Pollard: the US's Dreyfus
Arnold Forster, Esq. - The Jerusalem Post - August 7, 1994
As Jonathan Pollard celebrates his 40th birthday today, his supporters wonder if history may record his case as America's Dreyfus affair.
The two cases, are, of course, different in at least one respect. Dreyfus was innocent and Pollard has admitted his guilt. But guilty of what? Unfortunately, with government officials falsely condemning Pollard of treason and other crimes he was never even accused of, the comparison to the Dreyfus case cannot be readily dismissed.
The tragedy of former defense secretary Les Aspin's flawed understanding of the Pollard case is that Aspin was one of the key people advising President Clinton on Pollard's petition for commutation. It was Aspin who made the outrageous charge, in a letter to the president, that Pollard tried to leak classified information in 14 letters from prison. (The Pentagon refused to show that letter to Pollard's counsel, or any of the letters allegedly containing classified information, so that the preposterous charges could be refuted.)
Aspin's recent comments at the Hebrew University, accusing Pollard of being "a traitor to his country" exposes his ignorance of fundamental facts. Treason is clearly restricted to aiding the government or citizenry of a foreign country that is involved in an armed conflict with the U.S.
That Israel is not an enemy of the US but one of its closest allies was also not understood by Bobby Inman, Clinton's first choice to succeed Aspin as defense secretary. In his bizarre announcement withdrawing his nomination, Inman confirmed Pollard's long held contention that the US had withheld vital intelligence information from Israel.
Inman acknowledged, without apology, that he was so outraged that Israel had the temerity to take out Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981, that he ordered restrictions on intelligence-sharing with the Israelis.
The morale dilemma Pollard faced in his work in Naval Intelligence was thus a direct consequence of Inman's attempt at reshaping US policy toward Israel.
Given the nature of the special US-Israel relationship and the fact that all the information supplied by Pollard related to third-party Arab states, the government did not accuse Pollard of acting with intent to injure the US. Nor was there any evidence by which the government could show that someone in Pollard's position would have any reason to believe that the information he transmitted to Israel could cause injury to the US. Indeed, nine years after Pollard's arrest, nobody, including Aspin, has given one specific example of how Pollard hurt the US.
But those in the defense and intelligence communities who wanted to put the squeeze on Pollard were not going to let the facts get in their way. And so he was made the fall guy, perhaps by recently convicted Soviet master spy Aldrich Ames himself, for somehow being responsible for the previously unexplained series of US intelligence mishaps in the Soviet Union in the mid- and late 1980s.
Of course, we know that it was Ames who was responsible for, among other disasters, the collapse of the US intelligence apparatus and the compromising of all US informants in the Soviet Union. But instead of acknowledging that they either spread or were fooled by misinformation, government officials like Aspin continue to make damning accusations about Pollard that fly in the face of the truth.
Aspin is also entirely off base when he mangles the facts about Pollard's motive. The record shows that Pollard never asked for money in exchange for the information he believed Israel needed for its defense. In fact, for the first six months, Pollard did not receive a cent for his services. The idea of payment came from the Israelis.
Aspin's diatribe confirms what Pollard's supporters have long been arguing. The president relied on advisers who were grossly misinformed. Justice demands that the president immediately reconsider the facts of the Pollard case. Any fair appraisal will lead to the conclusion that Pollard has paid his debt and that the time has come for his release.
Arnold Forster, Esq.