Ex-intelligence official blasts Pollard lobbying
Israel has angled periodically for Pollard’s release since 1998, when it admitted, after 13 years of denials, that the former naval intelligence analyst was not a rogue agent but an officially sanctioned spy.
Last September Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu relit the fires under the case when, according to Israeli Army Radio, he asked the Obama administration to release Pollard in exchange for a temporary halt in Israel's construction of Jewish settlements.
A month later Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense at the time of Pollard’s arrest in 1985, asked President Obama in a public letter to commute Pollard’s sentence to time served -- 25 years. A handful of members of Congress seconded the call, which has been bitterly resisted by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Now another key official at the time of Pollard’s arrest, former FBI and Navy lawyer M.E. “Spike” Bowman, is weighing in -- against his release -- in a forthcoming article.
“Since I was the only person who actually touched all aspects of the case I thought it was incumbent on me to lay out the facts,” Bowman, the top legal adviser to Navy intelligence at the time, and who later worked as senior counsel at the FBI and as deputy director of the National Counterintelligence Executive, told SpyTalk.
In a piece written for a forthcoming journal of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, founded years ago to support the CIA, Bowman notes that there have been “few rebuttals of this escalation of calls for Pollard’s release mainly because so few were cognizant of the scope of Pollard’s disclosures, or the misuses of those disclosures, and the damage they did to our own operations and sources."
The true extent of the spy’s damage remains locked in government vaults, Bowman writes, “because when a plea agreement was reached, it was no longer necessary to litigate issues that could have exposed the scope of Pollard’s treachery -- and the exposure of classified systems.”
But the retired Navy captain singles out three of Pollard’s leaks, the first being “the daily report from the Navy’s Sixth Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Facility (FOSIF) in Rota, Spain, a top-secret document filed every morning reporting all that had occurred in the Middle East during the previous twenty-four hours, as recorded by the NSA’s most sophisticated monitoring devices.”
“Probably the most serious disclosure (of those of which we are aware) was the TOP SECRET NSA RAISIN manual, which lists the physical parameters of every known signal [or electronic communication], notes how we collect signals around the world, and lists all the known communications links then used by the Soviet Union,” Bowman writes.
“It is certainly the thing that stood out in the mind of the sentencing judge; particularly when Pollard alleged at sentencing that there really was no harm done. The judge interrupted and brought him up short, pointing specifically to disclosure of the RAISIN manual.”
Bowman also writes that “Pollard disclosed information to the Israelis that could prevent the U.S. from monitoring Israeli activities in the Middle East -- clearly a foreign policy nightmare.”
Pollard admitted to prosecutors that his handlers at the Israeli Embassy often goaded him for better-quality information, Bowman says.
“[H]is initial handler told him that they already receive 'SECRET' level material from the United States. What they needed was the TOP SECRET data they were not yet receiving.”
Hard copies of the documents Pollard stole in 18 months could “fill a room that is six feet by six feet by ten,” Ronald Olive, the top Navy investigator in the Pollard case, told SpyTalk.
"No other spy in the history of the United States stole so many secrets, so highly classified, in such a short period of time," he maintains.
Bowman also takes aim at Korb’s contention that Pollard has been unduly punished, arguing in his open letter to Obama that "the average sentence for Pollard's offence” -- stealing secrets for “friendly” countries -- “is two to four years, and under current guidelines the maximum sentence is 10 years.”
But Bowman, as well as a counterintelligence officer involved in Pollard’s case who insisted on anonymity, says Korb’s math is skewed.
“The supporters who claim that the sentence of Pollard was disproportionate to the crime cite three to four cases where Americans sold or gave documents to non-adversary countries like Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and El Salvador,” the CIA officer said. “These were a handful of secrets, and those who committed the crime were sentenced proportionately. What Pollard's crew has done is to take these handfuls of cases and then extrapolated the sentences saying that Pollard has served far longer than the ‘average’ spy who spied for 'friendly services.' "
In fact, the average sentence for those caught spying for the Russians, not counting the 365-year term given to Jerry A. Whitworth, part of the infamous John Walker family spy ring, was over 36 years. Three spies other than Pollard, including Russian mole Aldrich Ames, were given life sentences.
Of course, Pollard didn’t just spy for Israel, although that was far and away his main benefactor.
“Intelligence officials have unofficially detailed instances of additional disclosures to other nations,” Bowman writes. “These officials said that Pollard had given classified documents to Pakistan, South Africa and two other countries they declined to identify.”
Some the documents Pollard gave Israel ended up in Moscow, according to various reports, but as one investigator in the case told SpyTalk, “there are only two countries that know the facts Russia and Israel. Which leads me to believe we will never know the truth.”
Pollard’s current wife, Esther, wrote in the Jerusalem Post Monday that the statement of support by Korb, and another from his former Israeli handler Rafi Eitan claiming that Washington had reneged on a verbal pledge to release Pollard after 10 years, “provide Israel with the golden key to open Jonathan's jail cell."
It's long past time, she said, for Netanyahu to go public with a demand to Washington that Pollard be released.
So far, however, the prime minister has refused to pick up the megaphone. And judging by Bowman’s forthcoming piece, his private pleas will, likewise, fall short.
| December 8, 2010; 3:45 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Justice/FBI, Lawandcourts, Media, Military
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