Jonathan Pollard

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Jonathon Pollard

Jonathan Pollard (born 7 August 1954, Indiana) was convicted of spying for Israel against the United States of America in 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to providing Israel with classified national security information about the military capabilities of Arab states, including Iraq.


In the mid 1980's Pollard had discovered that information regarding Israel's security was not being provided to the Israeli government. Pollard believed that Israel was legally entitled to this vital security information according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.[Citation Needed] The information being withheld from Israel included sensitive information about Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities being developed. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets. When Pollard discovered U.S. intelligence policies regarding release this information to foreign governments and asked his superiors about it, he was told to "mind his own business", and that "Jews get nervous talking about poison gas; they don't need to know."[Citation Needed] When Pollard's efforts to change U.S. government policy met with no success, he began to illegally give the information to Israel directly.[1] The act of providing classified U.S. national security information to a foreign power constitutes treason.

On 11 May 1998, Israel formally acknowledged Pollard had been a covert Israeli agent, handled by high ranking authorities within Lekem (Lishkat Kishrei Mada "Bureau of Scientific Relations"), which collected scientific and technical intelligence. Lakem was disbanded following Pollard's arrest.[2] In partial payment for his treason against the United States, Pollard's legal bills for his defense were paid by the Israeli government.

Sentencing controversy

Pollard's supporters point to how disproportionate his life sentence is when compared to the sentences of others who committed treason on behalf of allied nations. He is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally; the maximum sentence today for such an offence is 10 years. However, the fact that Israel was considered an ally was not relevant to the legal case. Aldrich Ames, who spied for an enemy nation (the Soviet Union), and was responsible for the deaths of at least 11 American agents, received the same sentence as Jonathan Pollard. Pollard's indictment was a single count of passing classified information to a foreign government.[3] Nevertheless, Pollard deceitfully provided a foreign government with classified information, breaking the law and the oath he swore to protect such information. Any such action, regardless of the recipient, endangers U.S. national security. Because the precise nature of the information Pollard provided to Israel is still classified, it is impossible to gauge the damage this spy caused the United States.

Pollard's statements in his defense

On February 15 February 1991 The Wall Street Journal published a letter from Pollard, written to his Rabbi in 1989, in which he stated that: any objective examination of the record will show that no American agent, facility or program was compromised as a result of my actions - not one. But this salient fact was conveniently overlooked by Mr. Weinberger, who felt that I deserved the death penalty for having had the audacity to make Israel "too strong." With reference to the type of intelligence that Pollard turned over to Israel, he stated: The problem ... lay in the fact that many of the photos that I turned over to the Israelis were of a number of Iraqi chemical weapons manufacturing plants which the government did not want to admit existed. Why? Well, if no one knew about these facilities the State and Defense Departments would have been spared the embarrassing task of confronting Iraq over its violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which banned the use of chemical weapons in war. You have to remember... that at the time of my sentencing the massacre of Kurdish civilians in Halabja had not yet occurred, and what little concern was being voiced over Iraq's apparent use of poison gas was largely ignored by the administration which did not want to anger the Arab world by criticizing the use of such barbaric weapons against Iran. The photos I gave Israel, though, if "compromised" would have jeopardized the administration's policy of callous indifference to this issue, in that they constituted hard, irrefutable proof that Iraq was indeed engaged in the production and wide scale use of chemical weapons. What the administration was really concerned about was being placed in a position where it would have to admit that it had tacitly condoned the creation of an Iraqi chemical weapons manufacturing capability.[4]


  1. The Facts of the Pollard Case Justice for Jonathan Pollard. Accessed 27 December 2007.
  2. Document: Official Recognition as An Agent by the State of Israel. Accessed 27 December 2007.
  3. Comparative Sentences Accessed 27 December 2007.
  4. Pollard, J. "Appeasement of Iraq Made Me A Spy" (1989) Accessed 27 December 2007.

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