The Pentagon's Friend

Editorial - The Forward, (NY) January 15, 1999

Much of the debate over the fate of Jonathan Pollard rests on what sectets he did or did not pass along to the Israelis and whether or not they used this information to bargain with the Soviets during the heady years just before the end of the Cold War. Since the records are sealed, we need somebody to break the record open and, if it is possible to do so without damaging national security, tell us in a way that illuminates for the Jewish community and for the rest of the country, the reason that Pollard needs to be kept in prison.

A resolute Israel-basher like Seymour Hersh, writing in the current New Yorker, is not the one to do such a thing. His own biases are well known in the wake of his 1991 book attacking Israel's nuclear capabilities, "The Samson Option." Mr. Hersh is moreover cynical and insulting about Pollard's orthodox religious beliefs and about the sincerity of his supporters in the Jewish community. These days Mr. Hersh is putting forward the idea that Pollard was a cocaine addict and alcoholic, deep in debt and that is why he succumbed to the Israeli offer of money for passing along reams of secret documents about code-breaking and communication intercept procedures.

If true, our security apparatus is among the most most bumbling institutions in the world, allowing a wildly out-of-control man to walk out of a building pushing cartloads of papers to his car, with security guards holding the doors open for him. No amount of government bungling excuses Pollard's crimes, of course. Indeed we have said several times that a life term for spying for any country, friend or enemy, does not sound excessive to us.

But a life term in return for a negotiated plea bargain has many of us in the Jewish community unconvinced that justice was done in the Pollard case. This odd alliance between the defense establishment and a left wing journalist offers little to make the case.

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