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...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.