Fear, Loathing or Sincerity - What's The Difference  

by Si Frumkin


            I have long believed that the unprecedented persecution of Jonathan Pollard was caused by fear. Fear of the consequences of revelations that the U.S., on direct orders from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, the CIA's and NSA's Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, and other Washington anti-Israel zealots, had violated a solemn agreement to provide Israel with intelligence information it needed to defend itself. Fear of what would be revealed about the involvement of high U.S. governmental officials in the Iran-Contra affair and the way they violated the Constitution, subverted democratic process, and then lied about it. Fear of exposure, of congressional hearings, of public disgrace, of criminal prosecution.


            Until very recently I could only guess about the specifics of what Pollard might reveal, but it was obvious that whatever it was it had to be kept secret at all costs. I was proved right when Caspar Weinberger, the originator of the most vicious comments on Pollard's guilt , said immediately after being pardoned by President Bush and no longer fearing prosecution for whatever Pollard might disclose, that in his opinion, Pollard had been punished enough and should be released.


            Detailed information on what it was that so terrified the Administration insiders finally came to light early this year. It became clear that some of what Pollard had passed to the Israelis might have short-circuited George Bush's run for the Presidency and created a scandal that would have dwarfed Watergate. Ironically, neither Pollard nor the Israelis ever fully realized that they had stumbled upon a well-orchestrated scheme by the then Vice President of shipping illegal arms to Iran-sponsored terrorists as part of a deal to free American hostages.


            In April 1984, Pollard informed Israel that arms were being shipped to terrorists through Greece. The Israelis then informed the Greek government which seized the freighter that was transporting those weapons. What the Israeli did not know, was that this shipment had been arranged by Vice-President Bush, through a Syrian agent working for the White House. Documentation of the affair, as well as cross references of it in Oliver North's diary, are amply documented in the last four chapters of a recent and fascinating chronicle of Washington's duplicity in its Middle East policies, The Secret War Against the Jews.


            George Bush's agent in the matter was Monzer Al-Kassar, Syrian fixer and middleman who is identified in North's diaries as "M-the mediator" and who had been red flagged by the CIA, DEA and Interpol as a terrorist and drug dealer and who was eventually arrested and tried in Spain for his involvement in the attack on the Achille Lauro cruise ship. Apparently neither North, Bush nor Weinberger were aware of Monzer's background although they might have easily learned about it in most dentist offices - Reader's Digest ran an in depth article on Monzer months before he was hired by the White House. After Pollard's arrest in 1985 the White House conspirators realized to their relief that neither Pollard nor Israel had made the connection between smuggled arms in Greece and the White House. They also realized that they were safe only as long as Pollard was silenced.


            So there was the venom spewed against Jonathan Pollard as he and his wife were branded as traitors who deserved to be hanged. There was our government's despicable dirty trick of promising a reduced sentence in a plea bargain so that an open jury trial be avoided at all costs, and the reneging and the successful demand for the harshest sentence ever meted out in a trial of a defendant who was not accused of treason, but only of spying for a friendly nation - the lowest crime category possible.


            There was the never explained confinement in a facility for criminally insane, a hellhole where Pollard spent 10 nightmarish months, followed by confinement, in a solitary underground cell in a maximum security prison, for 23 hours out of every 24.


            Pollard was silenced for nine years, until the danger receded, President Bush was no longer in office and, in one of his last official acts had pardoned Caspar Weinberger for his past transgressions. It certainly appeared that Pollard was no longer a political danger. He was even removed from his solitary underground cell at Marion penitentiary and transferred to a more benign prison.


            And then, inexplicably, a year ago, just before President Clinton had to decide whether to commute Jonathan's sentence, there began a concerted campaign of rumors, innuendoes, and unsubstantiated accusations that were selectively leaked to the press, Congressional committees and White House advisors. The result: Pollard's appeal was turned down because the President felt that Pollard had done great harm to the United States and that he, therefore, deserved harsh punishment as an example and a deterrent to others.


            I was puzzled. Why this renewed vilification campaign ? Why these absurd accusations of attempting to reveal defense secrets in letters from prison which he knew were always examined and censored by the intelligence agencies? And what about ludicrous hints that much of what Pollard had given to Israel had then been passed on to the Soviets and had resulted in the deaths of valuable U.S. intelligence agents? Was it anti-Semitism? Was there still fear of what Pollard may reveal? Was it just bureaucratic inertia? Was it corruption, the Arab lobby, hatred of Israel? I was frustrated. It made no sense.


            With the arrest of Aldrich Ames, the CIA Soviet counter intelligence chief, it all came clear. I suppose that I owe an apology to those I suspected of ulterior motives. I believe now that many of those whom I came to call Pollard-haters genuinely believed that Pollard was guilty of heinous and despicable acts that greatly harmed the United States and caused the deaths of dozens of our spies inside the USSR. It is now obvious that Ames succeeded in convincing his CIA superiors that it was Pollard who had conveyed to the Soviets the secrets that had in fact been sold by Ames for more than a decade. Ames, who was clever enough to fool the CIA about his own activities (unfortunately it appears to have been ridiculously easy), was obviously clever enough to pick a convenient scapegoat and shift suspicion to Jonathan Pollard. He saddled him with the terrible guilt of betrayal, treason, and the deaths of our agents. I have no doubt that was swayed President Clinton, Les Aspin and so many other influential individuals to rule against the commutation of Pollard's sentence, was information blaming him for the treason committed by Ames, and that this information was shocking enough to disgust any American patriot.


            The CIA's image has been seriously hurt by the Ames affair. I can see that an admission that it had been manipulated into making Pollard a scapegoat for the sins of one of their own would be a difficult one, but the appointment of a new Director gives me some hope. John M. Deutch's charge may indeed be the schedding of light on the secret nooks and crannies, on what had been swept under the rugs, on the duplicitous double dealings that were tolerated in the cause of saving face and preserving image.


            I don's really expect any mea culpas or retractions from the spooks at Langley - let them clean their house in secret - but Jonathan Pollard has the right to expect reconsideration of the President's decision to keep him in prison. In the light of the recent revelations it is even more obvious that Jonathan Pollard's admittedly criminal actions did not harm the United States or its interests. This man, who has just observed his 40th birthday and his 9th year of imprisonment, has expiated his guilt.

              He deserves to be freed.