Accused spy Jonathan Jay Pollard has admitted selling to Israeli government officials classified U.S. documents, including details about the weapons systems and military strength of the United States and other nations, an FBI agent testifed in federal court here yesterday.
Special Agent Eugene J. Noltkamper's testimony contained the first public disclosure by U.S. officials that Pollard had identified Israel, a close ally of the United States, as the country to which he sold classified information.
"He Pollard said he gave documents to representatives of Israel," turning them over from time to time in Washington, Noltkamper said at a bond hearing yesterday for Pollard and his wife, Anne Henderson-Pollard, who is charged with unauthorized possession of classified documents.
Testimony indicated Pollard allegedly was paid nearly $50,000 for spying.
U.S. Magistrate Patrick J. Attridge ordered Pollard, 31, a civilian Navy counterterrorism analyst, held without bond, but left open the possibility that he might release Henderson-Pollard, 25, on bond next week.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported that two Israeli officials based in the United States suddenly returned to Israel this week because of their alleged association with Pollard.
An Israeli official in Jerusalem identified the two as Ilan Ravid, scentific affairs attache at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and Yosef Yagur, scientific attache in New York.
During yesterday's court hearing, an FBI official testified that Pollard told agents he telephoned the Israeli Embassy last week seeking asylum and was offered assistance by an unidentified Israeli Embassy official on the condition that he "shake" the FBI agents who had him under surveillance.
It could not be learned last night whether the Washington-based official said to have returned to Israel was the one who spoke to Pollard.
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Meir Rosenne, would not comment last night on the report, saying only that an investigation of the alleged spying is under way by the Israeli government and that its results will be reported fully.
A State Department official with knowledge of the Middle East said last night the department had no information about two Israelis being called home.
Rosenne met yesterday with Michael H. Armacost, undersecretary for political affairs, and afterward Rosenne told reporters that no Israeli diplomats had been sent home. An Israeli government official said last night that Rosenne was responding to the question of whether the U.S. government had "kicked out" any Israeli diplomats, and the official said was not the case.
However, the official said he could not address the question of whether Israeli diplomats had left the country of their own accord in the midst of the Pollard investigation.
The Israeli government official also stated that Israel "is cooperating fully with the U.S. government and the competent U.S. authorities know that."
At the hearing, Noltkamper testified that Pollard told the FBI that a suitcase full of top secret documents seized by the FBI shortly after his arrrest on Nov. 21 already had been delivered "to the Israelis," and that he was planning to return them to the Navy because he had signed them out.
The agent said the documents in the suitcase contained classified information on U.S. and unspecified foreign countries' weapons systems and data about China's intelligence operations within this country.
Pollard, who was arrested outside the Israeli Embassy in upper Northwest Washington last Thursday, received about $33,000 a year from his Navy job. He told the FBI that he was paid $2,500 a month in cash for about a year and a half and that the funds were paid by "his handler, his control," Noltkamper said.
Noltkamper did not say who allegedly paid Pollard. According to a source familiar with the investigation, Pollard said the money came from the Israelis. The agent also said that Pollard told the FBI his contact paid for two trips he took to Europe, one in November 1984 and another last summer.
Yesterday's court disclosures are expected to heighten the growing concern in the United States and Israel that the Pollard case could have serious adverse consequences for relations between this country and Israel. American Jewish leaders are said to have told Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres that anything short of a full disclosure could hurt the strong support Israel enjoys on Capitol Hill.
U.S. sources have said that the State Department has told the Peres government that the United States expects before the end of the week an explanation of what happened.
One federal law enforcement official said that Israeli officials have been told by the State Department that the United States does not want any Israeli government officials or documents possibly involved in the Pollard case to leave the United States. "The Israelis have not been forthcoming" so far, the official said.
In a statement earlier this week, the Israeli government expressed "shock and consternation" over reports linking the Jewish state to Pollard and said that the alleged espionage would be in "total contradiction" of the Israeli government's policy of refraining from any intelligence activity in the United States.
Noltkamper said that after FBI agents first confronted Pollard on Nov. 18, they maintained a 24-hour surveillance on him. He said that on the morning of Nov. 21 agents followed Pollard, who was accompanied by his wife, to the Israeli Embassy.
The agent said that Pollard drove his 1980 Mustang into the compound behind a diplomatic vehicle and that Pollard's wife disappeared into an underground garage for about five minutes while Pollard talked to Israeli security officials. He said Pollard's wife was carrying two bags, and that after Pollard's arrest agents found the Pollards' cat in one of the bags.
"We did not take custody of the cat," Noltkamper said, prompting laughter among spectators.
Pollard told the FBI he went to the embassy to seek political asylum, but left when he realized his request was not going to be granted, according to Noltkamper.
Noltkamper said that when the FBI and officials of the Naval Investigative Service in Suitland confronted Pollard as he was leaving his office there on Nov. 18, Pollard was carrying an envelope that agents discovered contained 60 classified documents relating to unspecified foreign governments' weapons and intelligence-gathering operations. Pollard told the agents he was taking the documents to a colleague's office, but the unidentified official later told the FBI that he was not expecting documents from Pollard.
Later on Nov. 18, Noltkamper testified, agents retrieved additional classified documents in boxes in the bedroom of Pollard's Dupont Circle apartment at 1733 20th St. NW.
But the largest batch of documents was recovered from the suitcase FBI agents seized after overhearing two telephone conversations between Pollard and his wife on the night of Nov. 18, according to Noltkamper. The agent testified that Pollard interrupted his first interview with the agents twice to telephone his wife and was overheard asking her to remove from their apartment a "cactus" and their wedding photos.
Agents later learned that "cactus" was the abbreviation for a weapon system depicted in documents recovered from the suitcase, Noltkamper said. He said that Henderson-Pollard told an unidentified friend to retrieve the suitcase from a stairwell in the Pollards' apartment building and to deliver them to a hotel where she would burn them. However, when the unidentified person got the suitcase she notified authorities instead, Noltkamper said.
After the nearly two-hour hearing, Magistrate Attridge ruled that there was sufficent reason to refer the charges against Pollard and his wife to a grand jury. Pollard has been charged with providing documents to a foreign government, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The unauthorized possession charge against his wife carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Richard Hibey, Pollard's attorney, did not offer any arguments against the government's request that his client be held in custody without bond until his trial. However, James Hibey, Henderson-Pollard's lawyer, said his client has no intention of fleeing the country and asked that she be released on bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Leeper argued that releasing Henderson-Pollard on bond would run the risk of further disclosure of classified information to foreign governments. He added that the Chinese in particular would be interested in the classified information on China's intelligence operations contained in the suitcase Henderson-Pollard had handled.
Now "that the government they primarily cooperated with has closed the door on them, the information she has in her head may be put up to the highest bidder," Leeper said. "It doesn't take much of this information to damage the national security." Her attorney denied that she had any such classified information to sell.
Attridge said he was withholding a final decision on bond for Henderson-Pollard so he could further consider the evidence. Attridge asked her attorney to explore the possiblity of putting up a property as collateral if he decides to release her on bond. Attridge said he will decide the bond issue for Henderson-Pollard at a hearing Tuesday.