In the summer of 1988, I wrote the following exclusive for UPI.
“WASHINGTON – Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, has been penetrated by “highly placed” Soviet moles and a full-scale internal counterintelligence investigation is under way, U.S. intelligence sources said.
“The sources described the Soviet infiltration as the most serious blow to Israeli intelligence since the 1970s, and said U.S. intelligence also was breached as a result.
“A Justice Department source said that U.S. counterintelligence agents became aware of the Israel-Soviet espionage pipeline when data stolen by Jonathan Jay Pollard, a U.S. Navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel “was traced to the Eastern bloc.”
“Intelligence sources said that the data came to the Soviet Union via the old rat lines, and included advanced weapons technology strategic plans for Turkey and moderate Arab countries. Israel also gave to the Russians sensitive communications gear stolen by Pollard ‘that proved to be extremely compromising,’ one said.
“Another major blow to U.S. security was Pollard’s gift to the Soviets was that of the firing locations, sequences and coordinates of the U.S. war plan against the Russians. Another was giving the Soviets information about the techniques used by the U.S. Navy to track Soviet subs around the world.
“The Soviet spies inside Israel have funneled some of the stolen Pollard data to Moscow.
“Another effect of the Pollard data was the slowing down of recruiting new anti-Soviet agents, U.S. intelligence officials said.
“U.S. intelligence analysts said the data was given the Soviets on promises to increase emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union.
(There occur here denials by the Israeli government that any such thing ever took place.)
“Said a U.S. intelligence official, “We expect that we’ll see additional suspects and by that, I mean U.S. nationals.”
“The Israeli government initially claimed that it was not involved, but a federal grand jury last year indicted an Israeli officer, Colonel Aviem Sella, on conspiracy charges stemming from his alleged recruitment of Pollard in 1984.
“Pollard was recruited by senior Israeli defense officials close to then Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon.
“These officials, according to the source, traded stolen U.S. documents to Soviet military intelligence agents in return for assurances of great emigration of Soviet Jews. “It began as a straight data-for-people,” said a CIA official. But the result was that “the Soviets penetrated the Israeli defense establishment at a high level.”
“An administration official explained in an interview that U.S. officials are certain the Israeli espionage is continuing.
“’Mossad is the most active foreign intelligence service on U.S. soil, more active and more successful than the KGB,’ the source said.
“The Justice Department source said that there were 42 cases of Israeli espionage against the United States in a 15-year period ending in 1969.
Not Much Fuss
The day after I completed this story, and after it went out, I went to lunch, and when I returned, I had a phone message from Sy Hersh. I had never met him. He was working hard on a book called The Sampson Option that would appear in 1991, but I immediately returned his call. I had been an admirer of his since his My Lai exclusive. He had tremendous energy.
He was as gracious as Sy gets, and he said something like, “Thanks for screwing up my book.” I didn’t realize he had a book, and he talked to me about it. I apparently had good sources, and he told the Pollard stuff was going to a big exclusive in his forthcoming work. So we got together for lunch, and our friendship began. We both were working from entirely different groups of sources, but the conclusions of them were the same: Pollard was a very damaging traitor to his country.
(Sy wrote and published his book in expectation of its startling readers, but as he said, “It fell dead” when it was published. “No one gave a shit. No one gave a shit,” he said.
In 2003 I did a story about Rafael Eitan, an update for UPI. (The Washington Times no longer carries the story on its site.) Eitan, a former senior Mossad and Shin Bet officer who commanded the team that nabbed Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, told Yedioth Ahronoth in 2006 that “in intelligence [work], as in war, you go to battle, and when you go to battle you also make mistakes.”
But the Washington Times story had resurfaced elsewhere. “According to Richard Sale (Pollard Recruiter Resurfaces in U.S., UPI, July 31, 2003) and federal law enforcement officials, ‘Eitan has, for the last year or so, been traveling to the United States on an Israeli passport, but using an alias.’
“Eitan apparently landed at Columbus, Ohio, and then moved around the Midwest on a prolonged road trip. Eitan "the stinker" has been photographed in the company of "known dealers who belong to a ring dealing in the drug ecstasy," one federal law enforcement official told Sale.
“Last year two major Israeli Ecstasy traffickers were extradited to the United Sates, much to the displeasure of the Israeli government. The DEA claims "Israeli organized crime figures" control around 70 percent of the worldwide market in Ecstasy. "The FBI is looking for evidence that Eitan is, or has been engaging, in questionable activities related to this ring," a federal law enforcement official told Sale.
“For his part in the Pollard spy scandal, Rafi Eitan was promoted to a senior position with the largest state-owned business enterprise in Israel — the Israel Chemicals Company. He received the job based on the recommendation of Ariel Sharon. "It’s generally agreed that Eitan was to take the brunt of blame for the [Pollard] mess," a former official close to confidential details of the case told Sale. "In return for his silence, Sharon would make sure he got a good job." In 1987, Eitan boasted to an Israeli newspaper that all of his actions had been undertaken with the knowledge of his Israeli superiors.
“But Eitan was not the only Israeli to be rewarded for snooping on America. Aviem Sella, an Israeli Air Force expert in nuclear targeting and delivery of airborne nuclear weapons, was Pollard’s handler. When Pollard was arrested for passing satellite photographs and weapon systems data to the Israelis, Sella hurried back to Israel, and was soon promoted to Brig. Gen. in Israel’s Air Force. "This raised such an outcry of protest in the United States that Sella was quietly moved to the Israeli Defense Force Defense College," writes Sale.
Then I found another story.
“In a follow up UPI story on Aug. 7, Sale wrote, "U.S. officials said Eitan, at first described by former Israeli officials as being 'sidelined' and 'in mothballs' as far as Israel is concerned, has, in fact, been brought back into government life by Sharon who is employing him as a counter-terrorism adviser... 'We all thought he was in disgrace,' a federal law enforcement official said. 'We were wrong.’
“Sale quoted from a June 1997 interview with Eitan by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, in which the former chief of Mossad operations in Europe said, ‘I failed in the Pollard affair, just as I failed in other intelligence operations behind enemy lines. That is the lot of the intelligence officer who runs complex operations.'’ Note Eitan's reference to the United States as "behind enemy lines.''
Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, a reflective, clear headed and a very tenacious man, and I became good friends, talking once a week, and he talked about Pollard over a dozen times in detail. He was living in Maine with his wife Alice. We got to be friends, because in the early 1980s, the House of Representatives was holding hearings on the deployment of the Pershing II missiles in West Germany, designed to counter the spreading Soviet SS-20 mobile missiles.
The Pershing IIs were a missile that terrified the Soviets. If fired from West Germany, they would reach their apogee in six minutes and plunge down on vulnerable Soviet installations, mainly missile command centers. The U.S. was going to take out all the Soviet subordinate missile command and control center, and leave the main one isolated without the ability to fire salvoes missiles. The Pershing IIs meant business. West Germany intelligence guys told me that the warheads could demolish targets hardened to 32.000 pounds per square inch, something along those lines.
So Cap was assigned to defend their deployment, and Weinberger would come in morning, and he would sit down, and one day I found myself sitting next to him. Caspar was a modest man, and would settle and sit calmly, until the TV crews came in. I was a reporter for Aerospace Daily, the sister publication of Aviation Week. As the TV guys came in, Caspar would grow anxious – he began to straighten up, check and straighten his tie, smooth his coat, becoming more and more uncomfortable, until one day I learned over to him. “You look perfectly fine. Screw the TV guys anyway.” Caspar didn’t reply, he didn’t look over at me, but not long after, the same thing took place. At another hearing we found ourselves sitting together. He was calm, never varied from his talking points, and presided successfully, except then the TV guys came in, and I again said “You look fine,” and I saw him relax.
So we became friends. I used to talk with him about Reagan and Star Wars. My last sight of him was in Washington. I was there to cover something for UPI, and going down the main hallway of the Mayflower Hotel, when I saw him ahead of me and yelled, and he spotted me, walking along, a sheaf of papers locked under his arm, and he yelled back, “Richard – how did I get to be so old?”
The incident that enraged him the most was Pollard picking up a trinket for his wife, Ann, in some jewelry stores in Amsterdam. Pollard was a rotten, miserably weak and mercenary character.
So there you have my latest thoughts on Pollard. My own view isn’t personal, it is biological – Pollard is pond scum, the kind of thing you would scrape off the sole of your foot with a stick if you stepped in it. My views are angry or vindictive, in spite of my tone. Every country has its heroes and if Israel has one in Pollard, so be it. Israel owes him a decent burial.
I miss Cap very much.
"rat lines?" Nah. The material was traded government to government (Mossad to KGB) pl