All These Years & Pollard's Still Being Smeared

January 14, 199 - Sidney Zion - New York Daily News Online

Imagine Trent Lott asking Bob Barr whether the Senate should convict Bill Clinton, and you have Bill Clinton polling his national security advisers on Jonathan Pollard.

We are supposed to take this "review" of Pollard's outrageous life sentence seriously? Clinton agreed with alacrity at the Wye River summit to release Pollard, without any threat from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He backed off under a threat from CIA Director George Tenet, who said he'd resign if Pollard were freed. The White House spinmeisters turned Bibi into a blackmailer; they said he told Clinton he'd kill the deal with Yasser Arafat unless he could take Pollard back to Israel.

It was a lie, but not half the lie the Reagan Justice Department pulled off when it violated a plea bargain with Pollard that would have given the American spy for Israel a sentence of no more than 10 to 15 years.

The government, desperate for a deal for reasons ranging from the fact that a trial would reveal that we were supporting Saddam Hussein and keeping Israel in the dark about Syria's death weaponry to the reality that the case against Pollard was weak, agreed to ask for a "substantial sentence," understood to be something like what other American spies for American allies had received — and none had gotten more than 10 years.

An hour before sentencing, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger delivered a secret memo to the judge proclaiming Pollard "the worst spy in American history." So Pollard got what no other defendant ever got for pleading guilty — the maximum sentence. And now, Clinton asks the intelligence guys to advise him on whether he should grant clemency.

The 'Intelligence' Dance

These are the very people who should be out of the question. Pollard cannot possibly be a security risk after 13 years in prison — it's a sick joke to suggest such a thing.

But Clinton invited the orchestra, and we are supposed to dance to the music. And what an orchestra! Tommy Dorsey in his heyday couldn't do what we are witnessing now from the great "intelligence community" that allowed Pollard through its net and will never forgive him for the embarrassment.

The latest dance came in The New Yorker from Seymour Hersh, my old colleague on The New York Times, who goes beyond Cappy Weinberger in defining Pollard as the spy of the century.

Sy Hersh assures me that he is no cat's-paw to the intelligence community, he did this piece on his own. I believe him, not only because he's an old friend, but because the national security crowd could never figure out a slander of Pollard like this on their own.

Hersh has him delivering immense secrets to the Soviet Union through Israel. Nothing in the indictment of Pollard comes close to such an accusation, and Hersh's sources are anonymous.

But what interests me most in Sy's account is his story that what upset the Americans more than anything was that Pollard's spying informed the Israelis that we were spying on them.

Everybody who ever took a look at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv knew that the joint was honeycombed with CIA agents. But who reported it? Sy Hersh lets us know in living color.

I asked Hersh why this didn't seem to bother him. I said: "Is it because you and our government view Israel as a client state so that it's legitimate for us to spy on Israel but not vice versa?"

"It's a good question," Hersh said.

The more immediate question goes to Janet Reno, the attorney general, who still has not responded to Clinton's request for advice. If the Justice Department was willing to deal for 10 years with Pollard, how, in all justice, can you keep him on ice for the rest of his life?