Show Trial: “a trial organized by a government in order to have an effect on public opinion and reduce political opposition. “
“The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as an impressive example and as a warning.”
Introduction: In 1989 I received letter from Jonathan Pollard asking me to organize and educate on behalf of Anne and himself. Our correspondence spanned several months and ended abruptly with my agreeing to represent him.
My single year as organizer and advocate does not make me an “authority” on the Pollard Affair, but it did put me in contact with key Israelis directly involved in his espionage; with lawyers involved in the case; and with politicians interested or involved, on both sides of the Atlantic. So expert or no I was provided a vantage point not available through the press.
For the record, my agreeing to assist Jonathan was not motivated by doubts regarding guilt or innocence: he had long-since admitted guilt. My acceptance was based on moral grounds, my conviction that Pollard was a victim of political arrogance, U.S. bureaucratic anti-Israel bias and judicial misconduct. The primary purpose of the Pollard Affair was to save administration figures at the highest levels from the fate which to which they set up Anne and Jonathan Pollard.
Some of these issues are discussed below, others may be found in my earlier writings hyperlinked at the bottom.
Pro-Contra propaganda by the US Office of Public Diplomacy, (Wikipedia)
The Reagan Administration and Irangate (August 20, 1985–March 4, 1987). Irangate set the stage for the Pollard Affair. Also known as the Iran-Contra Affair, Irangate was a clandestine operation conducted out of the Reagan White House. It involved a range of illegal activities including the sale of weapons to Iran, funding and arming the terrorist Nicaraguan Contras, and money laundering needed to fund those activities.
From the Tower Commission Report,
“In November 1986, it was disclosed that the United States had, in August 1985 [my emphasis], and subsequently, participated in secret dealings with Iran involving the sale of military equipment.”
Selling arms to Iran, a violation of United States law since the overthrow of the Shah, forced the administration to turn to friendly nations as cutouts. Military equipment was “laundered” through Israel and funds were provided by the Saudis. In his 26 January, 1987 testimony before the Commission the president testified that he had, “approved both the Israeli sale of TOWs [shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles] to Iran and had agreed to replenish the Israeli stocks.”
Weinberger, Pollard, and the Question of Guilt
According to Wolf Blitzer in Territory of Lies, Jonathan Jay Pollard was both a proud Jew and an openly, even boastful Zionist. So questions immediately arise regarding his hire by the intelligence branch of the US Navy, the one service of the U.S. military most identified with antisemitism. In fact, barely two months after his hire Pollard’s immediate superiors, suspicious then alarmed at his ideas and behavior, recommended he be dismissed. He was not. In fact several times his ideas and behavior raised concern by co-workers and superiors, was recommended for dismissal. Instead he was serially promoted, his security clearance raised, placed in ever more sensitive positions.
“In late 1983, shortly after the terrorist bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, the Navy set up a high-powered Anti-Terrorist Alert Center at Suitland, and in June, 1984, Pollard was assigned to that unit''s Threat Analysis Division. He had access there to the most up-to-date intelligence in the American government.”
By 1984 Jonathan was included as a member of the Naval Intelligence team responsible for exchanging intelligence with Israel under the 1983 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
According to Blitzer Pollard immediately realized that sensitive information about terrorism, Syrian force deployments and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was being intentionally withheld from Israel. He several times complained to his superiors without success. He decided to contact Israeli intelligence.
Driving from Mitzpe Ramon to Tel Aviv Rafi Eitan, head of the intelligence unit (Lakam) that that ran the operation, described Jonathan’s espionage as even more important than that of Eli Cohen, the legendary spy hanged in Damascus.
Surveillance video frame of Pollard in the act of stealing classified documents,[(Wikipedia).
The Show Trial: Justice Department lead prosecutor Joseph diGenova approached Jonathan with an agreement by which he would waive his rights to a jury trial, and public exposure of intelligence methods and agents overseas, in exchange for a guarantee of “leniency in sentencing.” The “trial” took place in the judge’s chambers and was swift according to plan… except in the matter of the sentence: life in prison without parole.
In his September, 1999 interview in Middle East Quarterly Casper Weinberger, Reagan’s defense secretary was asked,
“You have been quoted saying that Jonathan Pollard ‘should have been shot.’ Is this accurate?”
Weinberger: “Any traitor who did what he did should be shot.”
By legal definition “treason” is,
“the betrayal of one''s own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies.”
Before entering the government Weinberger had been a lawyer; certainly Judge Robinson should have been versed in the law. If both knew the difference between espionage on behalf of an ally in time of peace, and treason as aiding an enemy in wartime, why proclaim Pollard a “traitor?”
Postscript: The similarities between the government’s prosecution of the two cases, Pollards and the Rosenbergs, are too great to be ignored. In both the wife, known innocent, was threatened in order force compliance from the husband. In both cases the wife was prosecuted, convicted and punished as innocent along with their husband.
Both trials were media spectacles in which the victims were presented as Jews. In both cases a cowed American Jewish community found itself threatened into silence (in discussions with some of my own regional rabbis and Jewish community leaders in 1988 I was repeatedly warned against a public effort that might derail what all seemed convinced was “quiet negotiations” by Jewish leaders with the administration expected to end in Pollard quietly being sent to Israel!). In both cases the spies were portrayed to the public as guilty of “treason” when both cases were tried and convicted only of “espionage.” Jonathan Pollard was not even tried directly for espionage but for a single count of transferring information to an ally, Israel!
And finally both the Rosenbergs and Pollards received punishment far beyond judicial norms: For the Rosenbergs, death in the electric chair; Anne Pollard served more than two years in a federal prison while Jonathan has been in prison 27 years, his sentence life without parole.
A selection of articles by the author on the Pollard Affair
3. Pollard, Israel and American Antisemitism, (2007)
4. The Reagan Administration and Irangate, (date unknown)