life
sentence to end in 2015." As Lauer has explained in a communication to the
Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "under U.S. law in effect at the time of Mr.
Pollard's activities, any prisoner sentenced to life in prison is
presumptively entitled to parole on the 30th anniversary of the date of
incarceration as the 'projected' release date, which is posted as such on
the U.S. Prisons website.
On Nov. 21, 2015, Pollard will be presumptively entitled to parole. However,
the U.S. government will still be entitled to oppose it.
Pollard, a self-acknowledged Jewish nationalist, had to sue Israel to give
him Israeli citizenship, which finally was granted in 1995 as a result of
legal action. In 1998, after years of denial, Israel officially acknowledged
Pollard was their agent.
Meanwhile, he pressures the government of Israel to do more to get him
released, while his wife, Esther, and his supporters in Israel agitate for
him, condemning what they consider to be betrayal by Jewish state.
When I ask him what he would do if he were released, he says, "I will go
home, to Israel."
When Lauer and Pollard entered the case, they saw there were sealed
documents in the court file. They asked the U.S. Department of Justice to
allow them access to present a clemency application to President Clinton,
who was about to leave office.
To effectively present the petition, they needed to see the entire court
record. After spending months getting the highest security clearance
possible, "Top Secret," the Justice Department summarily denied them access,
because they had no "need to know." They filed a motion in the U.S. District
Court, asking for a modification of the 1986 protective order by which the
materials had been placed under seal in 1987.
The government opposed their motion on two grounds: They had no "need to
know," inasmuch the materials were (supposedly) of interest to no one, least
of all the Clinton administration, and that they been accorded the wrong
security clearance. They had received "Top Secret," while the materials were
"SCI," Secure Compartmented Information.
Motions then were filed to modify the prior denial of access. The motions
were assigned to Judge Hogan, who denied them. On appeal to the D.C.
Circuit, Judge Sentelle insisted from the bench that there was no
jurisdiction to hear the motions, supposedly because their underlying
objective in seeing the court records was to prepare a clemency application.
The judge reasoned that this somehow implicated the separation of powers and
precluded the court to exercise jurisdiction over the motion. The decision
was 2-1 against Pollard, based on a lack of jurisdiction.
Pollard's legal team appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which
declined to hear the case. Pollard repeatedly was denied his day in court,
on a technicality only, from the lower court to the Court of Appeals all the
way to the Supreme Court. His lawyers then wrote a lengthy "Executive
Summary of the Legal Initiatives for Jonathan Pollard," which they have
circulated to "seek the support of members of Congress, other elected
officials, and organizational, communal and clerical leaders" in order to
martial public opinion.
A letter to President Bush requesting access to the sealed court docket
materials so they could prepare a serious clemency application based on the
record, remains unanswered.
Pollard has been used off and on as a bargaining chip, with his release
preconditioned by actions the U.S. wanted from Israel. During the
negotiations over the Wye River Memorandum, brokered by the U.S. between
Israel and the Palestinian Authority in October 1998, President Clinton
playing a critical role. The president approached American ambassador to
Israel Martin Indyk and raised the issue of Pollard. Indyk, suspecting that
Netanyahu had brought up Pollard with Clinton, reminded Clinton that Rabin
had asked for Pollard's release but that Clinton had not given him to Rabin.
Clinton responded that what was fair did not matter but whether they could
get a deal.
The Wye agreement Clinton was pushing would give the Palestinians autonomy
in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for a pledge by the PLO to renounce
terrorism. It also required that there would be no further settlements in
the occupied territories. Netanyahu resisted any accommodation with the
Palestinians but had indicated a willingness to negotiate the release of 30
Clinton asked his chief negotiator, Dennis Ross, whether releasing Pollard
would help seal the deal.
"Is it a big political issue in Israel? Will it help Bibi (Netanyahu)?"
Ross told Clinton that it was a big issue, because Pollard was considered a
"soldier for Israel" and there was "an ethos in Israel that you never leave
a soldier behind in the field."
But if Clinton wanted Ross' advice, Ross told him, he should not release him
"It would be a huge payoff for Bibi; you don't have many like this in your
pocket. I would save it for permanent status. You will need it later, don't
use it now."
In a footnote to his memoir, "The Missing Peace," Ross writes: "I also said
I was in favor of his release, believing that he had received a harsher
sentence than others who had committed comparable crimes. I preferred not
tying his release to any agreement, but if that was what we were going to
do, then I favored saving it for permanent status."
Clinton demurred. "I usually agree with you," he said, "but this stalemate
has lasted so long that it has created a kind of constipation. Release it
and a lot becomes possible. I don't think we should wait, and if Pollard is
the key to getting it one now, we should do it."
But when CIA chief George Tenet reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton
released Pollard, Clinton, using this as a pretext, changed course. The
president, in effect, called Netanyahu's bluff on Ross' advice.
Netanyahu later confirmed that Clinton had in fact offered to released
Pollard, as did others at the negotiations, but Clinton continued to deny
it. Netanyahu did release 700 Palestinian prisoners and granted Ghazi Jabal
immunity from prosecution, but to no avail. In the end, Netanyahu backed
down and signed the accord in exchange for a promise by Clinton to review
Pollard's case. Later, Malcolm Hoenline, a top U.S. Jewish leader, revealed
Tenet told him that he never threatened to resign over the release of
And while he serves the hardest time possible, Pollard himself contemplates
a statement made by Weinberger shortly before his death. In a 2002
interview, Weinberger said the Pollard issue was "a very minor matter, but
made very important. ... It was made bigger than its actual importance."
Weinberger took the real reasons for Pollard's life sentence to the grave.
The author, Richard Cummings, holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences
from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former
Intelligence Officers. He taught international law at the Haile Selassie
University. Prior to that he was attorney-adviser with the Office of General
Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D., where he was
responsible for legal work in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He
is the author of a new novel, "The Immortalists," as well as The Pied
Piper - Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream and the comedy "Soccer
Moms From Hell."
a.. The U.S.- Iraq Complicity Page http://www.jonathanpollard.org/iraq.htm
b.. The Wye Double-Cross Page http://www.jonathanpollard.org/wye.htm
c.. Caspar's Ghost - Weinberger memoir omits key involvement: by Edwin
d.. MEQ: Why Jonathan Pollard Got Life - The Victim Impact Statement:
David Zwiebel, Esq. http://www.jonathanpollard.org/1997/061397.htm
e.. Original article by Richard Cummings: Worldnetdaily Exclusive News
Analysis: Did U.S. give WMD to Saddam Hussein?
JUSTICE FOR JONATHAN POLLARD