Don't Be Fooled By Ronald Olive

Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman - The Jerusalem Post - November 29, 2006

In Ronald Olive's op-ed piece, "I busted Pollard" (Nov. 20), Olive promotes his book, "Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice." Olive proclaims that his book "tells the true documented story of Pollard," "set[s] the record straight," and dispels "speculation, rumor, myths and lies surrounding the Pollard case."

As pro bono counsel for Jonathan Pollard since 2000, we have comprehensive knowledge of the public court record in Mr. Pollard's case. Olive's book and op-ed piece are fanciful concoctions that are utterly incompatible with the U.S. Government's own carefully-crafted submissions to the court in Mr. Pollard's case.

Jonathan Pollard was arrested in 1985. The U.S. Government conducted an overwhelmingly thorough investigation into Mr. Pollard's conduct and character, and into the harm his conduct had caused. Mr. Pollard pleaded guilty in 1986 to a charge of conspiracy to deliver classified information to Israel. He was not charged with intent to harm the U.S., although such a charge existed in the U.S. Code.

On March 4, 1987, Mr. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison. Prior to his sentencing, the U.S. Government-the United States Attorney and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger-submitted over 130 pages of pre-sentencing memoranda to the sentencing judge. Those memoranda set forth in detail what the U.S. Government claimed it had uncovered about Mr. Pollard's conduct and character, and about the harm he had caused.

Substantial portions of the memoranda were designated "classified" and were placed under seal. No one representing Mr. Pollard, including us-his security-cleared attorneys-has been permitted to see the classified portions of the docket since the sentencing in 1987.

In his book, Olive specifically disclaims ever having seen the classified sentencing materials. Yet, he makes allegations against Mr. Pollard that appear nowhere in the unclassified, public portion of the sentencing materials. Since it is fair to assume that neither Olive nor any of his purported "sources" would violate U.S. criminal law and disclose classified information, the inevitable conclusion is that these allegations do not appear anywhere in the Government's pre-sentencing memoranda.

For example, Olive claims that Mr. Pollard delivered classified information to Pakistan in the hope that Pakistan would retain him as a paid spy. Undoubtedly, Olive wants to poison the mind of the ordinary Israeli (or Israeli supporter) into believing that Mr. Pollard was a mercenary who would just as readily have spied for Pakistan (not known as a friend of Israel's) as he did for Israel.

In assessing the credibility of this allegation, it is important to know that no such allegation appears anywhere in the public record docket materials. And, since we have to assume neither Olive nor any of his "sources" would risk going to prison by disclosing something that appears in the classified docket materials, it is apparent that this allegation is not found anywhere in the U.S. Government's voluminous pre-sentencing memoranda. It therefore has no credibility whatsoever. If the U.S. Government believed this and other allegations made by Olive, it would have included them in the pre-sentencing memoranda. The U.S. Government took an extremely aggressive approach toward Mr. Pollard, and would have relished the opportunity to inform the sentencing judge that Mr. Pollard had violated the law by delivering classified information to Pakistan-and with mercenary motives, to boot.

The book and op-ed piece contain numerous accusations that are nowhere to be found in the public sentencing docket, and that could not be disclosed if they were in the classified sentencing docket. They are therefore in neither place, and cannot be considered even remotely reliable.

In his book, Olive asserts that Mr. Pollard's conduct caused "irreparable damage" and "incalculable" harm to the U.S. However, the Victim Impact Statement submitted to the court by the Department of Justice in 1987 (and now a matter of public record) portrays a very different effect on the U.S. After preliminarily noting the substantial "breadth and scope" of the information provided, as well as the fact that "thousands of pages" of documents were delivered by Mr. Pollard to Israel, the Victim Impact Statement goes on to describe the actual damage to the U.S. as follows:

Mr. Pollard's unauthorized disclosures have threatened the U.S. [sic] relations with numerous Middle East Arab allies, many of whom question the extent to which Mr. Pollard's disclosures of classified information have skewed the balance of power in the Middle East. Moreover, because Mr. Pollard provided the Israelis virtually any classified document requested by Mr. Pollard's coconspirators, the U.S. has been deprived of the quid pro quo routinely received during authorized and official intelligence exchanges with Israel, and Israel has received information classified at a level far in excess of that ever contemplated by the National Security Council. The obvious result of Mr. Pollard's largesse is that U.S. bargaining leverage with the Israeli government in any further intelligence exchanges has been undermined. In short, Mr. Pollard's activities have adversely affected U.S. relations with both its Middle East Arab allies and the government of Israel.

While we cannot condone any unauthorized disclosure of classified information, the Government's own words in the Victim Impact Statement, carefully scripted to present the most compelling case for the maximum sentence (life in prison), reflect-at worst-short-term friction between the U.S. and unnamed Arab countries, and temporary reduction in bargaining leverage by the U.S., rather than permanent, irreversible, and overwhelming damage to U.S. national security, as claimed by Olive. Nowhere does Olive see fit even to mention the comparatively modest damage described in the Victim Impact Statement, which is how the U.S. Government itself has chosen to describe the harm caused by Mr. Pollard's conduct, in the court document designed precisely for that purpose.

In sum, while Olive describes his book as a "true documented story," it is nothing of the sort. To use Olive's own words, his book is an exercise in "speculation, rumor, myths and lies."

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  • See Also: Hebrew Text: Don't Be Fooled By Ronald Olive: Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman (PDF)