One Minute to Midnight

Dr. Irving Moskowitz - The Jewish Press (NY) - January 8, 1993

Weinberger Goes Free As His Victim Rots In Jail

The man who helped Israel combat Iraq's nuclear development is rotting in prison. The man who helped put him in jail was indicted for various criminal offenses, but has now been given a Presidential pardon. And a man who spied for Iraq against the U.S. during the Gulf War has received a slap-on-the wrist punishment. In this strange world of fours, where injustice triumphs all too often, there may be no more grotesque injustice than the tragic saga of Jonathan Pollard, Caspar Weinberger, and Albert Sombolay.

Pollard was sentenced, in 1987, to life imprisonment without parole, for the "crime" of giving Israel a number of U.S., intelligence reports about the nuclear and chemical weapons development of Syria and Iraq. That information was crucial to Israel's efforts to undermine Arab nuclear activities. Pollard, an intelligence analyst, was moved to take that action when he discovered that his superiors were deliberately withholding that data from the Israelis - despite a U.S.-Israeli agreement which obliged the Americans to share such information. When Pollard complained about his bosses' refusal to give Israel a report about the Arabs' development of poison gas, the reply he received was cold and cruel: "The Jews are too sensitive about gas," they said.

Those who later crusaded to put Pollard behind bars - most notably, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger - angrily denied that crucial data was withheld from the Jewish State. But Bruce Brill, a former Middle East analyst for the National Security Agency, says otherwise. He recently revealed that on October 5, 1973, some 30 hourse before the You Kippur invasion of Israel, he was shown a U.S. intelligence report disclosing the Arabs' invasion plans. "I naturally assumed that Israel, America's publicly declared friend, would have been notified immediately through proper channels about the imminent attack," Brill writes with remorse. Of course, the U.S. did not notify Israel, an "now I live haunted by the possibility that, somehow, I could have discovered the intelligence was not being forwarded, gotten it to the Israelis, and saved some measure of the anguish that become known as the Yom Kippur War." After encountering precisely the same kind of anti-Israel bias that Brill witnessed, Jonathan Pollard acted upon his conscience.

Pollard knew that what he was doing was illegal, and knew that he would be punished if he was caught. What he never could have imagined is that the penalty he would be given for passing data to an ally of the U.S., in peace time, would be worse than that given to individuals who passed data to enemies of the U.S., in war time.

John Walker, for example, passed U.S. intelligence data to the Soviet Union over a 17-year period. That included the period of the Vietnam War, and the information he gave the Soviets included details about U.S. troop movements in South Vietnam, making them easier targets for the Soviet-backed Vietcong. To make matters worse, Walker recruited his brother, his son, and one of his friends to join in the espionage. He was convicted of treason- much more serious than what Pollard was charged with - yet received an ordinary life sentence, unlike Pollard, who received life with a recommendation of no parole. Walker's son Michael, received a sentence of 25 years, will only hate to serve a maximum of 16, and could even be paroled after serving just eight years.

Or consider the case of Abdel Kader Helmy, an Egyptian-American rocket scientist who tried to smuggle U.S. war materials to Egypt. Acting on the orders of Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Abu-Ghazala, Helmy tried to illegally smuggle 420 pounds of materials needed for developing the Stealth aircraft. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison and given a modest fine; he will be free in three years at the latest. Egypt may be the temporarily friendly with the U.S., but it cannot be considered an "ally" of America as Israel is. Yet Helmy was treated with kid gloves, while Pollard was treated with an iron fist.

But the most outrageous case - and the one which most highlights the Pollard injustice - is that of Albert Sombolay. He was convicted, in 1991, of having spied for Iraq during the Gulf War. He gave Baghdad vital U.S. intelligence data, including information on the deployment of allied troops in the Gulf. He even gave Iraq samples of the protective equipment that the allied troops used against chemical weapons, so that the Iraqis could figure out how to penetrate it. Yet despite the fact that he spied during war time, and despite the serious damage he caused, Sombolay was sentenced to just 19 years in prison.

What accounts for the cruel and unusual treatment meted out to Jonathan Pollard? There can be little doubt that Caspar Weinberger had a great deal to do with it. Perhaps because of his deep-rooted connections to the oil industry and its pro-Arab mindset, perhaps because of personal anxieties arising from the fact that he had one Jewish grandfather, Weinberger displayed an animus towards Pollard that is hard to fathom. On the day of Pollard's sentencing, Weinberger submitted a letter to the judge, claiming that it was "difficult to conceive a greater harm to national security than that caused by [Pollard]." He urged that Pollard be given the maximum penalty, in violation of a promise by government prosecutors not to request the maximum penalty. On another occasion, Weinberger even privately told reporters that Pollard "deserved to be hanged."

Everyone who was outraged by the miscarriage of justice in the Pollard case had a right to feel satisfied when Weinberger was indicted, earlier this year, on a variety of criminal charges related to the Iran-Contra affair. At last the would-be hangman might get a taste of his own medicine, but then George Bush decided to top off his four years of Israel-bashing by granting a presidential pardon to a fellow Israel-basher, and Caspar Weinberger is a free man again.

That would leave Jonathan Pollard back at square one - except for one thing. After years of silence, the American Jewish community is at last raising its voice on behalf of Pollard. The Weinberger indictment and pardon have only served to further ignite Jewish anger over the Pollard affair. One final, mighty, united push by American Jews - in the form of rallies, telegrams, and tireless lobbying - can win freedom for Pollard, whether from the outgoing President or the incoming one. It can be done; it must be done.