Ex-CIA Director: I Prevented Move to Release Spy for Israel

Shmuel Rosner
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Shmuel Rosner

Former CIA chief George Tenet claims that he is responsible for scuppering a deal to free Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. Navy analyst who received a life sentence for spying for Israel.

In his memoirs, Tenet says he told former U.S. president Bill Clinton during the 1998 Israel-Palestinian summit at the Wye Plantation that he would resign if Pollard were freed.

In his account of a meeting between himself and Clinton, he says that he remained "very calm and matter of fact," even though he had issued an ultimatum to the president.

"It's just the wrong thing to do," Tenet says he told the president. If you do this, he said, "I won't be your CIA director in the morning."

The demand to free Pollard came from then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a condition for Israel's acceptance of the agreement on the table at the time.

Tenet says that he was told by then-U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright that, "If you're going to say anything to the president about Pollard, now is the time to say it."

According to Tenet, he and U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross did not believe that Netanyahu would give up the Wye accord because of Pollard.

He writes that Ross told Clinton that if he had promised Netanyahu he would free the convicted spy, then he had to stand by his word. But, Ross reportedly said, "This agreement is too good for Bibi [Netanyahu] to give up. Hang tough and we will get a deal [without Pollard]."

In the book, Tenet says that former U.S. ambassador Martin Indyk described a meeting in which Clinton told Netanyahu that he could not release Pollard because the CIA director would resign.

Netanyahu reportedly told Clinton that if that was the case, then the deal was off.

"This was a game of chicken," Tenet concludes. As he and Ross had foreseen, Netanyahu went on to sign the agreement anyway.