Editorial: Spy vs. Spy
The Jerusalem Post - Editorial Page 13 - July 13, 2014
Germany, and along with it, other countries especially friendly to the US, are reeling following revelations that the CIA bought classified material from a German intelligence official. Not to beat around the bush, the US spied on an allied nation via a citizen with access to classified material of said allied nation.
That is exactly what America bitterly accused Israel of having done in the Pollard case. The one fundamentally significant difference is that Israel, unlike the US, is a small, exceptionally vulnerable nation that relied on Jonathan Pollard to gather information about Iraqi WMDs at the peak of Saddam Hussein's power.
The Americans pledged time and again to relay this data to Israel, but they consistently failed to live up their undertakings. This material could have been make or break for Israel.
No such extenuating circumstances exist for the current American administration's fixation on uncovering its allies' secrets, especially those of the uber-loyal Germans.
Yet this same administration continues to oppose Pollard's release, even after 30 years behind bars - a punishment that far exceeds the sentences meted out to many other spies for US allies.
In characteristic understatement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "if the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners."
This of course is one more strain on an already troubled relationship, which has been exacerbated by revelations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on millions of German citizens, including Merkel, via her private cellphone.
Moreover, this brazen snooping reportedly did not cease even after the embarrassing disclosures and US President Barack's Obama's explicit promises to respect fellow leaders. This failure appears to indicate disrespect for the democratic institutions of others.
Berlin assiduously worked to whitewash the serial breach of trust by US intelligence gatherers who targeted Germany. But its self-restraint was not rewarded.
This show of disdain for America's steadfast partners, unlikely to be limited to Germany, most probably extends to Israel, a less popular satellite in Washington orbit. It would be nave to assume there is no American intelligence activity in Israel.
This latest problem points to a disturbing pattern. It is as if the US arrogates to itself rights it refuses to countenance for others - even for fellow democracies like tiny Israel, threatened and beleaguered in the midst of vast, turbulent, Arab/Muslim seas.
An Obama administration that claimed to have rejected old notions of American exceptionalism, and with that, unique rights to play by different rules, appears to behave no better than its predecessors.
Obama's former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said so outright in a recent interview with Der Spiegel. Candidly admitting that Washington would never relinquish spying on allies, Clinton said: "The US will never sign a no-spy agreement, as demanded by Germany, with any countries, not with you, not with Britain or Canada."
This paints an unpalatable picture of America's ongoing refusal to forgive Pollard's old sins - sins of the same sort America disingenuously commits with alacrity to this very day.
We are faced with a reality in which the leader of the free world tells the rest of the free world that it places itself in a different category, a superior one, and reserves for itself practices that it high-handedly denies to others.
Beyond this hypocrisy, Pollard's life-term for transferring classified material to an ally is unprecedented. The sentence selectively imposed on Pollard was scandalous from the outset, disproportionate in the extreme, considering that he never put American agents or interests at risk or divulged any America secrets. Israel instead alerted a democratic partner to the machinations of enemies of America which were also its enemies.
It is difficult to escape the impression that Pollard is over-punished only because of his Jewishness. It is time to end this travesty of justice.