CIA Assessment Sheds New Light on Pollard’s Sentencing, Intelligence Gathering

December 19, 2012 11:28 am 1 comment

Demonstrators hold signs of Jonathan Pollard as they attend a protest calling for his release outside the house of President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, where Peres met with U.S. congressmen, on August 17, 2011. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who has been visiting Jonathan Pollard in federal prison for years, is accustomed to tight security to the point that he “can’t bring in a pen.”

It surprised Lerner, then, to find out from newly declassified CIA documents that an interview with Wolf Blitzer—“with tape recorders, and cameras and books” on hand—would have flown under the radar.

Pollard, the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally, received a sentence of that magnitude because of an unauthorized 1986 interview he gave Blitzer—the current CNN television anchor who at the time was working for the Jerusalem Post—in 1986, according to a CIA damage assessment on Pollard’s case. The National Security Archive at George Washington University published the documents Dec. 14.

“They had to apply for permits [to conduct the interview], you had to walk into a top-security prison,” Lerner, the former executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, told JNS.org. “Jonathan got those permits. [Blitzer] walked into a federal prison… You don’t just walk in through the back door, you walk up to the front door. Everything has to be inspected.”

“So to say, that Jonathan had an interview without permission?” Lerner asked. “It was under your nose, what do you mean without permission? Of course he had permission. Blitzer couldn’t have come in and the interview wouldn’t have happened [without permission]. So to say that the prosecution and the judge penalized him for that is, I hate to say it, is—if it would be true—it would be hilarious.”

Pollard, who on Nov. 21 entered his 28th year in prison following a conviction of spying for Israel without intent to harm the U.S., cooperated with prosecutors in 1987 return for an assurance that he would not receive a life sentence. But according to the CIA, Pollard’s interview with Blitzer violated that deal.

In the interview on Nov. 20, 1986, Pollard provided “extensive information on his motives and objectives in conducting espionage for Israel” and also gave Blitzer “a general account with important examples of intelligence he passed to the Israelis, and emphasized that the Israeli government must have been aware of and approved of his activities,” the declassified CIA assessment said.

The fact that Pollard gave the interview with Blitzer “without obtaining advance approval of the resulting text from the Justice Department,” the assessment said, represented a violation of his plea bargain.

However, the assessment also said Pollard cooperated “in good faith” while he was in custody.

“It says very clearly in these documents that he fully cooperated,” Lerner said.

The documents also revealed that the intelligence Pollard conveyed to his handlers was limited to information on Pakistan, Arab states and the Soviet Union—specifically, the handlers “did not request or receive from Pollard intelligence concerning some of the most sensitive U.S. national security resources.”

That new information on the intelligence gathered by Pollard “certainly raises a lot of questions” because it was previously presumed that his crime involved compromising American national security,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“Some say that [Pollard’s] actions were inappropriate, but perhaps of less severity in terms of the way it has been presented” from a U.S. security perspective, Hoenlein told JNS.org.

However, Hoenlein cautioned against rushing to conclusions on the CIA’s damage assessment on Pollard because it is 166 pages long and still under review.

“We’re still reading the document, it’s very long, and we have people who are reviewing it [for the Conference of Presidents], and we’ll be meeting with attorneys and others about it,” he said.

On Dec. 10, the Conference of Presidents commended a bipartisan congressional letter urging President Barack Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence. The letter was circulated by U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) and signed by a total of 42 representatives.

Pollard’s advocates in Congress and elsewhere have long said that his life sentence is disproportionate to his crime. When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last June, Israeli President Shimon Peres reportedly asked Obama in a private meeting to grant Pollard clemency. But the White House, at the time, said it would not change its position on Pollard.

Lerner said the declassified CIA documents re-emphasize “that there’s no rationalization for putting somebody away for 28 years, seven years of solitary confinement” for what Pollard did.

“Our hope and prayer is that these documents will force everybody in the [U.S.] administration to take a second look, and hopefully the president, with a stroke of a pen, will be able to correct this serious injustice,” Lerner added.

In addition to Pollard’s Jerusalem Post interview with Blitzer, the CIA assessment said Pollard’s wife at the time, Anne, also gave an unauthorized interview—with the CBS “60 Minutes” program, three days before Pollard’s sentencing.

Esther Pollard, Jonathan’s current wife, told the Jerusalem Post that the U.S. government “did something highly suspicious by forgetting to send anyone to monitor these interviews.”

“Later, at sentencing, the prosecutor successfully inflamed the judge against Jonathan by falsely claiming that not only had the interviews been secretly arranged behind their backs, but that Jonathan had also disclosed highly classified material to Blitzer that compromised the intelligence community’s sources and methods,” she said.

Ultimately, Lerner said he does not get caught up in the details of the Pollard case that are already in the past, instead focusing on what he considers to be the convicted spy’s disproportionate prison sentence.

“At this point in time, it makes no difference who he was or what he was,” Lerner said. “He committed a crime, he more than paid for the crime, and it’s time that he be let go.”

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.