Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard will be released on November 20 after serving 30 years in prison, according to an announcement by the U.S. Parole Commission on July 28. Under the rumored terms of his parole, he must initially remain in the New York City area, reporting regularly to his parole officer, and he may never be allowed to leave America or talk about his experiences as a spy for Israel.
Jonathan Pollard was arrested November 21, 1985, while he was attempting to seek asylum within the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. What unfolded thereafter was the full story of Pollard’s 18-month career of lifting highly classified intelligence documents and transferring them to his Israeli handler for photocopying.
Pollard was a civilian analyst employed by the Navy’s Antiterrorist Alert Center. The bulk of the information Israel received was not information about naval activities, but information from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
According to Ronald J. Olive, the man who led the spy investigation on behalf of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Jonathan Pollard passed on “more than one million pages of classified material.”
By Pollard’s own estimate, the paper information supplied to Israel could entirely fill a six-by-ten-foot room right up to a height of six feet – a staggering 360 cubic feet of documents. In the world of espionage, this stands as an all-time record, not to mention the fact that he was an untrained amateur. Jonathan Pollard didn’t break into the classified storage vault; he walked in through the doors left wide open by sloppy practices within the highest levels of America’s security agencies.
Olive obtained Pollard’s confession while arranging a plea bargain and wrote a book about the entire affair, Capturing Jonathan Pollard, which was published by Naval Institute Press.
In fact, the government didn’t have much of a case against Jonathan Pollard until the plea agreement was made and the incarcerated spy began to fully cooperate by revealing in extraordinary detail his 18 months as an Israeli agent.
Unlike the present spy news involving the case against spy Edward Snowden, in the charges against Jonathan Pollard, the prosecution declared no damages or harm to the U.S. Israel is a loyal American ally and the documents Pollard supplied were mostly about countries hostile to Israel.
“He took the law into his own hands to ‘help’ an ally,” writes Olive. Jonathan Pollard was not recruited by Israel. The initial contact was made by Pollard, volunteering his services to a surprised and unprepared Israeli air force colonel, ace fighter pilot, and combat veteran in the legendary 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Aviem Sella. Sella was in America pursuing a PhD and was a much sought after guest speaker.
Jonathan Pollard did not ask for payment of any kind. However, as more and more documents were provided, Israel began to pay a monthly stipend of between $1,500 and $2,500. This is chump change in the business of international espionage. Court documents noted that he “denied that he had been motivated by greed, instead claiming that he had sought to aid Israel because he believed that his aid to Israel would also benefit United States’ security interests.”
Under reciprocal agreements, the U.S. is obligated to provide Israel with any intelligence information vital to Israeli security. Jonathan Pollard was concerned that the U.S. was not providing Israel with everything required and necessary for Israel’s survival.
Historically, America had been known to deliberately withhold information, which resulted in tragic consequences for Israel. Prior to the Yom Kippur War, America knew days before and perhaps weeks before of the impeding, simultaneous invasion of Israel by Syria and Egypt – assisted with troops and fighter pilots from 10 other predominantly Muslim nations as well as from Korea and the former Soviet Union. The U.S. did not notify Israel of the planned surprise attack until three hours before the war began.
Jonathan Pollard Was Sentenced to Life in Prison
Pollard pleaded guilty to one count of passing classified information to an ally. There were no other charges brought against him and there was no trial. Instead of the minimal sentence promised in the plea agreement, Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 30 years. For seven years of his incarceration, he was kept in solitary confinement.
Caroline Glick ─ a U.S.-born Israeli journalist, author and Senior Fellow for Middle East Affairs of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. ─ states that Jonathan Pollard’s sentence was harsh and unprecedented, “compared to sentences handed down to other American citizens on behalf of countries which are friendly and allied with the United States.”
“The sentence against Pollard was grossly disproportionate to the sentences that people receive for being agents of countries that are friendly to the United States. In similar cases when American citizens transferred intelligence information or classified information to other allied states like South Korea, for instance, their sentences generally ranged up to five years.”
Elli Wohlgelernter, a reporter for Israel Broadcasting Authority English News, spoke on Wednesday about Pollard’s sentence.
“Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally and the only American citizen convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.”
It has been rumored that Pollard may never be given his passport back in order to leave the country and live with his wife in Israel. It has also been reported that, at the very least, Jonathan Pollard will be required to remain in the New York City area for a period of five years.
Jonathan Pollard’s pro bono attorney Eliot Lauer denied these rumors in a telephone interview with Newsweek.
“I don’t know the exact conditions of his parole.”
One thing is for certain: So long as he is required to remain in the U.S., Jonathan Pollard will not be a free man. He will be under constant scrutiny, surveillance, and constant threat of reimprisonment at any time for any perceived violation of his parole terms.
After spending two-thirds of his adult life in jail and now in ill-health, Jonathan Pollard will be 61-years-old in November when his prison term ends and his life begins again.
[Intro photo of Jonathan Pollard courtesy of Veterans Today/Book cover photo courtesy Ronald J. Olive, via Amazon.com]