Mark HibbsNew From NSA on Pollard

During the Obama re-election campaign and afterward some people have been stirring the pot on ex-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, but now we can mull this item which popped up from the National Security Archive today. I don’t think we can say off the bat whether or not it will add or detract from the case Pollard’s allies in Israel and the U.S. are making for freeing Pollard from the clutches of the U.S. Department of Justice. But here are some highlights:

  • Pollard was spying on Pakistan, Arab states, and the USSR–not the U.S.
  • There’s a 21-page personal profile of Pollard, testifying to behavior which would characterize him as a U.S. security risk
  • Pollard and Israel were keenly interested in air defence systems in Libya, Tunesia, USSR, Egypt, elsewhere
  • US officials were alarmed at the revelation that Israel had mounted an operation to penetrate U.S. intelligence
  • At the same time, Pollard’s aid to Israel permitted Israel to neutralize U.S. intelligence-gathering on Israel 



  1. David (History)

    If my memory is correct, the Director of the CIA at the time threatened to resign if President Clinton granted an amnesty to Mr. Pollard, he was so outraged at what Pollard did.

  2. Cthippo (History)

    I don’t know why the US intelligence community would be surprised that Israel would run an operation against the US, especially since we were obviously running operations against them. That’s always struck me as a curious double standard since every nation runs operations including agents against it’s allies in one way or another.

  3. b (History)

    As I understand the Pollard affair the now published damage report is one of two damage reports done when Pollard was caught.

    The second one, by the Defense Intelligence Agency (or its predecessor), is not yet public. Colonel Pat Lang, who blogs at, was part of the assessment team that wrote the second report.

    From what he mentioned about it and what is currently openly report Pollard delivered daily Navy logs about naval affairs in the Mediterranean to the Israelis.

    These included daily position of U.S. as well as Soviet (nuclear) vessels. The Israelis used the information from these reports in their deals with the Soviets. This again led to the capturing of U.S. intelligence agents by the Soviets.

    Richard Sale wrote about this in a piece for Colonel Lang’s blog:

    In Sale’s words:
    The Pollard thefts had sinister consequences. U.S. agents in the Eastern Bloc or the Soviet Union were rolled up and America’s ability to collect technical intelligence on Soviet designs was shut down or crippled, leaving us blind.

    That was the real huge damage done by Pollard. The Israelis gave secret U.S. operational information to the Soviets. The Soviets used this information to find and disable U.S. agents. That, not pilfering some reports about Arabs, is the reason why the clandestine community is against releasing him.

    Please check also the comments to that Sale piece and the other threads about Pollard at the Lang blog to get a fuller picture.

  4. Denis (History)

    This 1987 CIA Pollard damage assessment is being widely quoted in the Israeli MSM and in the pro-Israeli US MSM as evidence that Jon-boy didn’t really do anything wrong, he was just passing on intel re: the Arabs, PLO, and USSR, which intel Israel was “entitled” to as an ally. Having read about 2/3 of the 166 page CIA assessment, that’s pretty much what the non-redacted parts seem to say, and so this becomes Exhibit “A” in the case to spring Jon-boy. But read it a bit more closely.

    First the report makes a resounding case that Jon-boy is a pathological liar and unbalanced – a case that includes:
    ∙ false (maybe not) claim to be a Mossad agent;
    ∙ pulling a pistol and waving it around saying someone was out to get him;
    ∙ false claim of having contacts in S. Africa and that his father (a virologist) was a CIA station chief in S.A.;
    ∙ “fantasies” of being a part of US clandestine ops;
    ∙ false claim of being fluent in Afrikaans;
    ∙ false claim of having an MA;
    ∙ false claim he sought a commission in the naval reserve;
    ∙ an “altercation” in a Georgetown bar.

    While employed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, he lost his Top Secret and SCI classifications repeatedly, and yet the ONI shrinks kept signing off on him as loopy but not an espionage risk, which tells us more about the incompetence of the ONI’s shrinks than we probably ought to know.

    Having certified that Jon-boy is a liar, the rest of the damage assessment then illogically relies on his own self-serving post-arrest and post-conviction statements that he was only gathering intel on Arabs and Russians. On Jan23.1985 five suitcases full of documents walked out of the ONI offices and into the hands of Israel. Additional drops were made biweekly until he was busted in November, except for a period when he was in Tel Aviv being trained. There was so much material coming in via Jon-boy that the Israel embassy set up a dedicated drop-apartment with nothing in it but photocopying gear.

    And we’re to believe that thousands and thousands of pages of intel was all about Russians and Arabs?? The way this report is written and redacted it looks like the CIA has bought into that outrageous lie, and because the CIA appears to have bought into it, the free Jon-boy spin team is now in high gear with “proof” Pollard didn’t do anything wrong.

    But we know that Pollard’s damage went a lot farther than outing the PLO in Tunisia as this assessment seems to imply. We know that by the reactions of people who saw all of the redacted facts about this case, reactions like:
    ∙ USDC Judge Aubrey Robinson giving Jon-boy a life sentence, which was upheld on appeals, including one to the US Supreme Court;
    ∙ Caspar Weinberger’s public damage assessment of Mar03.1987, which was a public supplement to the secret 48-page assessment Weinberger gave Robinson prior to sentencing;
    ∙ George Tenet’s threat to resign as Clinton’s CIA director if Pollard was released as a part of the 1998 Wye River accord;
    ∙ Joe Biden’s “over my dead body” condition for Obama releasing Jon-boy.

    These are very smart and very senior people — even Biden has his moments. All of them completely concur with Jon-boy being locked up for life, regardless of how the Free Pollard cabal spins the CIA assessment.

  5. David (History)

    Reading the report is quite shocking. In addition to what looks like 800 SCI, TS, confidential and unknown classification documents, he also handed over an estimated 1,500 current intelligence summary messages. (see page ix, supported by document-receipt records and polygraph interviews (page 2)). The daily intelligence summaries were the Middle East and North Africa summary, the Mediterranean Littoral Intelligence Summary and the Indian Ocean Littoral Intelligence Summary and in message format. (page 40)

    My day job is quite different than intelligence, but seems to me that if I’m provided with a clear text of a message, especially 1,500 of them, I have a much better chance of decoding other transmissions that use the same system. It’s interesting that when Pollard missed a single day, his handler got upset. (page 40) Certainly a tribute to how important the message content was for establishing an order of battle, but just have to wonder how badly communications security is also damaged.