Saturday, July 21, 2018

Traitor Week #6: Jonathan Pollard—"I never intended or agreed to spy"

Jonathan Pollard
      Jonathan Pollard is the only American ever given a life sentence for providing secrets to an ally. The Naval intelligence officer was arrested in 1985 for passing military secrets to Israel because, as he put it, "the American intelligence establishment collectively endangered Israel's security by withholding crucial information."
    He always insisted, "I never intended or agreed to spy against the United States."
    No matter.
    As Traitor Week ends tomorrow with, of course, the man of the hour, we must realize that it doesn't matter what your intentions are. Or the entity with which you are colluding. Republicans trying to justify Trump's alleged collaboration with the Russians by saying the Russians aren't so bad are badly missing the point. They could be, not our fiercest enemy—as the Russians certainly are—but one of our closest allies, like Israel. Treason is treason. The crime could be a classified cookie recipe given to Canada. 
     It's important to understand why: it isn't so much the specifics of what is being revealed to whom, but the structure being revealed and who else might see it. The information Pollard passed along to the Israelis cast a light on American intelligence practices and procedures, and of course once the Israelis knew them, there was no guarantee where else they might go. And indeed, intelligence officials believe that material leaked by Pollard to Israel eventually found its way to the Soviet Union. 
     It's a shame that the GOP doesn't apply the same "the law's the law" rigidity it directs at every hardworking immigrant who crossed the border illegally decades earlier to the president and his associates. But hypocrisy is the grease on which Trump's America spins.
     So even if you just thought you were accepting the help of friendly Russian intelligence agency with a load of embarrassing emails of your rival in the presidential campaign, what matters is that you undercut your nation's vital interests—say, being able to hold free and fair elections—for your own selfish, private interests, whether those are pro-Israel or pro-yourself. Noble motives don't get you off.
     They might come close. Bill Clinton was about to release Pollard, but his CIA director, George Tenet, threatened to resign if he did—America's intelligence agencies tend to always take espionage more seriously than does the executive branch, Republican or Democratic. 
     During the Clinton administration, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was a vocal defender of Pollard—a reminder that having the back of traitors isn't new to Dershowitz, if their politics align with his.
     Pollard served 30 years of a life sentence—his wife, implicated in his actions, served three— before Obama commuted his sentence. Thanks Obama. Some Americans felt that Pollard's long sentence was unfair—Chelsea Manning served just seven years after releasing far more damaging documents to Wikileaks. But justice is a crapshoot, and should you get your hand caught in the machinery, the rest of you just might follow that fingertip in. Once you are stuck with an espionage charge, and that jailhouse door clangs behind you, it can be a challenge to get out.  The public tends to forget about you. Something for Paul Manafort and Trump's other confederates, abandoned by their boss to twist slowly in the wind, must be thinking about a lot lately. 


  1. Is Edward Snowden next? I think there's still an unresolved question about whether he should be considered a traitor or a whistle-blowing hero. Probably wise of him to hole up until the question is resolved, but maybe Russia wasn't the best choice for his hideout.


    1. Had Snowden sought refuge in a country other than Russia, one that at least was considered somewhat friendly to the US, I might have called him a whistle blower.
      But by going to Russia, where there is little doubt the Russians had complete access to his computer & any other files he had makes him a traitor.

    2. If you read any thing about that he had no choice. He was stuck at the airport for a while before Russia let him into the country. He was pretty much stateless as he could not get to any other country.

  2. I'm not sure I understand are you bashing Dershowitz? I've never felt like he takes sides based on his personal politics. He seems to feel that the law should be applied evenly no matter what you're crime or your status. And that the state should do their job to convict someone by using evidence instead instead of power.

    That way if someone gets their finger caught in the machinery their whole damn self don't get Dragged In.
    I think We need lawyers like that.

  3. Ummm judging by what is said Snowden released,(pending conviction), it's one of the very few times I will say, he should be shot for high treason.

  4. Impossible to know the if justice has been served in the Pollard case. His intentions probably not evil, with motivation similar to Dershowitzs' for his support of Israel. I get that and like most Americans lean that way as well. But for me the Dershowitz integrity will always be suspect since he jumped on the OJ bandwagon. While the not guilty verdict was justified considering the weak prosecution case, he is surely not innocent of the crime. My opinion is that Dershowitz was simply seeking the publicity.

  5. Snowden isn't in the same category as Pollard. He's more like Daniel Ellsberg, who was no traitor, contrary to the allegations of the government at the time.

  6. IIRC, Pollard was a blowhard who constantly inflated his self-importance--he continually told people he was an agent of the Mossad, etc. His desperate drive to be more significant than he really was led him to trade on his access to classified information until he got burned. He's more pathetic than criminal, but clapping him in prison served as a good warning to other potential traitors IMO.


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