The Jonathan Pollard Spy Case: Plot Thickens
By Russ Baker
Deciding who is a spy and who isn’t—and who is a good spy or a bad one—is highly subjective. For the longest time, anyone from your side caught behind enemy lines either was just doing his or her job, or, we were told, was innocent of the charges. We see that phenomenon every time the US media reports—usually with transparent relief, even joy—that Americans accused of spying in foreign countries have been sent home and reunited with their families.
The whole business of what constitutes spying has become far murkier with the rise of the post-9/11 security state. There have been numerous examples of Americans, like the soldier Bradley Manning, the CIA officer John Kiriakou, and the NSA analyst Thomas Drake, accused of traitorous behavior for acts that others might consider patriotic in the best sense. The most recent example is Barrett Brown, facing a potential hundred years in prison under the Espionage Act for posting links to documents that reveal troubling information to his fellow Americans about their own country.
But perhaps no spy case in recent decades has more sharply divided opinion than that of Jonathan Pollard, the American accused of spying on the US for Israel. Pollard is described in the subtitle of one book as “one of the most notorious spies in American history” and by others as no actual threat to the United States at all. Pollard was given a life sentence in 1987, and has thus far spent a quarter century behind bars. To some, the whole thing seemed a little strange, given the close relationship between the United States and Israel. How seriously could friends damage each other by “spying” on one another?