Why Do They Hate Pollard So Intensely?

Hershel Shanks, Editor - Moment Magazine April 1999

THE POLLARD CASE WILL NOT DIE. A hundred years from now men will still be talking about it - unless it is resolved. Why? Because it raises issues we dare not mention. Was Pollard treated - is he being treated - more severely than other spies because he is a Jew who spied for Israel?

Ask yourself this: Why do they hate Pollard so? By "they" I mean the intelligence community, the government bureaucracy. Consider the recent campaign "they" have waged to make sure Pollard stays in prison indefinitely: Four former directors of Naval Intelligence jointly write an op-ed piece saying that clemency would be "totally irresponsible" and that his release would seriously affect the nation's security. The head of the CIA threatens to resign if Pollard is released, telling President Clinton that Pollard's release would "enrage the intelligence community." Sensitive details about the secrets Pollard gave away are given to CBS and NBC.

"Senior members of the American intelligence community" leak to a Jewish investigative reporter with a distinctly Jewish name horrendous charges about the damage Pollard caused, damage that "could extend up to today." You don't have to be a great investigative reporter to write the anti-Pollard article Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker. All you need to be able to do is transcribe unsubstantiated charges by willing leakers. A good secretary could have done this.

I wonder how Hersh happened to get this story. Did he initiate it, or did someone come to him and say something like: "Psst. Hey, Sy. Want a story? We've got the inside dope. It's yours for nothing. And you'll get another New Yorker byline."

And was that preceded by someone's wondering who to leak it to? Like: "Sy Hersh has a great reputation as an investigative reporter. And besides, he's Jewish. Let's use him."

All of this bespeaks not random opposition but a carefully planned and coordinated high-level effort to make sure Pollard stays in prison.

Why the intensity of it? Why so broadly based? Who is this guy Pollard that he deserves this attention 14 years after his crime, after more than a dozen years in jail?

There's another issue: Dual loyalty. Again, we dare not talk about it But the fact is that the charge is made, and in some quarters it is widespread. Jews are still suspected of dual loyalty. Worse, maybe some are guilty. Doesn't everyone have some hierarchy of moral values?

I have my own secret sources-and I can vouch for their reliability. They tell me that after the Pollard case became known, their security clearances were placed under special review because they were Jews. A number of them hate Pollard as much as anyone else in the intelligence community does. They want him to "rot in jail," as one of them expressed it to me. It is he who raised the ugly head of "dual loyalty."... [Blame-the-victim mentality].

There are plenty of people who are serving jail sentences unfairly. Why do we rally around this fellow Pollard? Not only because he is a Jew. Not even principally because he is a Jew. And not because Israel is involved nor because he enlists our sympathy. It is simply because there is this nagging feeling that something unfair is happening to him because he's a Jew. We sense that there are unarticulated principles at stake. Something is going on that makes us uncomfortable - even in America.

There is only one way the Pollard case will ever be resolved. A neutral, unbiased panel -say, three retired federal judges of impeccable reputation-with complete access to all classified records must be appointed to answer two questions:

  1. Was Pollard's life sentence fair? This question has two parts:

    (A) Was it fair when it was imposed by Judge Aubrey Robinson on the basis of what was then known,

    (B) Is it fair in light of what we know today? A damage assessment was made at the time. According to sources, the damage assessment was made in part by none other than Aldrich Ames, who was then a mole in the CIA working for the Soviet Union. In short, there is good reason to believe that Pollard was blamed for the human losses in the Soviet Union that resulted from Ames's treason.

  2. Did the government violate the agreement pursuant to which Pollard agreed to plead guilty and the government agreed not to seek a life sentence? Pollard has long claimed that the government violated its agreement by, in effect, urging the sentencing judge to impose a life sentence. Pollard even sought to raise this question in a legal proceeding, but he had a heavy procedural burden: He had failed to make this claim on a direct appeal from his sentence. Having waited so long, he had to show not simply that the government violated the plea agreement but that the violation was so egregious that it constituted a gross denial of justice.
One judge on the three-judge panel, Stephen Williams, held that what the United States government did was so bad that Pollard met even this higher standard of wrongdoing. The other two judges, Laurence Silberman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (before her elevation to the Supreme Court), ruled against him. However, they also regarded the government's behavior as pretty sleazy, although in their judgment it did not amount to the gross injustice required on what lawyers call a collateral attack, as opposed to a direct appeal from the sentence. The panel I am proposing would decide, simpliciter, whether the government violated the plea agreement, directly or indirectly, by, in effect, recommending a life sentence.

These judges could issue both a public report and a sealed report with classified information that would be opened only when it would no longer jeopardize our security.

This review by a panel of judges should be especially attractive to President Clinton. He is in the unenviable position of being damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, caught between two powerful political forces. An enormous number of Jewish institutions (and other institutions) have called for Pollard's release, either on the ground that his sentence was unfairly long or because it is time for compassion. My suggestion would place the issue where it belongs-in an unbiased judicial context. It is thus not only honorable and fair but politically attractive.

One thing that the panel won't decide is whether anti-Semitism played any part in the imposition of the life sentence or in the opposition to Pollard's subsequent release. What it will satisfy is the desire to have the matter treated fairly, without any lingering suspicion that Pollard's Jewishness played any part in decisions affecting him.

There is something else that is worthy of investigation: a great assignment for an investigative reporter. Hey, Sy, you want to do a real investigative piece? According to your New Yorker article, this guy Pollard was a real flake, or in the words of one of your informants, "a wacko." He was on drugs, used "cocaine heavily," was deeply in debt, was a heavy drinker with "huge bar bills,". etc. He even bragged about his ties with the Mossad. How did he ever get that job with Naval Intelligence?

But that's only a minor investigative question because maybe he wasn't a flake. Assume he was only an ordinary Joe. Still, he wasn't on the upper levels of the bureaucracy. How did this guy get access to an this enormously secretive stuff? For example, ten volumes that covered "every known signal' of the National Security Agency's communication system - the "Bible" they call it, so top secret that an admiral said he was surprised Naval Intelligence even had a copy.

This guy Pollard walked into the classified Pentagon library and walked out with a handcart full of material to load into his car. How could he transport all of this every day and then, having copied it for the Israelis, bring it back inside? What kind of an investigation was conducted to determine how this could happen? What was the result of the investigation? Whose heads rolled? These are the questions that are vital to the security of our country. There's a real investigative story. Not whether Pollard continues to live in his prison cell. But these questions are not asked. No one's exercised about this. Why not?

Justice For Jonathan Pollard Note:

The questions raised by Hershel Shanks in the above article are compelling and astute. Shanks' grasp of all that is wrong with the way the Pollard case has been handled is especially evident in his closing remarks.

However, Shanks' proposed solution to this case is neither judicious nor realistic. Shanks presumes that somewhere there exist a number of retired judges not subject to the same social and political pressures that have subverted justice for Jonathan Pollard for the last 14 years. That these people somehow exist in a vacuum and have been untouched by the media smear campaign that has been waged against Pollard by the permanent security bureaucracy. That these retired justices would be able to remain above the fray and be capable of rendering unbiased judgment where the entire system has previously failed. That they, unlike the President, could remain objective in spite of continued strong opposition to Pollard's release by virtually the entire Justice, Intelligence and Defense communities. This is simply implausible.

Moreover, such an enormous responsibility should not be dumped in the lap of any judge, retired or active, because of the President's unwillingness to shoulder his constitutional responsibilities.

Indeed, it is the duty of the President of the United States to deal firmly and objectively with those government agencies which have undermined the rule of law by denying Jonathan Pollard his due process rights. It is not only the President's right to intervene in this case, it is his constitutional responsibility to do so.

The bottom line is: President Bill Clinton owes it to the American people to make tough decisions to safeguard the constitutional rights of all Americans, no matter how unpopular such decisions may be with certain members of his cabinet. Assuring equal justice for all before the law is a presidential responsibility that cannot be evaded. It comes with the territory.