The Secret Agent

Territory of Lies: The Exclusive Story of Jonathan Jay Pollard: The American Who Spied On His Country for Israel and How He was Betrayed

by Wolf Blitzer
Harper and Row, 336 pp., $22.50

Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, where his father is a professor of microbiology at Notre Dame, Jonathan Pollard was raised to believe that the state of Israel was the most important country in the world. “Israel was with me every waking moment since I can remember,” Pollard has said. “The first flag I remember was the Israeli flag. It was the first flag I could identify.”

Later, Pollard’s love of Israel and his fantasies of becoming a Zionist hero led him to spy for Israel. While assigned to the Navy’s Anti-Terrorist Alert Center, where he had access to the most closely guarded US secrets, Pollard stole thousands of pages of classified documents, which, according to federal prosecutors, “could fill a room the size of a large closet…ten feet by six feet by six feet.” Among the most damaging documents turned over to Israel was a highly classified code book of exactly how the US intercepts and breaks codes of governments around the world. According to Bob Woodward and Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, Pollard also stole technical information on special National Security Agency projects designed to intercept foreign communications and to protect the security of US military and intelligence communications.

Nearly all the documents were unedited (in intelligence argot, “unredacted”) and therefore revealed exactly where and how the US got the information—from a phone tap, an agent in the field, or from a satellite. This is the kind of information that even close allies never share with one another. The cost to the US taxpayer to repair the damage caused by Pollard has been estimated by US officials at between three and four billion dollars. In his presentencing memorandum, Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense, wrote to the court:

It is difficult for me, even in the so-called “year of the spy,” to conceive of greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant, in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the United States and high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel.

For this intelligence windfall, the Israelis rewarded Jonathan and his wife, Anne, with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, expensive jewelry, lavish meals (they both gained a great deal of weight during their spy work), and first-class rooms in five-star European resorts. According to the government sentencing report, the Pollards were promised $300,000 in additional payments to be deposited in a Swiss bank account over ten years. After ten years, the Pollards were to move to Israel. Pollard’s handlers had given him an Israeli passport in the name of Danny Cohen. By 1985, the Pollards “had become literally addicted to the high lifestyle funded by…espionage activities,” according to the US government’s sentencing report.

In retrospect, it is hard to believe that any US intelligence agency would hire Jonathan Jay Pollard. As The Jerusalem Post’s Wolf Blitzer writes in his often fascinating, sometimes apologetic account, Pollard’s near obsession with …

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Letters

Territory of Lies’ February 1, 1990