By Richard Sale, author of Clinton’s Secret Wars
The recurring pressure from Israel to repatriate convicted spy Jonathan Pollard is clearly an expression of common sense if Israel wants to recruit any other agents in place. The KGB was always conscientious in extracting its snared spies by one means or another.
If anything smacks of impudence it’s the current Israeli pressure when contrasted with the stormy ocean of pious Israeli government denials when the case first broke.
My own view is that Pollard should never be released.
I was the reporter who broke the story of how the Israeli government was selling the pilfered Pollard material to the Eastern Bloc in return for increased emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union.
I don’t recall the exact date of my story but I believe it was 1987. My sources were senior U.S. serving counterintelligence (CI3) officials. According to them, the Israel-Soviet deal on emigration was made on Cyprus in 1981 and was the brilliantly cunning idea of top Israeli defense official Ariel Sharon. (CI3 officials also told me at that time that Mossad was “full of Soviet moles.”)
The recruitment of Pollard was not an aberration – he became an operative of Israel as early as 1981 when he was working for the U.S. Navy’s Field Operations Intelligence Office. Israel was targeting certain oil fields in southern Russia and Pollard’s task was to gather information on the targeting.
In any case, although Sharon appears to be the initial villain, high level Israeli officials including Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Shamir and others knew of Pollard’s existence. Shamir, for example, was very active in peddling the Pollard data to the Soviets.
At the time of his arrest, the Justice Department alleged that Pollard had provided Israel with 1,800 documents or 100,000 pages. The damage Pollard inflicted on U.S. security was enormous. Senior DOD officials told me that Pollard stole from the Navy's Sixth Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Facility
(FOSIF) in Rota, Spain, the daily report, a top-secret document filed every morning at 0800 Zulu time (Greenwich Mean Time) that contained NSA data on events in the Middle East and North Africa during the previous 24 hours. NASA and Navy Intelligence shared the site.
The U.S. Navy’s obsessive focus was on Soviet ballistic missile submarines cruising the Mediterranean whose weapons were aimed at the United States; ships which had to be quickly destroyed in the event of war.
Pollard gave the Israelis the Rota reports for a year, also providing them with the National SIGINT Requirements List, a day-to-day compendium, listed by priority, of NSA collection units around the world that would have included things such as alerts to U.S. bases in a region before an insertion by U.S. Special Forces or a forthcoming bombing mission.
Pollard also plundered the Defense Intelligence Agency's Community On-Line Intelligence System, which was one of the government's first computerized information-retrieval-network systems, called DIAL-COINS, that contained all the intelligence reports filed by Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine attaches in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.
Pollard also stole a huge 10-volume manual called Radio Signals Notations or RAISIN, lauded as the bible of signals intelligence that lists how the United States collects signals around the world. This outlined the sites, frequencies, and significant features of Israeli communication spied on by the United States including the U-2 “Senior Stretch” flights from Cyprus, the RC-135 electronic warfare flights, the joint CIA/NSA listening post in the U.S. Embassy in Israel, along with all the known communications links used by the Soviet Union. All of these were compromised by Pollard.
The Pollard thefts had sinister consequences. U.S. agents in the Eastern Bloc or the Soviet Union were rolled up and America’s ability to collect technical intelligence on Soviet designs was shut down or crippled, leaving us blind.
At the time I broke my stories, I did not know former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, now deceased. However, friends eventually put us together and I talked with him informally over 30 times about what Sy Hersh, myself and others had written about Pollard. Weinberger could not calmly discuss Pollard but hardened into furious rage each time.
Sy Hersh and I became friends over the story. He had a book coming out about Israel and after I talked about the moles in Mossad, he called me at UPI and began by saying, “Thanks for screwing up my book,” chiding me for ruining one of the book’s exclusives. The book had plenty more of them, and Sy remains for me a gigantic figure in journalism for his integrity and toughness.
To conclude, Pollard should sit where he is until we can, with grace, send his body to Israel for burial.
I was on the JCS damage assesment board for this matter. Richard Sale is altogether correct in his account of how greatly Pollard and the Israelis hurt us. Ehud Barak was Director of General Staff intelligence during the Pollard operation. While Pollard stabbed the United States in the back, Barak was smiling and smiling in his best "hale fellow well met" manner in dealing with DIA. pl