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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 01/ 5/2011

The hidden hand in the free-Pollard campaign

By Jeff Stein

I got a call on my way out the door on Christmas Eve. It was David Nyer, announcing the latest development in his effort to gain clemency for Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy serving a life sentence at a federal prison. He had been calling or writing me almost every day for weeks about new groups signing on to his campaign.

By day a 25-year-old social worker in a New York health clinic, Nyer has quietly bagged some big names since he went into high gear to free Pollard last summer.

But he scored big time Tuesday when Binyamin Netanyahu finally went public with an appeal to the White House for Pollard’s release, a campaign that Israel's prime ministers had hitherto pressed through intermediaries or in private.

Nyer played a large, and largely unacknowledged, role in moving Netanyahu to speak out.

Nyer launched his campaign with a press release last June. His pace really picked up over the fall, when two top ranking former officials, Lawrence J. Korb, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, and Michael B. Mukasey, an attorney general under President George W. Bush, wrote open letters to President Obama appealing for Pollard’s release.

“The severity of Pollard's sentence,” Korb wrote, “is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy on the part of my boss at the time, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger."

Mukasey’s letter to Obama echoed Korb’s main point that Pollard’s life sentence was “disproportionate to the crime,” a constant theme of the campaign.

In November Nyer was aslo credited with rounding up 39 Democratic members of the House, headlined by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), outgoing chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee, to call a press conference to ask for Pollard’s release.

Nyer was "relentless," congressional staffers said, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Washington correspondent Ron Kampeas.

Nyer also had "a couple of meetings last summer" with Korb to persuade him go to Jerusalem to meet with members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and to press Netanyahu on Pollard, a source said.

Netanyahu's letter to Obama, which he read to the Knesset Tuesday, conceded that Pollard’s theft of tens of thousands of U.S. military documents in the 1980s was “wrong and unacceptable." But the prime minister argued that “a new request for clemency is highly appropriate.”

“God bless Larry Korb,” said Nyer, who also credited several others with playing key roles in his campaign, singling out Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, and Kenneth Lasson, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Over 500 Jewish leaders and organizations eventually signed up.

Nyer also praised Angelo Codevilla, a former senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and John J. Loftus, a former Nazi war crimes prosecutor at Justice Department, for playing important roles in publicizing Pollard’s plight.

A one-man public relations firm in suburban New York, headed by Aaron Troodler, a veteran of state politics in Albany, churned out press releases for every new group’s enlistment in Nyer's campaign.

"David put an extraordinary amount of time into this," said Troodler, 37, who calls his firm Paul Revere Public Relations.

“It’s been pretty exciting...We spearheaded an effort that generated tens of thousands of calls to the White House switchboard.”

Despite all this, the Obama White House has shown no sign of wavering on Pollard's life term, and U.S. intelligence officials remain resolutely opposed his release.

Nyer is undeterred. Asked whether he’d heard anything from the White House as a result of his campaign, Nyer chuckled.

"The president of the United States doesn't give me a call," he said.

Correction: An earlier edition of this story said John J. Loftus also operates a Web site called Debunking Christianity. That site is operated by a John W. Loftus. I regret the confusion.

By Jeff Stein  | January 5, 2011; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Justice/FBI, Lawandcourts, Politics  
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why continue to keep pollard locked up, cheney isn't.

Posted by: xxxxxx1 | January 5, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

This is why we should keep Pollard locked up, from Eric MargolisL

"Pollard's defenders claim he, like French Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in 1894, is a victim of anti-Semitism in the military. They maintain Pollard was "only" spying for a friendly country, motivated solely by concern for Israel's security. These assertions are patently false. Pollard was suspected for some time of spying. Investigation was held off precisely because of fears of raising cries of anti-Semitism. Pollard took large sums of money and jewelry from Israeli agents in payment for spying.

With remarkable chutzpah, Israel, which receives up to $5 billion in U.S. aid annually, refuses to return documents stolen by Pollard, or allow U.S. intelligence to debrief Mossad agents who ran Pollard in order to learn the full extent of the disaster. While Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu kept calling for Pollard's release on "humanitarian" grounds, he refused to free prisoner of conscience Mordechai Vanunu, now serving 18 years in solitary confinement in Israel for telling a British newspaper about Israel's nuclear arsenal.

Pollard is no Jewish patriot. He is a traitor who sold out his country, and fellow intelligence officers, for money, then claimed he was being persecuted by anti-Semites.

Victim he is not. To the contrary, Pollard is a poster boy for anti-Semitism. His treason unfairly exposes all American Jews to hate, and accusations of doubtful loyalty.

Jonathan Pollard is a traitor of the worst kind - not a second Dreyfus - and should stay in prison. "

Posted by: JAMNEW | January 5, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The comment by JAMNEW is based on his emotions rather than on the truth. As stated in the article, many representatives from the security departments have come out recently against the continued confinement of Mr. Pollard. You can also compare his sentence to those of spies who were actually spying for enemies and received lighter sentences. Sometimes, Mr. JAMNEW, it really is antisemitism.

Posted by: newsreader8 | January 5, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm almost positive that the former Nazi war crimes prosecutor and the Debunking Christianity author are not the same man. The former is John J Loftus and the latter is John W Loftus.

Posted by: dcguy10 | January 5, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

And they wonder why Americans suspect the loyalty of some folks.

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | January 5, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

So, now the Jewish occupiers of the western part of Palestine are at it again. Release Jonathan Pollard, they tell us. Why? Is he God's chosen spy? Or is he a dirty, rotten traitor who should have been shot? Keep him in jail. Maybe they can make him a Jew martyr.

Posted by: sameolddoc | January 5, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

dcguy: I very much appreciate your calling this error to my attention. It has been corrected.-js

Posted by: Jeff Stein | January 5, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I am sure I could find several million Americans who would agree to return Pollard to Israel if we could also permanently deport and rid ouselves of all the Israeli agents and their 'helpers' in the US including our those in congress.

Posted by: Renfro1 | January 6, 2011 1:34 AM | Report abuse

A suitably shallow report. Who is funding Mr Nyer? How does he gain access to so many politicians in such a short time?

They want Pollard? Give us the people who murdered the sailors on the Liberty.

Posted by: Egbert1984 | January 6, 2011 4:09 AM | Report abuse

Pollard did his traitorous dead for money. He was on his way to the Chinese Embassy with his wife when he was arrested. The usual cry he is a hero of Israel is a disgrace. Pollard was not living in Israel. Pollard was not a dual citizen. Pollard's wife was not living in Israel. It would appear that they only reason that he sold our secrets to Israel was Israel apparently has become so good at stealing our secrets. I suspect AIPAC is the front for the Israel information gathering machine. Several recent new stories has stated that few arrive for meetings with AIPAC officials without confidential or higher information on the USA government. This is a criminal act because the information is classified and the individual does not have the right to determine what is available to ourside organizations.
One major matter in the Pollard punishment was the employee of the Israel government that provided J. Pollard with money and that same Israel government accepted from J. Pollard the most secret documents. That employee was allowed to leave the country without punishment as part of the agreement with J. Pollard. J. Pollard wife who was also a traitor was allowed a pass on the matter. Now if they want to modify that punishment accepted by J. Pollard would it not be fair to put the present/former on trial. Do we the people of the United States who were so harmed by the traitor J. Pollard have a right to punish the Israel employee who acted with such disgusting conduct for a nation who proved the funds to allow the entire nation of Israel to exist. How can the people of Israel want J. Pollard who was granted citizenship in jail. What were the government of Israel thinking to think that J. Pollard would be anything but a traitor to Israel if he gets the chance. I am sure J. Pollard will never get close to secrets like were the Israel government plans to attack others. After all they are smart people but not in the case of wanting a totally disgusting individual who should have been hung as a traitors. Vanunuu an Israel citizen has been in jail longer than J. Pollard even without a trial and Vanunuu never broke any laws.
I just do not understand how otherwise smart people can look so disgusting demand the return of an individual worse than B. Arnold. B. Arnold was a man who fought and was a great individual prior to being a traitor. J. Pollard was and continues to be a disgusting individual with no morals. J. Pollard always cried that he was picked on because of his religion but he advanced and held a superior job that had great pay and benefits. J. Pollard could have moved to Israel but instead elected to be a traitor.

Posted by: tomofsnj | January 6, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Jonathan Pollard should have been executed after conviction. He was an American citizen working for the US Government given access to classified material. When you are given access to that kind of material, you sign statements indicating what Statutes and laws apply if you should violate the trust put in you by the government. You play by the rules or you give up your rights. A SPY, convicted, should have been executed. Period.

Posted by: Curmudgeonvt | January 6, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

We should not only be investigating who is financing Nyer, we should also be investigating all those who support Pollard's release - including the congressmen. Don't forget that Pollard was instrumental in the Israelis being able to use nuclear blackmail against much of the world.

Shouldn't rigorous journalism require the WashPo to tell us which of the "supporters" are members of zionist organizations?

Posted by: hyperbola2 | January 6, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan Pollard took an oath to "uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States" when he was hired by the Defense Dept. He promptly violated that oath and committed treason against this nation. He should have been executed for the damage he did to America's national security. There is no reason on Earth to commute his sentence. The only way he should ever get outside the prison walls is to be executed, cremated and have his ashes flushed down the toilet. Let the local sewage treatment plant be his new home outside of prison. He deserves no better way out of prison than this.

Posted by: jlrichardson | January 6, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

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