Pollard. Contrasts in punishment to Israeli, American and Russian spies

Jock L. Falkson

Jonathan Pollard . . . Gary Powers, an American pilot who was tasked to spy on the Soviet Union . . . and Yosef Amit, an Israeli who spied for the U.S on Israel. What they did and how they were judged are compared.

The American Spy

Gary Powers was an experienced pilot who worked for the CIA. He was a veteran of many covert espionage missions piloting America’s most advanced U2 spy plane.

U-2 missions were launched by the U.S. to systematically photograph military installations in hostile countries, especially in the Soviet Union. Because the U2 flew above 70,000 feet in height it was not vulnerable to existing Soviet anti-aircraft or missiles. So the U.S. had it good while Russia gnashed it teeth.

On May 1, 1960 however, Gary Powers’ plane became the first U2 to be shot down by a brand new Soviet surface to air missile. Powers parachuted safely down and was captured.

The U.S. government was clearly embarrassed by Powers’ capture but not enough to lie that one of their “weather planes” had strayed off course “after its pilot had difficulties with his oxygen equipment.” What CIA officials had not realized was that the plane had crashed almost intact. So the Soviets had recovered the very latest U.S. air force secrets. An incredible coup.

After intense interrogation by the KGB for months Powers finally broke down. He made a full confession and also apologized for his part in the operation.

Powers received a cold reception when he returned to the U.S. for having failed in his duty to activate the aircraft’s self-destruct demolition charge to destroy its highly advanced long distance camera and photographic film, as well as the plane’s new hush-hush military equipment. Powers was also criticized for not using the suicide pin supplied to him by the CIA to ensure that he would not be forced to spill the beans.

America’s Israeli Spy

Yosef Amit was a former Israel Defense Force intelligence major who was turned by the US to spy on his country by an American naval officer in Haifa, in the early 1980s. His U.S. handler was Tom Waltz, a Jewish CIA officer based in Tel Aviv.

Amit provided the CIA with highly classified information about Israel’s troop movements and future plans in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. He stole and delivered top-secret military documents from Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

After he was discovered in 1987 important classified military and Shin Bet documents were also found in his home. When interrogated, Amit confessed fully. He gave the names of his American handlers and details of the monies he had been paid. He was arrested and convicted of espionage.

How the allies reacted

It is interesting to compare the difference in attitude of Israel and the U.S. in regard to their mutual counter spying and how they judged each other’s spies. Israel, as you may recall, was forced to issue a public apology for having the temerity to spy on its American ally. It had to promise it would never do such a terrible thing again.

To no one’s surprise Israel did not have the chutzpah to demand that the U.S. should also apologize when the U.S. spy was captured.

While it is certain that Israel would not dare break its promise, you can be sure that Israel’s major ‘ally’ continues its spying operations from its enormous office block in Tel Aviv. A good many intelligence officers are surely housed in this multi-officed building.

It should be remembered that Israel never appointed Pollard as its spy in Washington, nor did it train him. However, after Pollard started to provide us with classified U.S. documents we saw fit to pay him – a clear invitation for him to continue.

At his trial Pollard vigorously insisted he never supplied information that would hurt the U.S. – only information the U.S. had gathered from Israel’s enemies that was important to Israel’s security. And which he believed was being withheld by the U.S. since both countries had agreed to share important security intelligence.

How the spies were punished

In August 1960, Powers was tried and convicted of espionage against the Soviet Union. He was sentenced by the Russians to 3 years imprisonment, followed by 7 years hard labor. In February 1962 however, he was exchanged along with an American student in a spy swap for Colonel Rudolf Abel, the Russian spy captured by the FBI. In all Powers served 18 months jail time.

Let us understand one thing clearly: Powers presented the Russians with a plane-full of its most valuable military secrets. It was a terrible blow – an irreparable loss to the U.S. It is extremely doubtful that Pollard could have supplied anything of similar quality.

Yosef Amit, America’s spy in Israeli, was sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison. He was released in October 1993 after serving 8 years. Israeli officials once considered offering to exchange him for Jonathan Pollard but did not follow through. (Pity.)

Pollard pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to “deliver national defense information to a foreign government” and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in exchange for a lesser sentence than the maximum provided under law.

Regardless, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He has been festering in jail for the past 25 years of which his first 7 years were spent in solitary confinement – the most barbaric of human punishments. The U.S. seems intent on keeping Pollard in jail for the rest of his miserable life.

Why the U.S. has been so brutal to it’s Israeli ally while both Russia and Israel were comparatively restrained is undoubtedly the consequence of Caspar Weinberger’s last minute intervention.

The Weinberger Travesty

Just before the judge was to present his verdict, Caspar Weinberger, a former Secretary of Defense, submitted a 40-page affidavit in which he listed a number of dire consequences the U.S. would suffer as a result of Pollard’s crime. He unashamedly urged that Pollard be harshly judged and sentenced. (Strangely enough in later years he is reported to have said “the Pollard matter was comparatively minor.” !)

Did Weinberg’s dire warnings that Pollard’s spying would severely damage America’s security, did this turn out to be true? No. Not one of his prophesies came true. Be that as it may, Weinberg clearly had no judicial right whatever to influence the judge’s sentencing. If he wanted to play a role in Pollard’s trial he should have offered his information to the Public Prosecutor before or during the court proceedings so that Pollard’s defense team could cross examine him. However, he made no attempt to do so.

Weinberg’s intervention was clearly a judicial travesty and the judge should immediately have declared a mistrial. Why he did not do so constitutes yet another travesty.

Summing it up:

America’s spy Gary Powers served 18 months in Russia. America’s spy, Yosef Amit, served 8 years in Israel. Israel’s spy in America, Jonathan Pollard, has served 25 years and counting.

Surely a savage contrast in crime and punishment and a blight on the world’s mightiest democratic super power. {} {} {}

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