Jonathan Pollard, his grandiosity, narcissism and disingenuousness undiminished, cannot stop hurting the country that gave his Holocaust-ravaged family a life.
In the first part of an interview with a right-wing Israeli newspaper this week, Pollard claimed he had “no choice” but to steal U.S. intelligence documents because Washington was withholding information on Arab WMD threats to the Jewish nation.
What a whopper. No American citizen is forced to spy for a foreign intelligence organization—and Pollard was a very well-paid volunteer, with over a half million dollars in earnings for his perfidy. Nor could he know of what intelligence the U.S. was or wasn’t sharing with Israel. So I doubt he’ll come clean in the second part of his interview with the right-wing Israel Hayom, funded by the late pro-Trump casino magnate Sheldon Adelson—on how he stole more than a million documents, “enough to fill a six-by-ten-foot room stacked six feet high,” according to former NCIS agent Ron Olive, a number of which he also shopped to South Africa, Pakistan, his financial advisers and his then-wife, who used them to “advance her personal business interests,” Olive wrote in his 2006 book, Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice.
“Pollard’s operation has few parallels among known US espionage cases,” a declassified version of the CIA’s 1987 damage assessment stated.
Some Jewish American and Israeli quarters venerated—and continue to worship—Pollard as a Zionist martyr, a characterization even hawks like Martin Peretz, the former editor of The New Republic, rejected when Pollard’s early release from his 30-year sentence was under consideration during the Obama administration.
“Jonathan Pollard is not a Jewish martyr,” Peretz wrote. “He is a convicted espionage agent who spied on his country for both Israel and Pakistan (!) — a spy, moreover, who got paid for his work. His professional career, then, reeks of infamy and is suffused with depravity.”
Peretz labelled Pollard’s supporters, “professional victims, mostly brutal themselves, who originate in the ultra-nationalist and religious right. They are insatiable. And they want America to be Israel’s patsy.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally welcomed Pollard “home” when he landed at Ben Gurion International Airport last Dec. 19.
Pollard’s latest perfidy not only threatens to cast doubt again about the ultimate loyalty of American Jews, it casts a shadow on other government servants with foreign ties or backgrounds. Chief among them, according to a recent article in Politico and comments by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), are Asian American and Pacific Islander employees of the State Department (and no doubt other national security agencies).
Ironically, younger Asian American diplomats, recruited in part for their area knowledge, cultural understanding and language skills, end up being restricted from working on or in Asian countries out of fears by the State Department that they’re inordinately susceptible to coercion and recruitment by foreign intelligence services.
The “assignment restriction” policy, spelled out in a State Department manual, places limits on a diplomat’s security clearance, based on concerns about “targeting and harassment by foreign intelligence services as well as to lessen foreign influence.”
Needless to say, such restrictions can pull the plug on a mid-level diplomat’s drive to fly high in the foreign service. And there’s little recourse. According to a detailed analysis by the Diplopundit web site, the appeals route for frustrated Asian American or other “ethnic” diplomats might as well be conducted by the hookah smoking caterpillar in Alice-in-Wonderland.
The “initial assignment restriction is conducted by Diplomatic Security. The reviewer is also Diplomatic Security. After that review, the decision by DS/DSS becomes final. There is no appeal authority above Diplomatic Security,” Diplopundit said.
Security concerns about, say, the very aggressive Chinese intelligence services are well founded. Beijing’s spies have managed to recruit or entrap CIA and State Department officers, sometimes using pressure on relatives back on the mainland. Most others just volunteered. Proper vetting of U.S. diplomats, coupled with regular polygraphs and raised “insider threat” protocols, should blunt those threats. But why recruit Asian Americans in the first place if there’s a ceiling on their advancement? An argument could be made that resentments fostered by such arbitrary, career-killing—and illegal—ethnic restrictions make an employee more vulnerable to foreign spy services, not less.
Such hurdles remain in place at a time when understanding China and North Korea, in particular, are of paramount importance to the State and Defense departments, not to mention the CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies. Not that Euro-Americans can’t understand these adversaries, of course, but who’s got a better chance than a young man or woman raised at the feet of grandparents and great-grandparents with stories to tell, photo albums to show?
Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), a former Korean-American diplomat born in Boston, told MSNBC last week that even though he had a “top secret security clearance” and had served in Afghanistan, he was one day suddenly “banned from working on anything related to the Korean Peninsula.” Kim said he was taken aback because he had never applied to work on any issues related to the Korean Peninsula. He labeled the decision xenophobic and said that what hurt most was “this feeling that my country didn’t trust me.”
As further reported by Politico’s Ryan Heath, over 100 Asian Americans working in national security and diplomacy signed a statement saying that the demonization of China in recent years had exacerbated “discrimination, and blatant accusations of disloyalty simply because of the way we look.” The signatories noted that “treating all Asian-Americans working in national security with a broad stroke of suspicion, rather than seeing us as valuable contributors, is counterproductive to the greater mission of securing the homeland.”
If the State Department is so worried about their vulnerabilities, why did it hire them in the first place? The long arm of Chinese intelligence can reach out to them at any number of American embassies around in the world, from Khartoum to Copenhagen.
So thank you again, Jonathan Pollard. Your betrayal—continuing today in the warm embrace of Israeli extremists—not only has the potential to rekindle suspicions about the loyalty of American Jews, it just gave more ammunition to the xenophobes when we least need another round of it.
Co-published with SpyTalk, where Jeff Stein leads an all-star team of veteran investigative reporters, writers, and subject-matter experts who will take you behind the scenes of the national security state. Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.