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 U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to providing Israel with information about the military capabilities of Arab states, including Iraq.


In the mid 1980's Pollard had discovered that information relating to Israel's security was being withheld by the United States government for reasons of U.S. national security. Israel was legally entitled to this information according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries, but the U.S. was under no obligation to provide it, in order to protect U.S. capabilities and interests. The information being withheld from Israel included 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 this policy and asked his superiors about it, he was informed of the official U.S. policy pertaining to release of that information. Pollard was of the opinion that Israeli lives were being put in jeopardy as a result of this U.S. government policy on sharing foreign intelligence information. In stark violation of U.S. law and the pledge he made to the U.S. Navy to protect U.S. intelligence information, Pollard began to illegally provide classified information to Israel directly.[1] Such disclosure constitutes treason under U.S. law.

On 11 May 1998, Israel formally acknowledged Pollard had been an 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]

Sentencing controversy

Pollard's supporters point to how disproportionate his life sentence appears when compared to the sentences of others who spied against the United States for 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[Citation Needed]; the maximum sentence today for such an offense is 10 years. The median sentence for this offense is 2 to 4 years[Citation Needed].

Wall Street Journal

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.[3]

It is notable that nowhere in this letter did Pollard deny illegally providing U.S. intelligence information to a foreign government.


  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. Pollard, J. "Appeasement of Iraq Made Me A Spy" (1989) Accessed 27 December 2007.

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