Ex-Navy agent: Israel ambassador clueless on Jonathan Pollard
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was wholly controlled by top intelligence officials in Tel Aviv, not part of a “rogue” operation, says the U.S. Navy counterintelligence agent who took his confession.
Israeli ambassador Michael Oren caused a bit of a stir Monday when he told a Washington radio station that Pollard, a naval intelligence analyst who stole thousands of classified documents in the 1980s, “was run by a rogue organization in the Israeli intelligence community.”
Oren also maintained that "Israel does not, does not, I stress, collect information on the United States."
Both statements were greeted with surprise and derision by former U.S. intelligence officials.
Ron Olive, the former naval counterintelligence agent who cracked the Pollard case, said Israel confessed to running Pollard as part of an attempt to gain his release from prison during Middle East peace talks in 1998.
“For 13 years they denied it,” Olive said in a telephone interview. “But they finally admitted Pollard was an agent fully sanctioned by the government of Israel.”
“The ambassador didn't have a clue as to what he was talking about when he said the Pollard spy case was a rogue operation,” added Olive, who also wrote the most authoritative account of the case in a 2006 book.
Paul Pillar, the CIA’s former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, told the radio station that he had “never heard any suggestion that it was anything other than an official operation."
As for current operations here, Pillar said that "it is … in Israel's interests, as defined by them, to obtain as much information as possible of the kind Pollard was collecting."
Pollard himself, sentenced to life in prison in 1987, has stated that he was “an Israeli agent employed by the LAKAM branch of intelligence in an operation that was fully sanctioned by the government of Israel.
“Anything less than that is a distortion of the truth that is counterproductive to the goal of securing my release," he wrote in a 1998 letter.
Israeli embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled told SpyTalk Tuesday night that "Ambassador Michael Oren wishes to clarify that, in responding to a journalist’s question, he attempted to emphasize that the Pollard incident occurred over 25 years ago by a unit that no longer exists, for which Israel took full responsibility."
Peled added, "As has been stated, Mr. Pollard worked for and on behalf of Israel, and the ambassador hopes for his earliest release."
| June 22, 2010; 6:01 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Justice/FBI | Tags: Michael Oren, Ron Olive, WTOP
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