The spy who’s been left in the cold

This story was originally published in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine on July 5, 1998.

The senior Israeli official broke away from an important round of diplomatic talks in Washington to make the journey to a federal prison in Butner, N.C., on a warm Friday morning in May. Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh brought with him an entourage of Israeli journalists and cameramen, some gifts and two messages from his boss, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, addressed to the inmate whom Naveh had come to see.

Prisoner #09185-016 wore his khaki uniform and his embroidered white kippah, the skullcap worn in Jewish prayer. To protest his continued incarceration, the prisoner had stopped cutting his hair and shaving more than

a year ago, so his tangled brown curls hung down to his shoulders and his graying bushy beard brushed his collar. At age 43, Jonathan Jay Pollard had finally come to look like the biblical prophet that he had long fancied himself.

Pollard brought something of an entourage himself to the meeting. There was Esther Pollard -- the former Elaine Zeitz, a pen pal from Toronto whom Pollard now calls his wife. And there was an agent from the Office of Naval Intelligence, which supervises all of Pollard's contacts to prevent the disclosure of classified information. The visitors were told they must speak English rather than Hebrew so their conversation could be monitored, and that they could bring no gifts except for certain religious items. As far as the U.S. government was concerned, Jonathan Pollard was still toxic.

While the television cameras rolled, Naveh embraced the prisoner. Then he conveyed the contents of a formal statement acknowledging for the first time what Israel had for years denied: "Jonathan Pollard was an Israeli agent, handled by high-ranking Israeli officials . . . In light of this fact, the State of Israel acknowledges its obligation to Mr. Pollard and is ready to assume full responsibility accordingly."

And there was a separate handwritten note from Netanyahu to Pollard. "Gather your courage and spirits," it read. "You are not alone. The State of Israel will go on working, tirelessly and dauntlessly, to bring you home."

The prisoner then gave a repentant speech to the Israeli media, stressing that he had never intended to harm the United States. "I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work. Whatever good I might have done for Israel I don't believe justified the kind of act I took."

The ritual was almost over. But before he left, Naveh gave Pollard a ceremonial silver kiddush cup used in chanting the Hebrew blessing over wine. "I hope the day when you will be able to say the kiddush in Israel," he told Pollard, "will be soon."

It will not be soon. Key officials in the Defense and Justice departments and various intelligence agencies today remain as opposed to Jonathan Pollard's release as they were on March 4, 1987, when a federal judge sentenced him to life imprisonment for espionage. On that day 11 years ago, then-U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova told reporters, "It is likely he will never see the light of day again."

The statement reflected the government's belief that the volume and sensitivity of the secrets Pollard sold to Israel did incalculable damage to American intelligence-gathering. These officials still consider Pollard a dangerous traitor whose release would send a terrible message that it's okay to spy for a friendly nation or to help an ethnic or religious homeland. And they portray Pollard as an arrogant, greedy and sometimes delusional young man who sold out his country for $50,000 in cash, jewelry and lavish trips abroad. President Clinton has heeded their opposition in rejecting annual pleas to commute Pollard's sentence.

Pollard was working as a Navy civilian intelligence analyst in 1984 when he decided to try to personally alter the balance of power in the Middle East by providing thousands of pages of highly classified U.S. electronic, satellite and military intelligence to Israel. He was arrested in November 1985 and eventually pleaded guilty to spying charges. He claimed he had provided essential data that the U.S. government should have been sharing with Israel all along. It was the Year of the Spy, when several highly publicized espionage cases rocked Washington, and the security establishment was out for blood. He became the only American ever sentenced to life for spying for a U.S. ally. His sentence was as severe as those handed out to John Walker and Aldrich Ames, both of whom were convicted of selling crucial secrets to the Soviet Union.

At first, only Pollard's family and closest friends came to his defense. Israel officially denied any knowledge of his activities, claiming he was part of a "rogue" spy operation, while mainstream American Jewish organizations disavowed or condemned him. The Pollard affair strained relations not only between the United States and Israel, but within the Jewish world. American Jewish leaders were furious at the Israelis, and traveled to Jerusalem to protest the way Israel had handled the matter. Many Israelis, in turn, argued that American Jews were afraid to stand up for Pollard because they feared their own loyalty to the United States would be challenged.

But slowly and with many disruptions, a campaign for Pollard's release has coalesced. In Israel a dogged legal effort on his behalf in the High Court of Justice has forced Netanyahu's government in recent months to grant Pollard Israeli citizenship and admit its obligation to assist him. Naveh was the fifth cabinet-level official to visit Pollard in the last six months.

In the United States, major Jewish organizations have gradually come around to supporting Pollard's release. In March, the rabbinical heads of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements of American Judaism united in an unusual appeal to Clinton. "In the noblest spirit of biblical teachings, religious virtue and benevolent aspirations," they stated, "we . . . make this historic decision to turn to you to ask that you grant mercy to Jonathan Pollard and commute his prison sentence."

Pollard's family and supporters acknowledge his guilt. But they argue that it is past time to release him on humanitarian grounds. He spent seven years in solitary confinement at the maximum security prison at Marion, Ill., in the harshest of prison environments, and his 121/2-year incarceration -- which began with his arrest -- is already considerably longer than anyone has ever served for spying for a friendly nation, his advocates say. They portray Pollard as a naive idealist who intended only to help Israel and did not realize the extent of the potential damage he was doing to the United States.

Jonathan Pollard's story is one of deceit and betrayal. He betrayed the United States for Israel, and also for money. Israel then betrayed Pollard by turning him away when he sought refuge and by denying its responsibility. Both Israel and the United States broke faith with each other through espionage, despite their long-standing alliance. And the United States betrayed Pollard -- in the view of his supporters and at least one federal judge who heard his case -- by reneging on an agreement in which Pollard cooperated with the prosecution, pleaded guilty and was assured he would not receive a life sentence.

Perhaps the final betrayal is one of self. Friends and relatives say Jonathan Pollard has consistently undermined the campaign for his own release because he is obsessed with vindication, consumed by the idea that he is a victim of antisemitism and that Israel can rescue him through diplomatic and political pressure. He has systematically cut himself off from anyone who has questioned his tactics. He refuses to see or speak with his mother, father and sister, despite their decade-long effort on his behalf. He divorced his wife and former accomplice, Anne, just after her release from prison in 1990. He says he is now married to Esther Pollard, who has taken the name of a Jewish biblical heroine, although prison officials say the two have never formally wed. She shares his obsessions, ferociously championing his cause using faxes, Web pages, TV appearances and hunger strikes in a strident publicity campaign, denouncing American and Israeli officials for failing to act decisively to free her husband.

Pollard declined to be interviewed for this article, but he has spoken from prison to selected Israeli and Jewish media. He has indicated to them that he still sees himself, as he told an Israeli interviewer last year, as "a front-line soldier forgotten deep in enemy territory, taking a last stand on a small hill."

Pollard's fate hangs in a strange diplomatic limbo. His name appears on lists of issues prepared for bilateral meetings such as those during Vice President Gore's recent trip to Israel. Israeli politicians, particularly those seeking to appeal to right-wing voters, insist publicly that freeing Pollard is a priority. But it remains low on everyone's official agenda -- a photo op at Butner with nothing more than symbolic value.

Neither side has produced startling new revelations. But this account of Jonathan Pollard's short and unhappy career as a spy -- based on numerous American and Israeli investigative documents and more than 50 interviews with present and former officials in intelligence, law enforcement and diplomacy, as well as Pollard's family and supporters -- shows that the security breakdown that allowed Pollard to gain easy access to thousands of highly sensitive documents was massive, that the state of Israel deceived both him and Washington, and that U.S. officials remain determined to make an example of him. And the question remains: What is justice for Jonathan Pollard?

It was an unusual childhood, growing up Jewish at Notre Dame. Pollard's father, Morris, now 82, was an internationally known microbiologist whose work took the family around the world and brought them to live at the Catholic university in South Bend, Ind. His experiences gave Jay Pollard, the youngest of three children, a wider world view than most of his contemporaries, and often a negative one.

Small and bookish, he was the only Jew in his grade school and he was frequently taunted and bullied. "These characters would chase him home. Once he fell and broke his hand" trying to escape them, recalls his mother, Molly, now 81. "Five of these hoodlums showed up at lunch time" one day outside the Pollard home. Jay was terrified. "Mom, what can you do? Where's Dad?" he asked. She took to driving him to school, then transferred him to a private school.

The Holocaust was a personal issue in the Pollard household because some 70 members of Molly's family, the Kleins of Vilna in Lithuania, had perished. Some died in concentration camps, others were taken away in mobile killing vans into which the Nazis pumped carbon monoxide. The family talked often of the Holocaust, and of the lingering effects of prejudice. Morris Pollard, an A student in college who believed he was rejected at medical school because of a Jewish quota, often preached to his children that Jews "have to be twice as good to get half as far."

Jay, an excellent student, took daily refuge at the Sinai Synagogue Hebrew School in South Bend. There, he found a few friends and deep sources of inspiration about Israel. A charismatic rabbi and several enthusiastic Hebrew school teachers sang the praises of the biblical homeland and preached that Jews had the obligation to make aliyah -- to go live in Israel.

In 1967, the year of Jay's bar mitzvah, Israel and the surrounding Arab states went to war. Jay was horrified at the prospect that Israel would be annihilated. "We heard about the war on the radio," his mother recalls. "Jay cried. He said, `Israel will be killed.' I said, `God won't let us go wandering again.' " The next morning, Molly Pollard woke her son with the miraculous news that Israel's air force had prevailed. His prayers had been answered.

Morris Pollard's work took him to conferences in England, France, Germany, Japan and Mexico, and Jay frequently accompanied his parents. They recall him weeping as a teenager during their trip to the death camp at Dachau, and his subsequent determination to visit Israel.

Jay was also struck by another aspect of his father's international travel -- his occasional cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency. Morris Pollard, who served on advisory boards for various government agencies, including the Defense Department, was debriefed by the CIA on several occasions about his knowledge of biological and chemical research in foreign countries. He also was asked a few times to gather information informally at scientific conferences, a role he considered minor, but which his son glamorized and later would embellish wildly.

At 16, Jonathan Pollard made it to Israel, attending a summer camp for gifted children. He was enthralled with the youthful, pioneering spirit of the country and told his parents he was ready to make aliyah. He wanted to serve in the Israeli army.

His parents, however, convinced him that he could be of more service to Israel if he first got a college education. So he grudgingly went off to Stanford University. But he had already absorbed a prophetic message that his mother impressed upon him once, when he was afraid to go outside to face the bullies. She had told him, "Jay, you must remember this is a Christian country, and the only way you will be happy is in Israel."

The hiring and promotion of Jonathan Pollard surely rank among the monumental blunders in the history of U.S. intelligence. A bright but immature young man with an overactive imagination and a messianic love for a foreign country was given the keys to the intelligence kingdom -- some of the deepest secrets of the CIA, FBI, State Department, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency.

After graduating from Stanford and giving up on law school, Pollard wanted to join the CIA. "We told him intelligence work is dirty work. It is not for people with high ideals. It is corrupting," Morris Pollard recalls. "But he saw the glamour of it. He said, `What are you talking about, Dad? You're involved in it.' "

In Jay's imagination, Morris Pollard was a former CIA station chief, according to what he told college friends and, later, naval intelligence colleagues. That was only one flight of fancy; Jay also told Stanford friends that he had worked for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, trained with the Israeli military, even fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. At one point, he said he feared for his life and carried a gun on campus. He also fabricated an advanced degree and employment on his resume.

He had read hundreds of spy novels. He had traveled extensively. And "he was an excellent raconteur. Whether what he was telling you was straight truth or embellished, who knew?" says Stephen Haaser, a childhood friend. "He had all kinds of great stories."

The CIA rejected Pollard in 1977. A polygraphed job interview suggested college drug use and other possible security problems. But the CIA did not pass this information along when Pollard, then 25, applied to and was hired by Naval Intelligence as an analyst in 1979.

Assigned to the Navy Operational Surveillance and Intelligence Center in Suitland, Pollard initially was considered a good analyst, writing clear and cogent reports on the Soviet navy based on nonclassified material. He quickly got his first security clearance, and soon problems surfaced.

Pollard approached a supervisor and told him he had a contact through a former acquaintance with the South African intelligence agency. Pollard suggested he could become a double agent. His superiors asked him to take a polygraph. The results were inconclusive, but troubling enough for the Navy to suspend his security clearance and suggest he get psychiatric help.

"Jay was intrigued by intrigue, and he wanted to be part of this secret game," says retired Cmdr. Jerry Agee, a former supervisor of Pollard. "When he couldn't get anything going, he would still hint and tell tales, and say he had good contacts and could work the diplomatic circuit. People blew it off as `typically Jay,' a blowhard, bragging, et cetera. But the sad fact is that it was an indicator of a behavior that wasn't recognized until later on."

For months, Pollard's bosses monitored his job performance and, after he saw a psychiatrist, returned his security clearance. What they did not know was that Pollard had developed a penchant for impressing his friends by giving them low-level classified material. He gave economic and political analyses to two friends who were investment advisers, and he gave intelligence reports to Kurt Lohbeck, a freelance journalist who was covering the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

"He was very secretive . . . like a wannabe cop who likes to flash badges," says Lohbeck, who met Pollard at a Capitol Hill party. "He wanted to seem like he was really involved in intelligence, and then I learned he was just a staff analyst." Lohbeck says Pollard attempted to involve him in several arms-dealing schemes that had nothing to do with Israel. Pollard told him there was money to be made in arming anti-Soviet Afghan rebels and he arranged meetings for him and Lohbeck with Argentine and South African officials to discuss such deals, which never materialized, Lohbeck says.

In 1982, Pollard started living with Anne Henderson, a petite, red-haired woman who worked in public relations for the National Rifle Association. They paid $750 a month for a two-bedroom apartment on 20th Street in Dupont Circle. After their marriage, Jay tried to help her in her new job by leaking her classified documents about the Chinese government so she could compete for a Chinese Embassy public relations account. She didn't win.

Despite his work history, Pollard's career progressed. The naval intelligence operation in Suitland was reorganized and Pollard was transferred to a new division. But in a bureaucratic oversight, his new supervisor, Agee, was not informed about Pollard's previous problems. Pollard's previous supervisor had retired, his present bosses were new to the job, and because Pollard's security clearance had been restored, no one thought to check his file. Agee was running a new Anti-Terrorist Alert Center, and he assigned Pollard to a division where he was supposed to be monitoring and analyzing terrorist threats in the Caribbean and the continental United States. Agee, however, was not yet aware that Pollard had much broader interests.

In his new job, Pollard had access not just to "Confidential," "Secret" and "Top Secret" data; he additionally was granted security clearance for "Special Compartmented Information," a designation reserved for especially sensitive material, usually involving technical systems to intercept communication.

Pollard's SCI clearance gave him virtually unlimited access to various "secure" libraries and computerized databases belonging to military and civilian intelligence agencies throughout the Washington area. He also had a "courier card" that allowed him to travel with classified material between these libraries without being checked by security. He was positioned to become a perfect spy.

Two years later, on November 21, 1985, FBI agents were trailing his 1980 green Mustang when Pollard suddenly swerved through an open electronically controlled gate into the Israeli Embassy compound off Van Ness Street NW. In the passenger seat was Anne Pollard, clutching their wedding album and their cat, Dusty. They'd also brought their birth certificates, marriage license and the cat's vaccination records. They were expecting to leave the United States for good.

The steel gate swung closed behind them, and Pollard, sweating and trembling, told the embassy guards that he was an Israeli spy seeking refuge. Pollard told them he was being pursued by the FBI and that he had been told by his Israeli handlers that he could escape through the embassy. Pollard told the guards the names of his various contacts, including Rafi Eitan, the legendary Israeli spymaster famed for his role in the 1960 kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.

The FBI surrounded the embassy as the Pollards waited in the driveway and the security guards went inside. When the guards emerged 10 minutes later, they told the Pollards, "You must leave." Anne was crying hysterically while her husband demanded that they call Israel and check with Eitan's agency, known by the Hebrew acronym LAKAM, which gathered scientific research and data from around the world.

Pollard invoked the Israeli Law of Return guaranteeing his right as a Jew to seek asylum in Israel. He told them he was a valuable spy with a false Israeli passport under the name "Danny Cohen." He begged them to check with the proper authorities. "We're Jews! We're on Israeli territory! You can't throw us out!"

But they could, and did.

Thus ended perhaps the largest outflow of classified material in any espionage operation against the United States. For the previous 18 months, Pollard had been routinely removing hundreds of pages of classified material per week from Suitland. On Fridays, he transferred documents -- often at a carwash -- from his briefcase into a suitcase, which he dropped off at an apartment house at 2939 Van Ness St. NW.

There, LAKAM set up a high-speed copying machine, with a security system designed to prevent the equipment from emitting telltale electromagnetic waves. The Israelis photocopied intelligence reports, satellite photographs and electronically intercepted message traffic pertaining mostly to Arab states. Pollard would usually pick up the suitcase over the weekend so he could return the documents on Monday morning.

In all, as the FBI and the Navy reconstructed it, Pollard had taken more than 1,000 documents, many of them hundreds of pages long, a mass of material estimated at 360 cubic feet -- a stack 6 feet wide, 6 feet long and 10 feet high.

Pollard had started spying in 1984 as a "walk-in," espionage parlance for a volunteer. Through a friend, he met Israeli Air Force Col. Aviem Sella, who was living in New York on temporary assignment. Pollard told Sella about his work and his belief that Israel was not being fully informed by the United States, and offered his services. Sella reported the contact to Tel Aviv.

The Mossad, which works closely with the CIA, had a strict policy of not spying on the United States, and declined Pollard's offer. But Eitan's LAKAM, a newer, smaller intelligence agency, told Sella to explore the possibilities. Once the Israelis realized the quality and quantity Pollard could deliver, they set up a full-blown operation. They also set about systematically corrupting Pollard, as spy agencies inevitably do with walk-ins to dissuade them from walking out.

Pollard, by most accounts, did not initially ask for money. He acted, he said, out of loyalty to Israel. But Sella told Pollard as the operation began that Pollard would have to travel to Paris to meet Eitan, and that the Israelis would pay $10,000 to cover all expenses. They decided on the rather flimsy cover story that the trip was an "engagement gift" for Jay and Anne from a rich "Uncle Joe."

Pollard and his fiancee spent a week at the Paris Hilton. There, Pollard met with Sella and Eitan, while Anne shopped with their wives. She admired a $7,000 diamond and sapphire ring, which Uncle Joe bought her. The couple traveled on to Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, Venice, Innsbruck and Munich.

Upon their return, Pollard began receiving $1,500 cash each month. In the summer of 1985, Uncle Joe also paid for a three-week honeymoon trip to Europe and Israel. The newlyweds stayed at the best hotels and traveled in a $700 private compartment on the Orient Express. The Israelis were so pleased with the quality of material Pollard delivered that they told him his monthly payments would be increased to $2,500 and that they would also put away $30,000 a year for him in a Swiss bank for his retirement in Israel.

Jay and his new bride developed a taste for the good life. Their American Express bills showed they were dining at good restaurants almost daily, although their combined take-home income was only $29,000 a year. Pollard gained more than 50 pounds, to about 220, after his year of living lavishly.

It might have gone on indefinitely, but Agee was growing increasingly dissatisfied with Pollard's slow progress on his regular assignments. Pollard also was slow in submitting paperwork to have his SCI clearance renewed, a process that would likely have required him to take a polygraph. Then in October, a colleague who did not care much for Pollard called Agee at home to say he had seen Pollard carrying a bundle of classified material outside work late on a Friday afternoon.

"It was a slow, slow accumulation of puzzling events," Agee recalls. But it became shockingly clear, after Agee checked records showing which documents Pollard had been handling, and after he alerted the FBI and the Naval Investigative Service, which installed hidden pinhole video cameras and watched Jay Pollard at work.

Jonathan Pollard stood pale and solemn in a dark suit before Chief U.S. District Judge Aubrey Robinson and spoke eloquently, at length, without notes. He had pleaded guilty to espionage and spent 15 months in jail awaiting sentencing, while the government negotiated a plea agreement with Jonathan and Anne's lawyers for their cooperation in assessing the damage.

"I have come to the inescapable conclusion," Pollard told the judge, "that while my motives may have been well-meaning, they cannot, under any stretch of the imagination, excuse or justify the violation of the law, particularly one that involves the trust of government, and there is no higher trust than {for} those in the intelligence community."

Pollard initially had refused to provide details of his crimes, and misled the FBI, not naming his Israeli accomplices, who fled the United States. Only as evidence mounted against him, and the Israeli government began to cooperate with the Justice Department investigation, did Pollard strike a deal. His guilty plea enabled the government to avoid a trial that would have disclosed secret information, including the extent of U.S. spying on its Arab allies. In exchange, the Justice Department said it would inform the court of Pollard's cooperation and seek a "substantial" prison term, but not life. Justice also agreed to seek a lesser term for Anne Pollard, who had a serious stomach ailment.

Pollard had picked a very bad year to be caught spying. He was one of 14 people charged in 1985, including the infamous Walker family spy ring that had been selling secrets to the Soviets for more than a decade. Yet even in that notorious company, Pollard was singled out by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, in a memorandum he submitted to the court prior to sentencing.

"It is difficult for me, even in the so-called `Year of the Spy,' to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S. and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel," the defense secretary said. ". . . No crime is more deserving of severe punishment than conducting espionage against one's own country."

Much of the information Weinberger provided to the judge has remained top-secret, but parts were made public. Among the secrets Pollard had sold: diagrams of the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis, which had helped Israel in its 1985 bomb attack on the PLO; details of Soviet arms shipments to Syria; information on the Pakistani program to build an atom bomb; Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare production capacity; the capability of Libyan air defenses; and much more.

Most significant, Weinberger said, Pollard's selling raw intelligence material disclosed the all-important "sources and methods" of U.S. intelligence-gathering. The Israelis, or anyone who subsequently might obtain the data, would know the capability of American electronic eavesdropping, the placement of U.S. strategic facilities, the extent of code-breaking ability, and would probably be able to learn the identities of agents and spies in various countries.

Weinberger told the judge the "punishment imposed should reflect the perfidy of {his} actions, the magnitude of the treason committed, and the needs of national security." Pollard, however, was not charged with treason, which is defined in the Constitution as waging war against the United States or aiding an enemy.

As defense secretary, Weinberger had been highly critical of some Israeli military actions, and Pollard supporters suggested that Weinberger, whose grandfather was Jewish, was motivated by anti-Israeli bias to exaggerate the damage. Weinberger, through a spokesman, declined to discuss the case.

If the Pollards weren't in enough trouble, they made it worse for themselves by very bad public relations. Both Jonathan and Anne gave media interviews before their sentencing. They were apparently violating their plea agreement not to give interviews, and they did not show much remorse.

Jonathan gave an audience to Wolf Blitzer, then of the Jerusalem Post, and told him: "I am as much a loyal son to the country {Israel} as anybody has ever been . . . I did my best. I'm sorry if I wasn't the most effective from a long-range standpoint. But I did my best."

And Anne Pollard spoke extensively on "60 Minutes," aired four days prior to sentencing, including this exchange with Mike Wallace: "Listening to you, Anne, I get the impression that you feel that everyone else is wrong, and you and your husband are right." Anne: "I feel my husband and I did what we were expected to do, what our moral obligation was as Jews, what our moral obligation was as human beings, and I have no regrets about that."

At sentencing, both Jonathan and Anne spoke of their love for each other, and he stressed his shame at having drawn her into his scheme. He told the judge of his deep regret: "I should have recognized the infectious nature of an ideology, Zionism."

But Robinson did not buy it. As Pollard stood with his arm around his frail wife, the judge pronounced the life sentence.

"God! No! No!" Anne Pollard screamed, collapsing to the floor. Helped up, she stood as the judge sentenced her to five years in prison, and she fell back to the floor.

For more than a decade in prison, Jonathan Pollard relied upon his parents and his sister, Carol, to lead the campaign on his behalf. She gave 10 years to his cause, quitting her job as a hospital administrator to run Citizens for Justice, a nonprofit foundation whose main purpose was to free her brother.

At its height several years ago, the Free Pollard movement claimed 400 unpaid volunteers, 1.5 million petition-signers mostly in the United States and Israel, and support from more than 40 members of Congress, along with a majority of the Israeli Knesset. The Pollard family spent more than $30,000 a year, crisscrossing the country, speaking at synagogues and other civic gatherings, raising money for legal appeals, putting out word that the severity of Jonathan's sentence was a case of unequal justice, if not antisemitic or anti-Israeli bias. In seeking a commutation of his sentence first from George Bush and now from Bill Clinton, they have also sought to assure everyone that Jonathan was indeed sorry for his crimes.

The campaign gained momentum in 1992 when Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals, agreeing with Pollard's defenders, labeled the Justice Department's actions at the sentencing a "flagrant violation" of the intent of the plea bargain. Williams said Weinberger and the prosecutors repeatedly characterized Pollard as traitorous, arrogant, greedy and remorseless, to the point where "the government's barrage expressed a viewpoint that the government had promised not to express" at sentencing. Williams felt so strongly that Pollard's rights were violated that he ended his opinion quoting Shakespeare's Macbeth, cursing the three witches for misleading him with false promises about his fate.

But Williams was on the losing end of a 2-1 vote. The other two judges, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Laurence Silberman, upheld the sentence, characterizing the prosecution behavior as "hard-nosed" but not excessive. Pollard's supporters noted the painful irony that the two judges who ruled against him were Jewish, and some said they believed the judges were harsher on Pollard because they did not want to seem too soft on him or on Israel.

Efforts to help Pollard have failed partly because of his own actions, his supporters say. In 1993, New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's office arranged for the revered Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik to visit Pollard in prison and compose a letter of contrition to President Clinton. The letter, written with Soloveichik, included Pollard's acknowledgment that his actions were "repugnant not only to American law, but equally repugnant to God's Torah." But while Clinton was considering it, Pollard's personal rabbi, Avi Weiss of New York, issued a statement saying Pollard disavowed the letter.

Such behavior has alienated many supporters. "It is as if there is more than one Jonathan Pollard: `Yes, I'm guilty. No, I'm not. Yes, I'm sorry. No, I'm not,' " says Leonard Garment, the former Republican White House counsel who has worked for Israel and supported Pollard's release. Garment, who visited Pollard in 1994, says he advised the Pollard family to seek Jonathan's release on medical grounds because "he is a distraught, disoriented person. He is the boy with his finger in the dike, and he is the captive of his ruminations, his fantasies."

Pollard is no longer talking to Rabbi Weiss, nor to Amnon Dror, an Israeli businessman who for years headed his support committee there. Dror says he stressed in several prison meetings with Pollard that "you have to convince the American people you are sincere in your regret. He would say `Okay' and whenever I left the cell, I would hear, an hour later, a spokesman on behalf of Jonathan saying exactly the opposite."

A senior assistant to Moynihan, David Luchins, who worked for several years to try to free Pollard, says the senator is no longer involved in the case. Luchins says of Pollard: "There is a pattern that when people try to help him, he grows paranoid, distrustful and delusional. Any suggestion of fault or frailty on his part by supporters leads to his denouncing them as his enemies and reaching out to a new, more compliant group of supporters, who he will embrace until they grow weary or commit some sin against his ever-changing perception of martyrdom."

Rather than stress that he is remorseful and contrite, Pollard and his new wife more often have portrayed him as a martyr in the Zionist cause and have launched bitter verbal attacks on American and Israeli officials. Zeitz-Pollard, a Canadian Orthodox Jew, had a statement read into the record of the Knesset in 1996 saying in part: "Jonathan Pollard has been the scapegoat, exploited by antisemitic elements within the American administration, to call into question Israel's reliability as an ally . . . Mr. Prime Minister, it is time for the Jewish leader of the Jewish state to act in a manner befitting a Jewish leader, and through strong actions to let the Americans know that Jewish blood is not cheap."

At a time when Pollard supporters looked to the newly elected Netanyahu to aid the cause, Zeitz-Pollard issued a press release in her husband's name saying that Netanyahu had "shirked his responsibilities" and "blatantly betrayed" a promise to seek Pollard's release. She was frequently quoted, particularly in right-wing Israeli media, calling government officials stupid, incompetent or afraid to challenge the Americans, whom she has branded as liars, right up to President Clinton.

Jonathan Pollard, in a lengthy interview last year with the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, expressed scorn for some of his American Jewish brethren. "I grew up on Exodus, on the new Zionism, on the new sense of national pride, on the new Jew who is revitalized, who isn't afraid. I detest the Diaspora mentality. I detest defeatism and Jews who are motivated by materialism to live in America."

Jonathan's sense of suspicion has grown to the point where it includes his own family. After sharp disagreements over strategy and personality conflicts between his family and his new wife, Pollard has taken his mother, father and sister off his prison visitors list and will no longer talk to them on the telephone.

On a warm spring day on the campus of Notre Dame, two old men embrace the way old friends do, then sit to talk about things they have discussed many times before.

The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of the university, welcomes Morris Pollard to his spacious office with a beautiful view from the top floor of the Hesburgh Library. A nationally respected theologian, educator and author, Hesburgh persuaded a somewhat reluctant Morris Pollard to come here 37 years ago. Morris had asked about being a Jew at a Catholic place and Hesburgh predicted he would find kindred spirits because "we are all trying to get out of our own ghettos."

Both men are white-haired octogenarians, both still working long past retirement age. Hesburgh is ruddy and energetic, while Pollard is pale, sad-eyed, and seems stooped by his burden. "It is a terrible, terrible drag on this man," Hesburgh says of his friend. "He is a great scholar and a good father, and he and Molly, they have really suffered, and they don't deserve it."

Hesburgh, who has known Jonathan since he was 6, became actively involved in the case early on, visiting the Bush White House to lobby unsuccessfully for clemency. "The boy was a real nerd to do what he did," Hesburgh says. "I think with all his intelligence, he was a hopeless romantic and he used to fantasize, and I think he got caught up and it became a passion with him. He got sucked in, and they hooked him with money, and he assumed he was important."

Nonetheless, the sentence was excessive, Hesburgh says, in part because the prosecution behaved immorally. "You make a deal, you keep the deal, even if you are not a great admirer of Jonathan, and I am not," he says. "I can't say I am proud of our justice system."

Hesburgh and Morris Pollard sit for nearly an hour, recounting high and low points of the case like old army buddies. Hesburgh says that years earlier he thought he had come up with a politically acceptable solution in which Jonathan Pollard would renounce his U.S. citizenship and be banished to Israel. He took the idea to the White House, "and it was like a stone wall, 20 feet thick. I was treated like a silly little boy dealing with a silly case."

"Weinberger lied," Morris Pollard says. "Weinberger lied like he lied in Iran-contra." Weinberger was indicted on five counts of obstruction of Congress, false statements and perjury, but pardoned in 1992 by Bush.

Pollard is silent for a time, and Hesburgh nods sympathetically.

"I think about this every day," Pollard says.

"I don't know how you have kept up all these years," Hesburgh says. "The Jewish establishment is behind you now, but it's a little late."

Major Jewish groups -- the World Jewish Congress, B'nai B'rith International, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and many others -- have over the years come around from shunning Jonathan Pollard to advocating his release.

All of which makes Sumner Shapiro quite angry. He is retired Rear Adm. Shapiro, and the first and only Jewish director of naval intelligence. He and his former deputy, Thomas Brooks, hired Pollard, then took away his security clearance, but decided to give him a second chance. Shapiro, balding and gray-haired, is an intense, sometimes gruff man who particularly dislikes talking about the Pollard case. But he agreed to do so because he believes Jonathan Pollard is being supported by people who have no idea of the magnitude of his crimes.

"He tries to sell himself as a hero, a savior of Israel and the Jewish people, and, in point of fact, that emerged after he was in jail and tried to reinvent himself," Shapiro says. In his view, Pollard "had a Walter Mitty complex. He saw himself as kind of a James Bond" and also enjoyed the money.

Shapiro retired before Pollard actually began spying. "I wish the hell I'd fired him."

Shapiro insists Pollard was far too low-ranking to know how much intelligence the United States was actually sharing with Israel. As a junior analyst, "he would not have participated in meetings like that. That was on my level." In the spy business, Shapiro says, countries have complicated but legitimate reasons for sharing only part of their knowledge with allies. For Pollard to open the floodgates on that information, Shapiro says, was devastating.

"Not only does it jeopardize our sources and methods, but it diminishes the confidence that other countries and sources would have in us. If you want to do business with the Americans and they can't protect this information, it has a far greater, long-ranging result," Shapiro says. "It is really the lifeblood of an intelligence organization."

"Whether it was Pollard's initiative or the Israelis', the idea that an American Jew would spy for anyone bothers the hell out of me," Shapiro says. "It bothers me because it puts all Jews in a position of trust like that under a certain cloud. Whether the cloud actually exists or not, you think that it does. We work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are, and to have somebody screw it up . . . and then to have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me."

Actually, the leaders of American Jewish organizations have been careful not to try to make Pollard a hero. Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, headed a committee of major groups that investigated the Pollard case 10 years ago to determine whether his sentencing was biased. "We made an independent effort. We could not document any charges of antisemitism, no evidence that he was treated differently," Baum says. "We took the position that we owed no special obligation to Pollard if he chose to spy for Israel."

That position outraged those who saw Pollard as a valiant victim of his ideals. "The only time I have ever been called a Nazi by Jews was by the people who supported Jonathan Pollard," says Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman says that because he also found no evidence of antisemitism in Pollard's case, he was accused by Pollard supporters of "being indifferent, insensitive and having blood on my hands."

Shapiro and others in the intelligence field say it is absurd to compare Pollard's sentence with those meted out to others convicted in the last decade of spying. In most other cases -- even those involving U.S. enemies such as the Soviet Union -- the scope and value of the material that was compromised was minuscule compared with Pollard's, they say.

Others are not convinced. "The U.S. government double-crossed him. It is a harsh statement, but I will stand by it," says Seymour Reich, a former leader of various Jewish organizations. He believes Pollard is serving an unusually tough sentence because the defense establishment is "trying to teach Israel a lesson, trying to teach American Jews a lesson, or trying to teach American Jews in government a lesson."

Israel broke a fundamental diplomatic rule by spying on an ally -- and getting caught. Reports at the time revealed that the United States had also spied on Israel, but never on such a scale. Moreover, Israel's firm denial, while predictable in the spy business, angered the American side all the more. One of Pollard's former lawyers, Hamilton Fox, explains the U.S. government's hard-line position this way: "The analogy I like to give is finding your wife in bed with your best friend. It hurts more because it was your best friend. And Israel being one of the closest allies we have, it was a bit more." The American attitude was, says Fox, "We are going to send these bastards a message."

At dusk, Morris Pollard is driving Molly home from dinner in their Oldsmobile, going about 20 mph across the Notre Dame campus. She doesn't drive anymore since a stroke two years ago. They have been married for 59 years and they finish each other's sentences. Their round faces even seem to resemble each other's.

They also share the same ghosts, the same guilt.

"I made a terrible blunder once," Morris says, recounting a conversation 15 years ago with Jonathan. "He said, `I want to tell you about what I'm doing,' and I said, `I can't listen' " because he knew of his son's high-level security clearance. In retrospect, Morris Pollard believes, Jonathan might have wanted to discuss his spying for Israel. Perhaps if he had, Morris might have been able to stop him.

Morris and Molly are bewildered by the present and the future. They know their son did wrong, but they believe he is being held hostage because of some sort of unspoken conspiracy against him, against Israel. They have never met the woman whom their son calls his wife, but they believe she is sabotaging his chances of ever being freed. At this point, they do not know whether they will ever see him again.

Jonathan has refused to apply for parole, because he is convinced it will not be granted, and he fears that the parole board could rule him ineligible to reapply for many years to come. "As far as commutation is concerned," Pollard said in a recent letter to an American Jewish official, "the President has acted so disrespectfully on this score that, barring securing a written promise from him to grant it, I will never again submit a request to this man."

Morris Pollard says his son has been fixated on making Israel act ever since his arrest. In his first visit to see Jay in jail after he was turned away at the Israeli Embassy, Morris says, "he asked me to deliver a message to the ambassador: that the government of Israel lacked beitzim," which is Hebrew for balls.

While Jonathan's court case succeeded in getting Israel to acknowledge its responsibility, his parents and most other supporters see no way this will help free him. Indeed, several knowledgeable officials have told them that every prison visit by an Israeli cabinet member and every move that raises Jonathan's profile will make it harder to muster political support for him in America.

As they are driving home, Molly recalls the conference they attended the previous three days on the Holocaust, an unusual gathering that included scholars and activists from around the world.

"Last night," she tells her husband, "a woman said to me, `We're so proud of Jay!' "

"Well, they shouldn't be proud of him," Morris says, sternly. "He was wrong. But his punishment was wrong." Morris is quiet for a moment, then says, "Jonathan had 110 community groups, Jewish federations in favor of commutation . . ."

"And," Molly adds, "a thousand rabbis."

 
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