Ex-US defense official tells Knesset to appeal for Pollard

Former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb says Israeli government should make a formal request for Pollard's release.

Lawrence Korb 311 (photo credit: AP)
Lawrence Korb 311
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – A formal appeal by the Israeli government on Jonathan Pollard’s behalf could help bring needed attention to the issue, former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
Korb, who was defense secretary Caspar Weinberger’s deputy at the time of Pollard’s arrest in 1985, spoke to the Post before departing for Israel to participate in Monday’s Knesset event aimed at pushing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to work publicly for Pollard’s release.
“If he makes that statement, it will get people to focus more on the issue,” Korb said. “I think it’s fallen through the cracks.”
Korb said he intends to make the case for releasing Pollard, a one-time US Navy intelligence analyst who gave secrets to Israel and is now serving a life sentence, when he visits the Knesset.
“Yes, he deserved to be punished,” Korb said, but added that the 25 years he’s already been in prison is sufficient considering the average sentence for passing classified material to an ally is seven years.
Pollard’s continued incarceration is a “miscarriage of justice” in Korb’s words.
To bolster his case, Korb intends to point to Weinberger’s own admission before his death in 2006 that the Pollard incident was “a minor matter” rather than as he had described in his impact statement on the damage Pollard did, which influenced Pollard’s sentence.
“Weinberger had almost a visceral dislike of Israel’s impact on our policy,” Korb recalled in trying to explain his former boss’s motives.
But Korb, who is himself not Jewish, rejected the notion that Weinberger was anti-Semitic, saying instead that Weinberger’s attitude stemmed from the feeling that Israel was simply too “influential” on American policy.
Weinberger’s paternal grandparents had left Judaism because of a dispute at a Czech synagogue.
His mother was Christian.
Korb also plans to call on Israel to do more to spell out the information it obtained from Pollard.
“I’m going to urge the Israelis to be more forthcoming – to admit they were wrong and won’t do it again.”
Korb speculated that part of the reason a previous deal between Netanyahu and then-president Bill Clinton to release Pollard never happened was American concerns that Pollard still possessed valuable information.
Korb also said detailing the information could remove lingering doubts about whether Pollard sold or enabled information to reach third parties not friendly to the United States, most importantly Russia. Years after Pollard’s arrest, CIA officer Aldrich Ames was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and giving the Russians the information that Pollard had been accused of leaking.
Former US Navy lawyer M.E. “Spike” Bowman, alarmed at the recent lobbying of Korb and several members of Congress on Pollard’s behalf, made that charge in a Washington Post blog last week. Bowman also said that Pollard deserved a heavier sentence because the scope of his information-sharing was beyond that of others arrested for spying for allies.
Korb, however, pointed out that former CIA director R. James Woolsey reviewed Pollard’s file and found that none of the information reached Russia and has himself said that Pollard has paid sufficiently for his crimes.
“Enough is enough,” Korb said. “Let’s do the right thing.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.