TIME Magazine: The Damage of Pollard's Espionage [With Pollard's Comments]

Chronicle - Inside Washington - December 6, 1993

Transmitted: 93-12-05

As Israel presses the Clinton Administration to free Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. navy intelligence analyst sentenced on 1986 to life in prison for spying for the Israelis, TIME has learned that one document Pollard is believed to have slipped to the Israelis - thought to have landed in Soviet hands, albeit unintentionally - was a huge national Security Agency compendium of frequencies used by foreign military and intelligence services. Gathering this information cost the U.S. billions of dollars, but Pollard rendered it useless. Officials assume countries that knew their frequencies had been discovered used them for disinformation. Additionally, officials fear the data in the book were so specific that its discovery may have cost informants their lives.

Jonathan Pollard Comments:

This Time magazine article was part of a very carefully orchestrated disinformation campaign that was designed to sabotage Prime Minister Rabin's initial efforts to secure my release. It also reflected the then ongoing effort to blame me - and by extension, Israel - for all the damage later attributed to Aldrich Ames. Of course, if the government had actually possessed any evidence which could have substantiated the claims made in this piece, the prosecutors should have, at the very least, indicted me for having intended to harm the U.S. But that never happened. The fact is, the government did not formally charge me with having compromised either the identities of agents or sensitive communications intelligence, which it could easily have done - assuming, that is, I had actually committed those crimes. So what, exactly, was the real story behind this NSA compendium?

Firstly, I should make it very clear that the document in question was not a "code book". Although the distinction may seem academic, it's critical to understand that I never had access to any cryptographic material. I'm stressing this point because both the "leakers" and the prosecutors have, from time to time, tried to leave the false impression that the compendium was some sort of super secret code-breaking manual which the U.S. never shared with any foreign intelligence service. And that, simply put, was not the case.

Secondly, court records clearly show that, when challenged, the government grudgingly admitted that approximately 1/3 of the compendium had been officially denied to Israel. Citing "national security" considerations, the government also declined to provide the court with a list of those foreign intelligence agencies which had received the entire document. This shows how the government used the compendium as a means of manipulating the criminal justice system.

Absent any demonstrable harm that I'd caused, the intelligence community had to do something "creative" to justify its last-minute call for a life sentence. The fact that their subsequent misrepresentation of a rather obscure NSA document proved to be so effective actually says more, though, about the judge's willingness to be misled than it does about the credibility of the government's brief. After all, here was a man who knew that he'd originally been given a false description of this compendium by the prosecutors, yet, he accepted the assessment of the alleged damage accused by my having provided the Israelis with the remaining portion of the document. What's wrong with this picture?

Lastly, given all the unresolved issues surrounding the compendium, why wouldn't the judge even consider our request to postpone my sentencing until after an objective outside expert had reviewed the document? Assuming this person had all the appropriate clearances, what threat to national security was posed by our request? Unfortunately, to this day, neither my lawyers nor any other vetted third party has ever been able to regain access to the stack of classified sentencing material which was used against me. What could possible explain the government's absolutely unprecedented behavior in this matter? A legitimate concern for security? Hardly.

I fully appreciate the fact that our country must be protected from those things which truly threaten our vital national interests. Perhaps it's time, though, for somebody to tell the intelligence community that "truth' should not be counted as one of them.

  • See Also: The Ames Case