by Mudar Zahran
As a Palestinian, I never thought I would ever end up writing in Jonathan Pollard's defense, especially as, when he was convicted of espionage in 1987, I was 13 years old.
It seems Pollard will remain in jail for his crime against US national security -- while at the same time US national security and intelligence are being compromised by American's Arab allies.
How does this add up?
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, is not the first spy who has served inside a US Intelligence body; nonetheless, what made Pollard's case different is that he was caught spying for America's ally, Israel. While Pollard himself cannot put forward a good defense for what he has done, American Jews have viewed Pollard's act with disgust and disappointment.
Pollard committed a crime, and definitely deserves to pay for it. Nonetheless, in the US legal system, no two cases are exactly identical -- the reason sentencing varies for apparently similar cases. It is only reasonable, therefore, to examine Pollard's case.
It is a basic element of any legal process to take into consideration the amount of damage caused to the victim: in this instance, US national security. One day before Pollard was to be sentenced—in March of 1987—then-Secretary of Defense Weinberger submitted to the court a supplemental declaration in which he stated that it was difficult for him "to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in the view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel."
Such a strong statement by the US establishment was no doubt one of the reasons Pollard was given a life sentence, and remains in jail today and not on parole. He was recently denied a release to see his dying father, and then to attend his burial.
Yet the question remains: How much punishment is the right amount? By today's standards, has Pollard caused more damage to US national security than what the US government, media and public have become willing to accept from their closest third world government allies? In weighing the damage Pollard has caused, it might be good to compare his passing of classified information to Israel to what has been taking place in recent years, and the way the US has been handling its security operations with "trusted" allies.
The United States has been vigorously cooperating with the intelligence entities of several Arab and Muslim countries, including the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, better known as the GID. The strong cooperation between the US and Jordan has been directed at fighting terrorism; nevertheless, in 2009, a trusted Jordanian Bedouin intelligence officer, Hammam Al-Balawi, who had been recruited by the GID and implanted inside Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, blew himself up, killing seven senior CIA officers along with the King of Jordan's cousin, who was his case officer. Shortly after, Al-Qaeda released a propaganda tape in which Al-Balawi detailed how both the GID and CIA did intelligence work with him, and declaring that he hope he had provided a guideline of operations to other terrorists. . In his tape, Al-Balawi describes the GID as "stupid" and "ignorant" for "fulfilling his dream by taking him to Afghanistan by themselves," even after he had been arrested for supporting Al-Qaeda. Has Pollard's damage come anywhere close to the damage Al-Balawi might have done? What Al-Balawi did could be light years ahead of Polloard's crime in compromising the security of the US and its NATO allies in and out of Afghanistan, all because the CIA had probably vested too much confidence in its Jordanian allies
In January, when Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was toppled by public unrest, protestors stormed countless Egyptian State Security centers, pored through classified documents and presented some of them to the media. The State Security (Amin El-Dawlah, in Arabic), Egypt's main intelligence body, is known for its close cooperation with the US intelligence bodies on a major scale. No one yet has an exact idea of what documents have found their way to the public -- or terrorists or enemy governments -- yet this breach of security must have seriously compromised US intelligence secrecy and operations. Perhaps the US intelligence community should estimate such risks when working with the intelligence agencies of dictatorships, especially as the "Arab Spring" has shown that dictatorships can be toppled, regardless of how stable they might seem.
The US was recently able to locate and kill the terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. To everyone's surprise, Bin Laden was living in a mansion located a few hundred yards from Pakistan's top military academy where US servicemen allegedly provide regular training to Pakistani forces. Further, media leaks suggest that Ben Laden had been hiding there for five years, aided by accomplices in Pakistan's official intelligence community which had the ability to keep Ben Laden under cover. The Pakistani Intelligence – the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI – is supposed to have been a major partner to the United States and its Western allies in combatting terrorism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan; yet there seems to be proof of the ISI's involvement or, to say the least, inefficiency, regarding Ben Laden, and indicating its double-dealing with the US.
The US national security and intelligence operations have been significantly compromised by none other than the US "allies" themselves, which brings us to the main subject: Pollard. Although he acted illegally and betrayed the national trust vested in him, he gave the information to an ally, Israel; and there seems to be no proof whatever that his acts resulted in harm to any of his fellow Americans.
The question remains: why do so many out there seem obsessed with opposing Pollard's release while they willfully ignore more serious threats taking place on the ground?
In Pollard's case, it seems that he has been tried on TV screens and printed papers, rather than in court.
The US justice system would suggest that serving all these years in jail would at least entitle him to being released on parole.
Or does the intelligence establishment harbor a special resentment against anyone helping the Jews?
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