Tenet accused of lying in memoirs
Former CIA chief claims he nixed deal to free Jonathan Pollard
Aaron Klein - WorldNetDaily.com - May 4, 2007
JERUSALEM - Former CIA Director George Tenet's claim that he is responsible for nixing a deal to free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard has been contradicted by a number of sources, including some who say Tenet personally told them otherwise.
In his recently released memoirs, "At The Eye of the Storm," Tenet asserts he prevented the release of Pollard during the U.S.-backed Wye River negotiations in 1998 in which then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately agreed to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and free 750 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.
The talks were brokered by President Bill Clinton, who promised he would free Pollard if Netanyahu signed the deal. According to Netanyahu and former Israeli Cabinet Secretary Dan Naveh, as well as public on-record statements of key Wye participants, Pollard's promised release was as an integral part of Israel's signing the accords.
Tenets writes he told Clinton he would resign if Pollard were freed, explaining his personal prestige would be damaged since his CIA colleagues would assume he helped to broker the deal.
"If Pollard was in the final package deal, no one at CIA headquarters would believe I had nothing to do with it," wrote Tenet in his memoirs.
He wrote his career would be "destroyed" if he agreed to the release of Pollard.
But Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, previously told media he received a phone call from Tenet immediately after the Wye deal was signed in which Tenet denied he had ever threatened to resign if Pollard were freed.
"He truly was very emotional and very upset about it," Hoenlein said. "He said that was not the way he did things, and from our experience, that was not the way he did things."
Tenet's version of events are also contradicted by former U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, who played a key role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in which Pollard's release was reportedly pledged.
In his book, "The Missing Peace," Ross writes that at the Wye summit, Clinton asked him if freeing Pollard would be important to Israel.
"Yes," Ross writes he replied, "because he is considered a soldier for Israel, and there is an ethos in Israel that you never leave a soldier behind in the field."
But Ross writes he cautioned the president against releasing Pollard until greater concessions from Israel could be secured during final status talks.
"[Pollard's release] would be a huge payoff [for Israel]; you don't have many like it in your pocket ... You will need it later, don't use it now," writes Ross.
Israeli sources close to the Wye Accords told WND Clinton took Ross' advice but needed an excuse to break his promise to free Pollard. The sources claim Clinton orchestrated Tenet's threat to resign, which became a plausible explanation for not releasing Pollard.
Pollard's wife, Esther, told WND: "When Clinton reneged on the U.S. commitment to free Jonathan as an integral part of the Wye accords, an excuse was fabricated claming Tenet threatened to resign. This was not only untrue, it was a ridiculous excuse. Its implausibility was vividly demonstrated a few months later when Clinton freed FALN terrorists over Tenets' vehement objections and actual threat to resign."
Pollard was referring to Clinton's releasing in 1999 of 14 members of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacin Nacional Puerto Rican terror group over the objections of the president's cabinet, Congress, Senate and a threat by Tenet to resign. Tenet ultimately didn't step down.
Naveh, who was a high-ranking Israeli official at Wye, said Clinton's pledge to free Pollard was not a personal promise made to a particular prime minister. ... This was a promise made to the state of Israel and to the people of Israel."
Larry Dub, Pollard's Jerusalem attorney, called Clinton's pledge at Wye "binding upon successive administrations until fulfilled."
'Twenty-two years in prison is a long time'
From his prison cell in Butner, N.C., Jonathan Pollard relayed his response to Tenet's book to WND:
"A decade has passed since Wye. Ross has publicly called for my release in recent months; so has former head of the CIA James Woolsey. Twenty-two years in prison is a long time.
"At this late date, it is essentially irrelevant that Clinton sought an excuse to renege at Wye so that he could play the Pollard card again at a later date, and Tenet became the excuse, not the reason for keeping me in prison. Tenet apparently still wants to save face by playing along. The only thing that is relevant now is that the on-going injustice - holding me in prison because I am regarded as a high value bargaining chip - be addressed and rectified without any further delay
"My release ought to be a matter of principle - of justice and of due process - and it ought to reflect the honor and integrity of the U.S.-Israel special relationship. Israel has already paid for my release at Wye. It is time to collect it."
Pollard, an Israeli agent who worked as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested in 1985 and indicted of one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of a plea agreement that was to spare him a life term.
Pollard's sentence is considered by many to be disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted - he is the only person in the history of the U.S. to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for the offense is two to four years.
The unprecedented sentence was largely thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in which he accused Pollard of treason - a crime for which he was never indicted - and claimed Pollard harmed America's national security.
But even Weinberger, who died last year, conceded just prior to his death the sentence may be about something else.
Weinberger said the Pollard issue "is a very minor matter, but made very important. ... It was made far bigger than its actual importance."
Pollard previously told WND the information he passed to Israel forewarned the Jewish state about the build-up of unconventional weapons of war in neighboring Arab countries, including by Saddam Hussein for use against Israel.
Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief, is known for his regular interviews with Mideast terror leaders and his popular segments on America's top radio programs.