Friday, May 16, 2008

Kaddish for Pollard

We have never been able to get our arms around the Pollard case, never been able to get the whole story of what happened a generation ago or figure out why there is such intense governmental opposition to his being released after serving so many years. There are bits and pieces of information and much rumor, but not a full picture. We can speculate and yet we cannot confirm that our hunches are on the mark.

Maybe or probably, from the outset of this long affair Jonathan Pollard has been saddled with loads of bad karma, of not being able to catch even a small break. What he did was wrong and criminal and it is not right or helpful to his cause to claim otherwise. There are different gradations of criminality. Where does Pollard fit in? From the outset, U.S. officials have said that what he did was far worse than the information that is on the public record, claiming that for security reasons they cannot give critical details. A quarter of a century later, this is an argument that is hard to swallow, particularly when we consider information that has become public regarding espionage by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Journalists, including Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, and a respected investigative reporter who undertook the assignment for this newspaper (something that I helped to arrange), have written that Pollard’s wrongful activity was extremely serious and damaging.

However, even putting aside our sentiments about Israel and how they affect our reaction to this case, hard questions remain. Was a life sentence warranted, especially when we consider the outcome of clearly far more damaging breaches of U.S. security involving Pakistan, China and the Soviet Union? The legal process was flawed, ranging from the incompetence if not negligence of Pollard’s first lawyers and the blatant deceptions of Joseph diGenova who prosecuted the case to the fierce insistence of the CIA that the keys to Pollard’s cell be thrown away. Add to this the cruel bias of the sentencing judge, the wrongful prosecution of Pollard’s former wife and the way the federal appellate court that included Ruth Bader Ginsberg handled the challenge to the draconian sentence. As I said, Jonathan Pollard has bad karma.

Now there is the case of Ben-Ami Kadish who is accused of being linked to Pollard and of engaging in espionage about the same time that Pollard was, as well as working with the same New York based Israeli official. This new affair is already puzzling and, I think, out of focus, the prospect being that we will not be able to get our arms around this affair either and will rely on leaks, rumors and charges that may or may not be true. What Kadish did occurred a generation ago and there apparently is no comparable espionage case in all of U.S. history of a prosecution so many years after the alleged wrongdoing. It is of interest that although, in the words of the New York Times, Kadish “could face life in prison or possibly the death penalty,” he was released on relatively low bail and, as of this writing, he has not been indicted.

There is no question that Israel must not recruit persons to spy on this country and it is no answer or justification that the U.S. may be withholding information that is vital to Israel’s security. Nor is it an answer that there is a likelihood that the U.S. has engaged Israelis to spy on their country, although that may not be the case, as pursuant to a U.S.-Israel agreement Israel must provide American officials detailed information regarding weapons development and deployment and intelligence and security activity. Under the rules of the game, there is no level playing field between the superpower that often provides it with diplomatic and other critical assistance and the Jewish State.

It has been reported that after fessing up to the FBI, Kadish received a phone call from his Israeli contact of years gone by instructing him to lie to American authorities. If true, this tidbit is hard to take and provides additional proof that not all Israeli officials are smart.

Our media – meaning Jewish publications – have speculated that apart from a dislike of Israel in certain Washington circles, the new case is intended to quash any push for clemency for Pollard in the final months of the Bush administration and also to make the legal path harder for Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two former AIPAC staff members who are being persecuted – oops, prosecuted – on what I believe to be trumped up espionage charges. I do not doubt that prosecutors do bad things far more often than most of us are willing to acknowledge in order to achieve what they regard as just results, yet I doubt that these explanations are valid.

We will likely learn more about the alleged Pollard-Kadish connection. When we do, I believe that there will be surprises. The claim of substantial overlap between the two cases raises the question of why FBI counterintelligence personnel did not get to Kadish much earlier. It is intriguing that while he has not been a Federal prosecutor for many years, on the day that Kadish was charged deGenova was able to discuss with reporters details of the new case. This suggests that he has been in the loop.

There may be additional questions as to whether Israel lived fully up to its Pollard-related commitment to provide the U.S. with full disclosure of any similar espionage activity. If what we have been told so far about Kadish is on target, the future looks bleaker than ever for Jonathan Pollard.