Fictionalizing Facts on Pollard
By Kenneth Lasson, Angelo Codevilla, Lawrence Korb, and John Loftus
The Arizona Republic - December 29, 2010
‘Tis the season, apparently, for leaking and spinning government
secrets, from both the Right and the Left.
Now comes retired Navy captain M. E. Bowman, who claims in The
Intelligencer (a journal for professionals in national security) to know the
real damage that Jonathan Pollard caused the United States by having passed
classified data to Israel over a quarter-century ago. Meanwhile Martin
Peretz, editor of the New Republic, asserts definitively that Pollard "spied
. . . for both Israel and Pakistan (!)"
Both are reacting vituperatively to a growing international momentum on
behalf of clemency for Pollard. They are entitled to their opinions, but not
to fictionalize the facts.
Do either presume to know the particulars better than James Woolsey
(former director of the Central Intelligence Agency) or Dennis DeConcini
(former chair of the Senate’s Select Intelligence Committee), or Michael
Mukasey (former Attorney General under George W. Bush)– all of whom have
come out publicly in support of commuting Pollard’s sentence to time served?
It is now widely acknowledged by intelligence professionals that the
vague, secret charges initially leveled against Pollard for somehow causing
the then-unexplained loss of U.S. agents working in the Soviet Union were
for crimes actually committed by two others: Aldrich Ames, who had been in
charge of CIA counterintelligence for East Europe but was actually a Russian
mole, and Robert Hanssen, an FBI Special Agent who confessed to having
betrayed American agents. (Ames was finally caught and convicted in 1994,
Hanssen in 2001.)
The intelligence community had been chasing along a false trail.
Moreover, their failure to realize that Pollard lacked the Blue Stripe
clearance necessary if he were to betray our spy networks seriously impaired
the subsequent search for the real traitors.
Thus they focus on things like a "secret" manual listing the physical
parameters of every known signal link then used by the Soviet Union, and a
daily log of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet Surveillance Facility reporting the
location of all ships in the Middle East during the previous 24 hours. The
truth is that such links are out there for anyone to measure, and
knowledgeable intelligence agents (both American and Russian) understand the
neglible usefulness of ship data because it is so quickly outdated.
Moreover, there is no credible evidence Pollard ever passed information
to a third country. In fact he kept his part of a plea bargain with federal
prosecutors under which he agreed to cooperate fully with its investigation
in return for a less-than-maximum sentence; by all indications the
government did not. The judge ignored the agreement and sentenced Pollard to
life in prison. Most who were there believe he was heavily swayed by secret
declarations from then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
Both the Intelligencer and New Republic pieces amount to little more
than damnation by hearsay and innuendo – observations that are utterly
incompatible with the government’s own carefully-crafted submissions to the
court. The official Victim Impact Statement (designed to state the harshest
provable case against the defendant) portrays, at worst, short-term friction
between the U.S. and unnamed Arab countries, and a temporary reduction in
bargaining leverage by the U.S. over Israel. In fact no permanent,
irreversible, and overwhelming damage to U.S. national security is even
alleged, much less proven.
The real reason that various shadowy figures in the intelligence
community persist in their loud anti-Pollard whispers reflects their
lingering defensiveness about U.S. policy in the 1970s and ‘80s – in
particular their disastrously failed support of Saddam Hussein and Saudi
Arabia (which remains the principal sponsor of Al Qaeda’s anti-American
terrorism). The security establishment was outraged when Israel destroyed
Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, after which they cut the Israelis off from
the normal interchange of intelligence.
Pollard wrongly took it upon himself to remedy that failure. But it is
now more clear than ever that he is being severely punished for deeds he
never did, nor was ever charged with doing. You don’t have to go to law
school to understand how much this violates the bedrock principles of
American fairness, justice, and compassion.
When the system fails, we pride ourselves on relentless self-scrutiny so
that truth might ultimately prevail. That noble sentiment was recently
endorsed by 39 members of Congress who wrote President Obama urging clemency
for Pollard – as well as hundreds of religious leaders of different faiths,
all of them declaring in unison their fundamental belief that "Justice, only
justice, shall you pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20).
Do either Bowman or Peretz have greater moral suasion than Charles
Ogletree (the Harvard law professor who is the President’s friend and
mentor) or Elie Wiesel (the Nobel Laureate), each of whom have expressed
Last month Jonathan Pollard completed his twenty-fifth year behind bars.
In this season of good will and sincere wishes, let us hope that President
Obama has the courage and character to set him free.
Kenneth Lasson is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore. Angelo
Codevilla served as a senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence
Committee (1978-85); Lawrence Korb was Assistant Secretary of Defense
(1981-85); John Loftus is a former U.S. prosecutor and Army intelligence