Israeli state comptroller’s report will not affect Jonathan Pollard’s fate
The main conclusions of state comptroller Michah Lindenstrauss’s report, published Thursday, Sept. 3, do not address intelligence and political realities and will therefore not affect the US decision never to release Jonathan Pollard from the life sentence without parole given him in 1985 for spying for Israel, or ease his exceptionally harsh conditions of imprisonment.
The controller was asked to survey the manner in which successive Israel governments sought to secure Pollard’s release during his 24 years of incarceration. debkafile‘s Washington and intelligence sources find the former judge turned state comptroller lacked the broad experience necessary for examining one of the most sensitive intelligence issues of our time, which touch on the clandestine war conducted between the United States, China and Israel during a critical period of Cold War history.
Even Prof. Kenneth Mann’s finding, embodied in the report, of violations of Pollard’s right to fair trial and due process are likely to be dismissed by Washington because the professor only saw the trial material made public. He was not privy to the redacted parts of the transcripts from court hearings in Alexandria and Washington, which constitute the main body of the material.
Our Washington sources note that various American lawyers have tried in the past to re-open his case. Some were hired by the Pollard family and funded by the Israeli government. But all these attempts were dismissed by US courts.
Lindenstrauss questions the absence of stenographic records of the covert conversations between Israeli prime ministers and US presidents on the Pollard case. This question betrays his inexperience in such matters in which both sides habitually make sure that no written record exists, whether they are George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton or George Bush Jr. and all Israeli prime ministers, from Shimon Peres through Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu.
Even if asked to divulge the contents of such conversations, they would all deny remembering them. It is a matter of high diplomacy and the inherent dictates of clandestine interrelations that keep the most delicate element of Israeli security, its intelligence ties with the United States, off all public written records.
The Comptroller goes on to recommend the availability of such documentation in order to plumb the accumulated motivations of Israeli government actions for Pollard’s release and provide a common foundation for better understanding and future cooperation (between Israel and the US).
Here, too, he treads in the arcane terrain of counter-intelligence, which requires a lifetime’s study. In the particular case of Pollard, there are enough deterrents to such common understanding and future cooperation to make his comments irrelevant.
debkafile points to five of these deterrents:
1. For the US administration, Jonathan Pollard was never just an Israeli spy but a cog in a machine which encompassed the counterintelligence systems of China and the Soviet Union at a particular stage in the Cold War. As a member of the US Naval intelligence staff, one of the most secret of all clandestine agencies, he was in contact with foreign agencies other than Israel’s.
2. To this day, the Americans have not fully comprehended the true role played (or not played) by Israeli intelligence in Pollard’s contacts with other services. That he was paid by some apparently led to his exposure and capture.
3. Broad circles in the US intelligence community believe Pollard was not the only spy Israel employed in the US at that time. They suspect a second senior Israeli agent was operating in the US at the time, apart from Pollard and his Israeli controller, former minister Rafi Eitan.
4. The Americans believe that the secrets Pollard passed to Israel ended up being transferred to Moscow.
5. For the Americans, the Russian angle ties Pollard to Aldrich Ames, the American CIA counter-intelligence officer who spied for Russia in the 1980’s and 90’s. For 14 years, Ames managed to expose the entire US counter-intelligence apparatus to Moscow at the cost of many lives.
This is not the place to explain how the two espionage affairs interact or why, but it must be stressed that as long as Aldrich does not see the light of day – and he has absolutely no chance of this for now – nothing will change in the US determination to keep Pollard in jail for the rest of his days.
Therefore, the comptroller’s conclusion, which urges the Prime Minister and his cabinet to take every possible step to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard, to whom “The State of Israel owes… the debt of obeying the religious command to redeem its prisoners – and the sooner the better in light of his failing health”, is morally commendable but as impractical as the rest of his report.