Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Jonathan Pollard Affair: Unanswered Questions Abound

Jonathan Pollard’s release from federal prison on November 20 has triggered a flood of superficial stories in the establishment media. Few of them address lingering mysteries or contextualize huge changes in U.S.-Israel relations. Pollard was charged with (PDF) “Gathering or delivering defense information to aid foreign government” in 1986. The spy used his courier status and security clearances as a U.S.-Navy intelligence analyst to deliver a huge volume of U.S. intelligence to Israel from the NSA, CIA and DIA. The Defense Intelligence Agency – Israel’s biggest victim – even used the Pollard affair as the case study for a counterintelligence training video.

Yet in court, Pollard expected to be treated with extreme leniency and be merely slapped on the wrist and deported to Israel.  In his own words "…it was the established policy of the Department of Justice not to prosecute US citizens for espionage activities on behalf of Israel." A huge public relations campaign, some spurred on by former AIPAC Near East Report editor Wolf Blitzer, framed the boundaries of acceptable public debate about Pollard while calling into question aspects of the criminal investigation.

Pollard was therefore shocked to receive a life sentence in 1987 from Judge Aubrey Robinson. This immediately followed a classified memorandum in aid of sentencing from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger that had a huge impact on the judicial decision. Yet three decades later, core questions about conduct of government with huge relevance to Americans remain unaddressed:

Who was Mr. X or “MEGA”? Jonathan Pollard was tasked to obtain secret files by “date and document control number.” He was shown by his Israeli handlers US secrets so highly classified that even he did not have access to them. The FBI opened an investigation “to determine whether a senior US government official has been passing highly sensitive information to the Israeli government” according to the Washington Post. WAPO even speculated that Pollard was burned to protect an even more valuable agent. Was Mega ever unmasked? Or, as is usually the case, was there finally an internal political intervention to close down the investigation? When Israel is the subject of investigation, internal and external lobbying for closure usually manages to short-circuit accountability.

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