Double-Standard Spying

April 11, 1994 - The Jewish Press - Morton Klein

We all know what happens to an American who illegally passes classified U.S. intelligence data to Israel:

life imprisonment

, repeated refusals by the President to grant clemency, leaks to the media of false allegations against the defendant and against Israel. That's what happened in the Jonathan Pollard case. He broke the law and he was, understandably, punished for doing so.

In the case of Pollard, he helped a country that is

America's closest ally

in the Mideast. The information Pollard illegally gave Israel helped protect it from Arab aggression.

What happens, on the other hand, when an American illegally passes classified U.S. intelligence data to an Arab dictatorship that can hardly be described as a

reliable ally

of the United States? Lieutenant-Commander Michael Schwartz was last year arrested for providing such data to Saudi Arabia. A U.S. Navy grand jury indicted him on the charge of espionage, which carries a sentence of

life imprisonment

. His punishment? An

"other than honorable discharge."

Not a day in jail. Not a penny in fines.

And not a word of concern from any Clinton Administration official about the fact that Saudi Arabia, which is supposed to be an ally of the United States, was using a spy to steal American intelligence secrets, just months after American soldiers were dying in defense of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War.

U.S. officials would not even admit that the Saudis had recruited Schwartz; they told The Washington Post that Schwartz had not been hired by Saudi Arabia, but rather "was only trying to be friendly and cooperative to a U.S. ally."

The government's handling of the Schwartz case is particularly troubling in view of the many recent Saudi actions that fell far short of what one would expect from an ally:

  • Saudi Arabia refused to let the U.S. use its territory to launch the recent missile strikes against Iraq.

  • The Saudis rejected America's request to let the FBI interrogate four terrorists who were involved in last year's attack against U.S. Army personnel in Saudi Arabia.

  • The Saudi authorities prevented the U.S. from capturing one of the most wanted terrorists, Imad Mughniyah, of the Syrian-supported Islamic Holy War group, who was responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed 241 American Marines in Lebanon.

    Mughniyah was on an airplane that was scheduled to land in Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. informed the Saudis that they intended to arrest him during the stopover. The Saudis responded by preventing the plane from landing, so that Mughniyah could escape.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan Pollard by telephone, from his prison cell in Butner, North Carolina. He is now in his 12th year of incarceration, although no other individual convicted of a similar type of spying for an ally of the U.S. has ever served more than five years in prison.

Jonathan asked: "Why am I still in jail, while Michael Schwartz is walking free?"

Good question - one that Jewish leaders should be asking the Clinton Administration at every opportunity.

Morton Klein
President, Zionist Organization of America