An Amer­i­can With Dual Loy­al­ties Jonathan Pol­lard’s Free­dom Is a Re­minder of Wider Sus­pi­cion

Forward Magazine - - News - By Nathan Guttman Washington

While many in the Jewish com­mu­nity are cel­e­brat­ing the up­com­ing re­lease of con­victed spy Jonathan Pol­lard, some are still re­flect­ing bit­terly on his case.

For many in sen­si­tive gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity po­si­tions, and for those work­ing as de­fense con­trac­tors, Pol­lard’s es­pi­onage for Is­rael rep­re­sents not only a moral lapse, but also a prac­ti­cal prob­lem they still need to ad­dress when seek­ing the gov­ern­ment’s trust.

“I can’t help but be­lieve that what Pol­lard did had a huge im­pact on how se­cu­rity clear­ance de­ci­sions are made,” said David H. Shapiro, a Washington lawyer who rep­re­sents civil­ians de­nied clear­ance needed for their work with gov­ern­ment de­fense agen­cies. In his latest case, the se­cu­rity agency re­view­ing clear­ances listed Pol­lard’s es­pi­onage acts as fur­ther proof that Amer­i­can Jews have been spy­ing for Is­rael.

Pol­lard’s ar­rest, three decades ago, marked a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for many Amer­i­can Jews mak­ing their way up the gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment lad­der. The im­pact was felt mainly by lower-level con­trac­tors seek­ing clear­ance to work on de­fense projects. For oth­ers, the case was seen mainly as a source of shame. Mak­ing mat­ters worse was the warm em­brace Pol­lard re­ceived from Is­rael and from Amer­ica’s or­ga­nized Jewish com­mu­nity.

“When you cham­pion some­one like Pol­lard, it strength­ens sus­pi­cion against us. It’s a threat to our liveli­hood,” said Michael Shurkin, a for­mer gov­ern­ment in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer who is now a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion. “You go to shul in Washington and you see many peo­ple with po­si­tions in clan­des­tine agen­cies. We are all grate­ful for how few prob­lems we’ve had, and we all fear that the cli­mate might change be­cause of peo­ple like Pol­lard.”

The prison pa­role board’s July 28 de­ci­sion will set Pol­lard free Novem­ber 21, when he com­pletes 30 years of his life sen­tence. Pol­lard, who was a Navy in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, was caught steal­ing se­cret doc­u­ments and giv­ing them to his Is­raeli op­er­a­tors. While in prison he was granted Is­raeli cit­i­zen­ship, and con­sec­u­tive Is­raeli gov­ern­ments have called for his re­lease. The Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity also joined the call and, more re­cently, high­lighted his lengthy prison time as rea­son for an early re­lease.

The Pol­lard case in­stantly fed into an al­ready ex­ist­ing sus­pi­cion some in the de­fense es­tab­lish­ment and the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices held to­ward Amer­i­can Jews. And for the first time, it was a clear-cut, undis­puted case of spy­ing, not a ru­mor cir­cu­lat­ing in anti-Semitic cir­cles.

Amer­i­can Jews in gov­ern­ment po­si­tions that re­quired se­cu­rity clear­ance faced ques­tions about Pol­lard rou­tinely. “I was asked about it once in a se­cu­rity clear­ance in­ter­view. I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate it,” Shurkin re­called. “You can’t help but feel threat­ened by it and dis­cour­aged. There are many Jews in the clan­des­tine agen­cies, but for some of us there is also this aware­ness that you can’t take this trust for granted.”

Se­cu­rity clear­ances are re­quired not only from those hold­ing se­nior po­si­tions in the de­fense and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, but also from thou­sands of out­side con­trac­tors pro­vid­ing ser­vices for agen­cies that re­quire ac­cess to clas­si­fied ma­te­rial. It is a lengthy process that in­volves ex­ten­sive back­ground checks and in­ter­views. Any in­crim­i­nat­ing de­tail, even if cir­cum­stan­tial, could lead to a de­nial of clear­ance. “There has not been a year gone by that some­one in the Jewish com­mu­nity ap­ply­ing for a sen­si­tive po­si­tion has not been im­pacted by the Pol­lard af­fair,” said a for­mer com­mu­nal leader


Guilty: Anne Hen­der­son Pol­lard and her hus­band Jonathan Pol­lard at their wed­ding on Au­gust 9, 1985, in Italy. The cou­ple were ar­rested for selling Amer­i­can se­crets to Is­rael and China.


Han­dler: Rafi Ei­tan, for­mer Is­raeli agent, was in charge of Mos­sad in­ter­ac­tion with Pol­lard.

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