Former CIA Director James Woolsey supports granting Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard an exemption that would allow him to travel to Israel immediately upon his upcoming release.
“After the excessively long incarceration for Pollard, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for him to go live in Israel if he wants,” Woolsey told WND in a phone interview.
Woolsey explained, “The reason one would keep a convicted spy in the United States is because the information he had, if he were to turn to an enemy country, might damage the United States.
“But anything Pollard obtained over 30 years ago is highly unlikely to be of strategic concern to the United States, particularly in the hands of Israel, a friend, not an enemy,” he said.
“So I think leaving for Israel would be very acceptable under the circumstances,” Woolsey said.
After almost 30 years of incarceration, Pollard will be released Nov. 21 after officially being granted parole, his attorneys confirmed on Tuesday.
Pollard’s pro-bono lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said terms of the parole will require Pollard to remain in the U.S. for the next five years.
However, the lawyers said they have asked President Obama to use his executive clemency to release Pollard before Nov. 21 and to allow him to move to Israel, where he has garnered a large and sympathetic support base.
Pollard would live in the New York area if he is required to remain in the U.S., his attorneys said.
Woolsey told WND that Pollard’s life sentence was “quite excessive.”
“Spies from friendly countries, like the Philippines and Greece, normally stay in prison in the U.S. for just a few years. Under ten years. Keeping Pollard for 30 years was, I though, quite excessive.
“Spying by friendly countries, whether it’s Greece, or the Philippines, or South Korea, normally doesn’t harm the United States in the way that spying by enemies does,” he said.
Woolsey maintained that “anyone who is upset at Pollard being released but doesn’t care particularly about the Chinese having stolen the personal records of some 20 to 25 million Americans has his priorities very, very screwed up.”
Pollard’s lawyers, Lauer and Semmelman, said the decision was unanimous and was not related to the West’s nuclear deal with Iran signed in Vienna earlier this month.
“We look forward to seeing our client on the outside in less than four months,” Lauer and Semmelman said in a joint statement released to WND.
Lauer and Semmelman released a statement on behalf of Pollard.
“Mr. Pollard would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the U.S., in Israel and throughout the world, who provided grass-roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials and saying prayers for his welfare. He is deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small,” they said.
Pollard is currently serving his 30th year of an unprecedented life sentence in a U.S. prison for espionage on behalf of an ally, Israel.
Exposed: Secret memo
In February, WND broke the story that with little fanfare and no news media coverage, a potentially game-changing development in the Pollard case had quietly occurred three months prior.
After years of failed efforts petitioning the government and the court system to gain access to the classified material used to sentence their client, Pollard’s security-cleared attorneys finally won an appeal for declassification last fall.
As a result of the appeal, key sections of a 28-year-old classified document that was the central justification for Pollard’s unprecedentedly harsh sentence were declassified and released Nov. 13, 2014.
The 49-page document in question is a memorandum that was submitted to the sentencing judge in 1987 by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
The document was obtained and reviewed by WND.
Pollard, who worked as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested in 1985 and indicted in 1987 on one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel. He gave up his right to a trial and entered into a plea agreement, which was intended to spare both Israel and the U.S. the embarrassment and damage that a lengthy trial might incur. Despite the government’s acknowledgment that Pollard fulfilled all the terms of his plea agreement, the government reneged.
He was sentenced to life despite the plea deal.
Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for the offense is two to four years.
His sentence is generally acknowledged to have been driven by Weinberger’s memorandum, a document that was never disclosed to the public nor to any of Pollard’s security-cleared attorneys from the time he was sentenced in 1987.
According to U.S. government representations of the memo for nearly three decades, the document was alleged to demonstrate Pollard was the spy responsible for the greatest harm to U.S. national security up to the time of his sentencing. The government has persisted in this characterization of the document despite a number of other documents that have been brought to public attention and appear to contradict the government’s claims. The material includes the victim-impact statement and a recently declassified 1987 CIA damage assessment of the case along with the new declassification of the Weinberger document itself.
Since his formal sentencing in 1987, the U.S. government has repeatedly cited the secret Weinberger document as its main basis to oppose either parole or presidential pardon for Pollard.
Last July, at Pollard’s first parole hearing after 29 years in prison, the government again cited the Weinberger declaration, claiming it contained sufficient evidence to warrant a denial of parole. Neither Pollard’s security-cleared attorneys nor the parole commission itself were allowed to view the document.
At the parole hearing, the government relied upon the document to claim Pollard’s case represented “the greatest compromise of U.S. national security to that date” – a charge which the parole board accepted without viewing the document. Numerous former U.S. officials who viewed the document have since stated categorically that the representation is false.
Pollard’s spy activities listed
About 20 percent of the memo is still classified, while many of the section heads of the still-secret sections can now be seen in the declassified version.
According to the document, as reviewed by WND, the crux of Pollard’s spy activities described in the declassified sections affected U.S. relationships with Middle Eastern countries.
It states that Pollard provided Israel with information on Soviet weaponry and radar systems, which was of vital import to the Jewish state’s security, since at the time almost all of the technology used by Israel’s enemies was Soviet-made.
The document notes Pollard “provided information on Soviet-built air-to-air missile systems and Middle East air orders of battle,” even while allowing that since Israel “depends for its national security on control of Middle East air space, much of this information was considered vital, and, as Col. Sella [of the Israeli Air Force] remarked, was not previously possessed by Israel.”
The memo states Pollard provided information concerning the fighting capabilities of Israel’s Mideast adversaries, with many of the specific examples still classified.
Pollard’s attorneys charge the federal government lied for 30 years about Pollard’s case.
In one newly declassified section, the document reveals Pollard provided Israel with information on the Tunisian air force. The intelligence helped Israel avoid a confrontation with Tunisian air defenses in an airstrike on Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia.
The Tunisian case provides a glimmer into what Weinberger viewed as harmful to U.S. national security. Weinberger wrote in the memo the strike harmed U.S. regional interests because of the resultant damage and loss of life – 62 Palestinians and 27 Tunisians were killed in raid. Weinberger called those deaths a “detriment” to the U.S.
He further complained the Israeli airstrike may damage relations with Tunisia, which the defense secretary said he viewed as an “honest broker” for the U.S. He said Tunisia was helpful when it volunteered, with U.S. assistance, to provide sanctuary to Yasser Arafat’s PLO – regarded by Israel as an enemy terrorist organization – when it was exiled from Lebanon in 1982.
Weinberger further claimed Pollard caused “harm” to the U.S. intelligence community by sharing with Israel intelligence that the U.S. did not believe was in its interests to provide to the Jewish state.
States the document: “Defendant not only provided classified information to Israel, which Israel was not authorized to receive, but in doing so, he furnished original source documents, which had not been ‘sanitized,’ thus substantially compounding the harm.”
Weinberger is implying Israel was not supposed to receive full intelligence on some issues and Pollard undermined that policy. Weinberger himself signed the 1983 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding that established strategic military and intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel on regional threats.
Weinberger contradicts his own memo
Weinberger’s memorandum has been the U.S. government’s main basis for Pollard’s continued incarceration. Yet stunningly, even Weinberger, before his death in 2006, recanted.
Weinberger stated in a 2002 interview that the Pollard case was “a very minor matter, but made very important.”
“It was made far bigger than its actual importance,” he said.
Weinberger was one of the central figures accused in the Iran-Contra affair of trading arms to Iran for hostages. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice but was pardoned before trial by President George H. W. Bush, who was Reagan’s vice president during the scandal.
Since Pollard’s sentencing, a number of former Reagan administration officials who worked with Weinberger have charged that he was biased against Israel, which affected his handling of the Pollard case.
Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane served as U.S. national security adviser and worked closely with Secretary Weinberger.
In a letter dated Feb. 9, 2012, McFarlane wrote: “The affidavit filed by former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was surely inspired in large part by his deeply held animus toward the state of Israel. His extreme bias against Israel was manifested in recurrent episodes of strong criticism and unbalanced reasoning when decisions involving Israel were being made.”
McFarlane went on to say the “imprisonment of Mr. Pollard for more than 26 years is more than excessive,” and “a great injustice.”
Lawrence J. Korb worked closely with Weinberger as assistant secretary of defense at the time of Pollard’s arrest. In a declaration filed Dec. 20, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Korb stated “the severity of Mr. Pollard’s sentence appears to be the result of Mr. Weinberger’s almost visceral dislike of the impact that Israel has on U.S. foreign policy.”
Korb went on to state, “I fully support Mr. Pollard’s application for release on parole.”
In a July 5, 2012, letter, Woolsey wrote that it was time to “free him.”
Woolsey has repeatedly contended in his public statements on the case that “anti-Semitism” is a factor in the ongoing incarceration of Pollard. And he has repeatedly urged the administration in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers to: “Forget that Pollard is a Jew … pretend he’s a Greek – or Korean – or Filipino-American and free him!”
The day after the new Weinberger declassifications were released last fall, eight senior U.S. officials, fully versed in the classified material of the case, wrote a strongly worded letter to Obama decrying the parole commission’s denial of parole to Pollard.
The officials include Woolsey, MacFarlane, Korb, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum and other former heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In their Nov. 14, 2014, letter, they slam the alleged “lie” that was used to deny Pollard parole.
The officials write: “The allegation that Pollard’s espionage ‘was the greatest compromise of U.S. security to that date’ is false; and not supported by any evidence in the public record or the classified file. Yet it was this fiction that the Parole Commission cited to deny parole.”
The officials noted the government relied on a “stale, largely discredited, 28-year-old classified memorandum written by former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger” to make its decision.
“Mr. Weinberger himself discounted his original damage assessment of the Pollard case in a 2002 interview … [and] the unreliability of the 1987 Weinberger document was known to and ignored by the Parole Commission,” the officials wrote.
Perhaps the most damning part of their letter to Obama, who on his visit to Israel in March of 2013 stated he would ensure Pollard received a fair parole hearing, was the close of their appeal to the president: “Denying a man his freedom based on a claim of damage that is patently false while ignoring exculpatory documentary evidence and hiding behind a veil of secret evidence is neither fair nor just, and it simply is not the American way. …
“We therefore strongly urge you, Mr. President, to tolerate no further delay in rectifying an injustice that has gone on for far too long. We urge you to act expeditiously to commute Mr. Pollard’s life sentence to the [more than] 29 years which he has already served.”