My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:
On Nov. 21 — 30 years to the day after his arrest — Jonathan Pollard will be released on parole from a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina. As such, one of the most prolific and damaging spies in American history will breathe free air again with the full consent of the federal government and President Barack Obama’s administration.
In the mid-’80s, Jonathan Pollard was a civilian employee at the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office who worked for the government as an analyst. In 1985, a coworker noticed that Pollard was removing a lot of classified material for destinations unknown and reported the activity. Pollard’s boss also saw classified material on Pollard’s desk that was unrelated to his work. After an investigation, it was discovered that Pollard had signed out a tremendous amount of classified material for which there was no good explanation.
After more investigating, Pollard was arrested outside of the Israeli embassy with classified documents in his possession. He subsequently pled guilty to espionage and was sentenced to life in prison. The full extent of his activity reads like a bad novel, but it is all nauseatingly true.
During a period of about 17 months, Pollard sold a tremendous amount of classified material to the Israeli government. One report estimates that the physical documents he stole would, appropriately, fill a prison cell of 6 feet by 6 feet by 10 feet.
While the full extent of the stolen documents are still undisclosed, some of what we do know shows the extent of damage done. For example, Pollard gave the Israelis more than 1,800 unredacted messages, cables and reports that showed how American intelligence collected data and their sources — including reports from the Sixth Fleet’s Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO in the Mediterranean, whose information the Israeli’s used in their 1985 bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunis. Pollard also stole the entire 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence manual, which gives a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence including frequencies, sources, and locations.
For all of this, Pollard was paid cash — a lot of it — and allegedly promised a good life in Israel to end out his days.
Pollard’s case has been a cause clbre for three decades as a lightning rod for the Jewish community and American- Israeli relations. They contend that the fact he spied for an ally should soften his punishment. Four American presidents, however, have refused clemency and opposed his release since his capture. Obama has decided that it is time for him to be free. The Justice Department announced that it would not oppose his release and he was subsequently paroled.
Some pundits are opining that Obama’s support of Pollard’s release is an act designed to appease Israel and ease relations after the abominable nuclear deal with Iran, whereby the United States lifted sanctions and gave Iran a pathway to becoming a nuclear power. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a vocal advocate for Pollard’s release and even visited him in prison in 2002. Perhaps Obama sees the release of Pollard as an olive branch to Israel as he sharpened Iran’s spears.
But Obama did not have any input into the timing of Pollard’s parole hearing. That was a simple matter of math and the provisions of his sentence. No, the release of Pollard is the result of a much deeper worldview in which America is merely one of many nations and not exceptional in any way. Obama is fine with Pollard being released because Obama does not think that betraying America’s secrets is that big of a deal.
The same mindset is seemingly behind Obama’s inaction on Hillary Clinton’s massive security breach. In that case, Clinton kept tens of thousands of emails — including countless ones containing classified information — on a private server without appropriate security. At the same time, millions of dollars flowed into Clinton’s private foundation from foreign governments. Is there a connection? Obama and his justice department do not appear to think keeping America’s secrets out of the hands of other nations is important enough to seriously investigate.
Pollard deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his natural life for his betrayal of our nation. Instead, he will walk out of prison in a few months with the full support of our president and Justice Department. What interesting times we live in.