Prior to Jonathan Pollard's failed attempt to seek refuge in the Israeli Embassy in Washington on November 21, 1985, the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not suspect that he may have been spying for Israel.
In fact, even though he was a civilian analyst for U.S. Naval Intelligence, the FBI did not even know that Pollard was Jewish. This, according to a new book, "Capturing Jonathan Pollard" (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2006) by Ronald J. Olive, the retired officer from the Naval Investigative Service, a branch of Naval Intelligence, who interrogated Pollard.
According to Olive, up until the moment Pollard approached the Israeli Embassy, he was suspected of spying for another country, possibly several countries, among them Pakistan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and others. Even after his arrest, had Pollard not admitted that he was spying for Israel, the FBI would have focused on other possibilities.
Three days prior to his arrest, on November 18, 1985, Pollard admitted to Olive during a polygraph test that he sold Top Secret documents to a foreign country. At that point, Pollard gave up his right to remain silent and his right to have an attorney present during questioning.
During his confession, Pollard gave information regarding the scale of his espionage, the methods and the payments, but led his interrogators astray when he told them that the material was given to a CBS reporter in Afghanistan who then sent them on to Pakistan or another country.
Pollard was then released and was placed under surveillance by the FBI, which repeatedly failed to keep track of him. For his part, Pollard continued in his efforts to contact his handlers from the Bureau of Scientific Relations (Lekem), which, at that time, was being run by Rafi Eitan, a minister in Ehud Olmert's government.
The publication of the book, with reviews and testimonies from U.S. Navy veterans and other security experts, is indicative of the bitterness still felt over how Israel betrayed the United States and the "colossal" damage Pollard caused to U.S. national security.
The grudge is particularly strong toward Eitan and Colonel (res.) Aviam Sela, who recruited Pollard and served as the first of his handlers.
According to the book, Lekem officials, such as the scientific attache at the embassy in Washington, Ilan Ravid, were granted immunity in return for contributing to the American investigation.
The publication may spark a renewed public and political effort against the possibility of amending Pollard's sentence. According to the sentence passed in 1987, Pollard is scheduled for release only on November 21, 2015.
However, the issue of Pollard's punishment, which is central for many Israelis, does not receive great attention in the book. What the book does do is serve as an indictment of Israeli and American bureaucracy.
Olive compares Pollard, who received $30,000 per year from Israel for his services, to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
The Pollard interrogation and damage assessment operation received the code-name "Foul Play," perhaps describing the American feelings of betrayal by Israel.
Former president George Bush told Olive in 2005 that Pollard "belongs just where he is, in jail. You do know there are a lot of people trying to get him out. That really burns me out."
According to Olive, Pollard became a suspect by chance, and even after investigators found incriminating evidence in his home, such as Top Secret documents, their inclination was to regard him as careless and that he had forgotten to return materials he had taken home from work.
The string of coincidences is impressive: It was by chance that a colleague saw him go to his car, instead of the basement of the office building where they were working, as he had said he would. This resulted in suspicions voiced to a senior officer.
It was by chance that Anne Pollard, his wife, ran into an FBI surveillance vehicle, while rushing to get rid of incriminating evidence in a suitcase.
Also, by chance, the FBI had staked out a nearby building, where Robert Pelton, who worked for the National Security Agency and was also suspected of espionage, lived.
Finally, it turned out that the father of the neighbor to whom Anne Pollard had given the incriminating suitcase to hide was a U.S. Navy officer who insisted on informing the security officers at his base, who then called the FBI. This happened a few hours before Federal investigators planned to close the case against Pollard.
According to the book, bureaucracy allowed Pollard to fall through the cracks and avoid early detection of a problematic personality: he failed entry exams into the CIA, but still got into Naval Intelligence; he managed to get hold of an ID granting him access to Top Secret documents having nothing to do with his position; he used drugs and made outrageous claims (that his fiance had been kidnapped at gunpoint by Irish terrorists or that his father ran the CIA office in Prague).
On a weekly basis, Pollard managed to sneak out of his office tens of thousands of Top Secret documents and copy them. According to intelligence estimates, the number of documents involved exceeded one million pages. The number of less sensitive documents he took, for which he did not have to sign a log, is still uncertain.
According to Olive's calculations, when Pollard is released, he will receive $3.6 million in compensation from Israel. However, one of the more experienced colleagues in the interrogation team said that what motivated Pollard the most was neither greed nor ideology, but the need to be recognized.
"You botched it!" Pollard triumphantly told the FBI agent who arrested him outside the Israeli Embassy. "You thought this was a Soviet Bloc operation, didn't you?"
On the basis of Pentagon and law enforcement sources, Olive concludes that the nature of the information Pollard passed on to Israel did cause real damage to U.S. security. It is also believed that what Pollard still remembers could still undermine U.S. national security if it gets out.
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