After spending 30 years in prison for passing classified information to the Israelis for money, American traitor Jonathan Pollard will be paroled in November of this year. Arrested in 1985, he and his wife accepted a plea agreement in lieu of a trial and went to prison. His incarceration has been a bone of contention between the US and Israel ever since the Israelis stopped denying he was their agent and admitted that they had run a spy in the US. While the proper course of action would have been to execute him back in the 1980s, at this stage, his release offers a way to soften the blow to US-Israeli relations brought on by the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr. Pollard would like the world to believe that, as a Jew, he did what he did to protect Israel. In truth, the Israelis paid him thousands upon thousands, hardly consistent with his story. Worse, some of the information that he passed along made its way to the Soviet Union. Israel repackaged some of what he provided for Moscow in order to ease the plight of Soviet Jews, especially information on America’s ability to track Soviet subs. The Cold War worked that way.
To some, Mr. Pollard is a hero, but in truth, he was not. He failed to get a position in the CIA because of serious drug use in the late 1970s, and when he secured a position as a Navy Intelligence Analyst in late 1979, he lied about that, about his father being a CIA operative and about his language skills to get the job. Within two months, he had opened contacts with South African intelligence, and the technical director of the Navy Ocean Surveillance Information Center Richard Haver demanded that Mr. Pollard lose his job. Instead, he was transferred to human intelligence. Clearly, Mr. Pollard was not a man protecting his people as a Jew might try to help Israel. He was angling to be a spy and betray America from the beginning.
Had he been executed, there is a chance that his death would have shortened the spying career of Aldrich Ames, who began passing information to the Soviets a few months before Mr. Pollard’s arrest. Moreover, the same might apply to Robert Hanssen who spied for Moscow from 1979 to 2001. The death penalty for a man spying for an ally would certainly give those spying for the arch-rival reason to reconsider their positions.
Instead, the Reagan administration decided to let Mr. Pollard plead guilty to a single count of espionage and the traitor was sentenced to life in prison. Since he has spent almost three decades in prison, his lawyers argue that his ability to do further harm to American national interests is nil. That is true. The cost of his release is merely the precedent that a life sentence for espionage really is just a 30-year sentence. Messrs. Ames and Hanssen won’t be getting out, however, as their sentences include the term “without possibility of parole.”
Captured spies are, of course, pawns to be exchanged, as anyone who has read a spy novel knows. The release of Mr. Pollard is a bone the Obama administration is throwing to the Israelis. The Netanyahu government is passionately opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, and Mr. Pollard’s freedom is a sop to hurt Israeli feelings.
Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the looming release after testifying in front of Congress about the agreement. He answered, “I haven’t even had a conversation about it. No, not at all.” Relying on the political axiom “never believe anything until it has been officially denied,” it seems a fair bet that the value of Mr. Pollard in jail is less than his value as a man on parole in order to start repairing US-Israeli ties.