Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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 “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

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Was Shia LaBeouf’s performance art piece at Manhattan’s Angelica Film Center (where he spent three days watching his own films) a sign of madness or genius? Judging from the lines and the fans, it was the latter. Shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday, approximately 140 people were on line for the last day of the live-streamed event at Angelica Film Center. Fans who waited were happy to give their opinions. “I don’t think he’s crazy,” said Elliot Quartz, an 18-year-old student at the New School, who waited […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Jewish Artists From New York Release New Rap Album in English, Hebrew, Aramaic

    Jewish Artists From New York Release New Rap Album in English, Hebrew, Aramaic

    Eden Pearlstein freely admits that he has an addiction. But his brings people up instead of bringing them down. “I am a chronic collaborator,” says Pearlstein, a 35-year-old rapper who goes by the moniker of Eprhyme, and has released several solo albums. “Deeper and Higher” — his new album — is a collaboration with Shir Yakov Feit, who co-writes the songs and music. The friends and fellow artists both explore the relationship between man and God, and the benefit and emotional weight of introspection. With lyrics in English, Hebrew, and Aramaic, the artists stress […]

    Read more →