|Israeli press keeping spy Jonathan Pollard's case in the public eye|
As happens virtually every time there is a high-level meeting between American and Israeli leaders, the Israelis have again shamelessly asked for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. This latest request came at last week's annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israeli lobby in the United States. By way of disclosure, as a military analyst for a major American news network, I have been a guest on an AIPAC-funded trip to Israel.
President Barack Obama was asked by both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in separate meetings to release Pollard. Earlier documented requests for Pollard's release by Israeli prime ministers and presidents to American presidents include:
- 1995 Yitzhak Rabin to Bill Clinton
- 1998 Benjamin Netanyahu to Bill Clinton
- 2005 Ariel Sharon to George Bush
- 2008 Ehud Olmert to Geoge Bush
- 2010 Benjamin Netanyahu to Barack Obama
- 2011 Benjamin Netanyahu to Barack Obama
Since the Israeli press is quoting Pollard's wife as saying that her husband was "devastated" that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to Israel without him, obviously President Obama stuck to his guns and refused to pardon Pollard. I am going to draw on my previous articles* to respond to the latest Israeli request.
The Israelis approach each new American Administration hoping that at some point there will be a president so naive as to agree to the release. Once a new president asks his intelligence chiefs for their assessment of the Pollard case, he quickly realizes that Pollard should rot in prison. After hearing the extent of his betrayal, most presidents probably wonder why he is allowed to be incarcerated in a rather cushy situation under medium security at the Butner Federal Correction Institution (FCI Butner) in North Carolina.
FCI Butner is located near the Research Triangle area of Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, and more resembles a campus than a prison. Notables who are incarcerated at the same facility include Bernie Madoff and Sheik Abdel-Rahman (the "blind sheik"). There are reports that Madoff and Pollard have struck up a friendship.
According to comments on Internet forums by former inmates, if you have to be in prison, Butner is the place to be. It is described as having a good Federal Prison Industries program, in case Pollard wants to build office furniture when he relocates to Tel Aviv. The prison is also non-smoking, so we don't have to worry about Jonathan being subjected to the dangers of second-hand smoke, although that might be a problem when he moves to Israel where many people still smoke.
Butner also has excellent physical fitness facilities, including an outdoor track, although by the photos of Pollard I have seen it does not look like he has been using them. Perhaps he'll want to get in shape for the beach in Netanya in 2015. Perhaps he's improved his job prospects with some education. This is from a prison life forum: "My man describes Butner like 'dorm life.' He's had great educational opportunities there. He's already received his bachelors degree and he's well on his way to getting his MBA."
As it has for the last three years, the Obama Administration should stay out of the Pollard issue. Jonathan Pollard may be regarded as a national hero in Israel, but to most American military and intelligence officials, he is traitor who sold out his country with little regard for the long-term consequences of his actions.
The full extent of the damage done by Pollard's treachery has never been made public. Much of it is still unknown since the only source of what Pollard gave to his Israeli handlers is Pollard himself. The Israeli government has never provided a complete list of what Pollard stole and provided to them, nor have they provided information on what they did with the stolen intelligence documents.
That might be a good point for President Obama to bring up the next time an Israeli leader asks for Pollard's release. Until the Israelis are forthcoming on the extent of Pollard's treachery, he can continue to be "devastated in Butner." If it was up to me, he'd be bolted into a concrete box at the Supermax penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.
Apologists for Pollard claim that spying for Israel is "not really spying" since Israel is an ally of the United States. One has to consider that blanket statement that Israel is an ally of the United States with some reticence. Israel used the information provided by Pollard as "trade material" with the Russians - during the height of the Cold War - in return for the release of Jews detained in Russia. That is hardly the action of an ally of the United States.
There is speculation that American agents, people the U.S. intelligence agencies had recruited to collect information for us at great risk, were uncovered and executed because of the information the Israelis provided to the Russians. If that is the case, Pollard should have been executed instead of being sentenced to life in prison.
There is a group of Pollard supporters who want the confessed felon released. They have a website - Justice for Jonathan Pollard - which is full of misleading information and comparisons to others who have been sentenced for the same crime. Although they claim that Pollard has been sentenced more harshly than others, they don't mention that others in the same class as Pollard - CIA officer Adrich Ames and FBI agent Robert Hanssen - were also sentenced to life in prison. My response to those given lesser sentences - the judges in those cases got it wrong; the judge in the Pollard case (as well as with Ames and Hanssen) got it exactly right.
There are also members of Congress who would have Pollard on his way to Israel. After President Obama's meetings with Peres and Netanyahu, Gary Ackerman, Barney Frank and Bob Turner called on the President to release Pollard. All them represent heavily Jewish districts and are simply playing politics with American national security.
In any case, Pollard's sentence of life imprisonment is in reality a misnomer. Because of the laws in existence at the time of his sentencing, he will be paroled after serving 30 years. That means he will be free on November 21, 2015, unless he is pardoned by the new president in 2013. Since Pollard has renounced his United States citizenship and is now solely an Israeli citizen, he will be deported to Israel when he is released from prison. He will be welcomed there with open arms - he is regarded as a national hero.
The Israelis do Pollard no favors by continually asking for his release. Every time they bring it up, it only reminds Americans of Pollard's treachery and betrayal of this country. It only strengthens Americans' resolve to keep him behind bars as long as legally possible.
Pollard is a traitor who sold out his country for money. He worked in the intelligence community (I won't insult my former colleagues by calling him an intelligence officer) and knew the rules. It doesn't matter that he spied for an "ally" - the information he gave far exceeded the scope of our intelligence relationship with Israel.
If you'd like to tell Jonathan Pollard what you think of him, write him at:
Jonathan Pollard #09185-016
FCI Butner Medium I
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509
I have. Funny, no response....
* - Release a traitor in exchange for a settlement freeze? (September 2010)
- Israelis ask for release of Jonathan Pollard - again (January 2008).