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Posted at 6:01 PM ET, 06/22/2010

Ex-Navy agent: Israel ambassador clueless on Jonathan Pollard

By Jeff Stein

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."

By Jeff Stein  | June 22, 2010; 6:01 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Justice/FBI  | Tags:  Michael Oren, Ron Olive, WTOP  
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Comments

Michael Oren was not "clueless". He was trying to distance Israel from Pollard, as the government attempted to do before 1998.

Posted by: mmatt | June 22, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

That was a typical attempted Israeli spin except the ambassador was clueless as to the fact Israel was on record of admiting its responsbility.

Posted by: cj1231 | June 22, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Ambassador Oren is a bald-faced liar. I think the evidence that has been made public clearly shows that Pollard was working for the government of Israel, deserves his sentence and should spend the rest of his days in prison. The Ambassador's statement that Israel does not collect information against the US is so blatantly false that it does not even dignify a response. Israel is not a friend of the US, it is a competitor and will do whatever is in its national interest, including spying on the US.

Posted by: derzhava | June 23, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Those who post that Oren is a liar or clueless are themselves clueless. An admission in an attempt to free a prisoner does not prove the admission is true any more than a denial proves something is false. The only thing we know for sure is that Pollard confessed in a plea bargain deal that was renegged. Thus, the only known liar in this affair is the US prosecutor who is now relied on for truth.

Posted by: cloud48 | June 23, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The Ambassador was just playing his role here...
Mr. Oren was just trying to use the strategy of deliberately misinforming the listeners of that radio station and the american public in general. He knows that the average american typically is not aware of the details of international gepolitics and aimed to take advantage of that. The general public in our country does not know that Israel is NOT our FRIEND... With friends like Israel who spies on us like the Iranians do, who needs enemies?
It is sad to say but Israel appears like a traumatized country who does not even trust its friends and supporters; If Israel were a person, it would have to be interned in a mental institution for paranoia after suffering from PTSD after WW II.
Kudos to Mr. Olive for calling out the fact distorting Ambassador and forcing the Israeli embassy to backtrack on those minsinformative assertions.

Posted by: marabout_noir1 | June 23, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The man is not misinformed he is a liar.

Posted by: metroman76 | June 23, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps His Excellency was accusing the Israeli intelligence service of 25 years ago as being one big "rogue element."

As for his assertion that Israel doesn't gather intelligence on the U.S., then the Israeli government, and that country's intelligence service, are both failing. They should try to know as much as they can about every other nation -- foe *or* friend. In any case, I simply don't believe the Ambassador's outlandish claim. (Mossad's probably trying to figure out whether to heave a sigh of relief or to haul him to the wood shed next time he's home!)

We do.

Posted by: MekhongKurt1 | June 23, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

or fire on US ships I suppose...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | June 23, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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