At an intelligence training facility in central Israel, a memorial ceremony was held Wednesday for its community’s fallen members. At nearly the same moment in Washington, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chose to announce that one year ago the American intelligence chiefs had issued a clear objection to the early release of Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel. Up until he was caught and jailed, nearly 24 years ago, Pollard spied on behalf of Lekem (Bureau of Scientific Relations), within the Ministry of Defense. During intelligence communities’ memorial ceremonies, only the dead of Military Intelligence, Shin Bet, Mossad, Nativ and Field Intelligence are mentioned. Lekem and the bureau handling Security of the Defense Establishment, are not mentioned.
The kind of rivalry that characterizes Israeli intelligence organizations can be similarly found among the U.S. government’s 16 intelligence agencies. One thing the heads of the CIA, the FBI and all the rest do agree on is this: opposition to an early parole for Pollard, who is scheduled for release on November 21, 2015. Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, who until last January was director of National Intelligence, coordinated among his colleagues their firm and uncompromising stance.
This also served as an answer for former president George W. Bush, when he visited Yerushalayim for Israel’s 60th Independence anniversary. McConnell, and his successor, Admiral Dennis Blair, are both US Navy men; it is their arm of the defense forces that the civilian employee, Pollard, robbed. They do not forget, and will not forgive.
The way in which the question was raised at the Senate Committee, suggests there was an intentional effort to foil an initiative for the release of Pollard: “During President Bush’s recent visit to Israel, the case of Jonathan Pollard was reportedly on the unofficial agenda. During the 1998 Wye River Summit, then director of Central Intelligence George Tenet threatened to resign if Mr. Pollard’s life sentence was commuted. Are you opposed to the release of Mr. Pollard? How would the release of Mr. Pollard affect the Intelligence Community and our national security interests?”
McConnell’s response on behalf of the community: “We are unequivocally opposed to leniency for Mr. Pollard. This is the unanimous view of the counterintelligence community. Our reasons are still best stated in the January 30, 1996 letter from then-FBI director Louis Freeh to then-attorney general Reno and the strong stance taken in 1998 by then-director of Central Intelligence Tenet. Additional classified information, previously submitted to the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] during the years of this matter, remains valid as to the grave national damage caused by this individual. Clemency for Pollard will undermine U.S. security practices and complicate U.S. counterintelligence programs.”
The U.S. intelligence community has not altered its position. This is a hint to the Israeli government, and its organs preparing to seek an earlier parole for Pollard.
The exchange between the intelligence community and the Senate committee regarding Pollard was first reported by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.