Jonathon Jay Pollard’s name cropped up in Ronen Bergman’s book. The Israelis wanted to attack PLO targets in Tunisia and the USA would not release any details they had about the air defences though it is more likely they were just as interested in those of Libya as well. The Israelis asked Jay, as he liked to be known, to supply them and he did just that in spades.
Looking at Jay Pollard’s story it seems we are not the only country whose security services have problems keeping an eye on their employees. We had the Cambridge 5, the USA had Pollard, and a fair few others, though he was only active about a year and a half, and, at about the same time, Johnny Walker who worked for the Soviets for 18 years. There is a bit of the Fred Karno about it all.
The Israelis wanted to kill Abu Jihad after they had foiled his plot to send several ships to Israel and launch simultaneous attacks that would have been a disaster on an unprecedented scale. Abu Jihad’s base was in Tunis and the Israelis had no intelligence regarding the air and sea defences where they would have to operate. No sooner did they receive the intelligence than they put the attack off for a few months. After Abu Jihad’s terrorists killed three Israelis on a yacht in Cyprus, the attack was on again.
The Israeli Air Force sent 10 F-15s to bomb PLO buildings in Tunisia. It also required two tankers for refuelling, a command centre and two Hawkeye electronic aircraft. They hit the correct buildings, however, they failed to kill Abu Jihad or any other senior PLO commanders. They then set about planning a new operation to eliminate Abu Jihad but this was all made possible by Pollard giving the Israelis masses of information.
Jay Pollard was a really weird character. He wanted to be a secret agent, spy, double agent, arms dealer and live a lavish life style. That he became an analyst at the Naval Intelligence Service with access to all levels of information is a litany of missed opportunities to detect that he was passing secrets to someone else. He initially applied to the CIA but was turned down because of his admitted drug use. This was never picked up by any of his subsequent employers or managers.
In 1979 he was given a relatively low level job at the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office. Before his security clearance had been completed he was given a temporary waiver and was assigned to the Naval Ocean Surveillance Information Centre. The CIA was asked about him but mistakenly claimed that Pollard’s right to privacy prevented them from releasing any information about him.
At this point Pollard claimed the Navy had problems following the positions of Russian ships near South Africa and he had contacts with the South African Government. Walter Mitty at work again. He communicated this to his boss, an Admiral who was surprised that such a young inexperienced man could concoct something like this. The Admiral wanted to fire him, his manager decided he could be useful and moved him to Task Force 168, a secret unit that collected human intelligence for the Navy. Pollard lied his way into TF 168 and still had not been security cleared. He was also then allowed to work for the surface ships division as well, he got a pay increase for that.
Pollard did in fact have contacts with the South Africans and even passed a few secrets to them. The double agent in him was beginning to appear. He harangued yet another Admiral with tales of his South African contacts and the end result was that he was removed from access to the highest level secrets to work on merchant ships.
In the meantime he had applied for yet another job in the Naval Intelligence Support Centre and after a couple of weeks dealing with merchant ships he was back in the world of having access to all secrets. Once he was in the NISC he started removing secret documents and taking them home, some remained at his home. By this time the South African angle had led to Pollard having to take a polygraph, lie detector, test. Pollard got so worked up during the test, they had to abandon the test.
Through various misunderstandings and changes of management, Pollard managed to survive and kept his access to top secret intelligence. The highest level of intelligence is SCI or Sensitive Compartmented Information. To regain access to this Pollard needed a psychiatric evaluation. He asked his father, a microbiologist, to recommend a suitable psychiatrist who gave him a clean bill of health. This didn’t work because he needed one of four security cleared psychiatrists to do the test. The Navy approved psychiatrist also passed him but added that Pollard needed additional mental health therapy.
Eventually Pollard got his SCI clearance back with a recommendation that he be monitored closely. It seems he was not really monitored at all. Jonathon met Anne Henderson and they moved in together. They started having money problems, not paying the rent and running up large credit card debts.
After the Beirut Marine base bombing The Navy set up the ATAC, Anti-Terrorist Alert Centre. One of its bosses discussed the possibility of assigning Pollard there, he had a good record as far as his work was concerned. He advance up the chain in ATAC and was handed a courier card which meant he could carry sealed SCI material about with him anywhere.
Jay now had effectively carte blanche to look at almost any documents. He was a civilian working for military managers. They were very wary and unsure how to handle civilians, Jay took full advantage of this. There were doubts about him when he was on probation but instead of being fired, his managers prevaricated or got moved on and he became a permanent employee. At that point the military were even more unsure about firing him.
Even at Uni Jay was inventing stories about himself. He was a Mossad agent, he had been in Israeli Special Forces and the like. As soon as he could he was trying to sell information, secret or otherwise. He tried to have a relationship with the South Africans and tried to set up an arms dealing arrangement with them. He even approached the Pakistanis offering to spy for them and even they rejected him.
Eventually he approached the Israelis. Instead of sending an experienced Mossad recruiter to meet him, they sent a man working on his doctorate at New York University, Aviem Sella, who just happened to be their top air ace. During the recruitment meeting Jay, impressed at meeting a real hero, listed the agencies whose information he had access to. A real soup of alphabet spaghetti. At the second meeting he brought samples along.
The end result was that Jay was supplying the Israelis with anything they wanted and a lot more. He used to stuff several briefcases full of documents on a Friday, take them home and pass them over. Any that had to be returned went back with him on Monday, the Israelis kept the rest. He was being paid $1,500 a month for this, after a bit of haggling this was raised to $2,500. This went on for a year and a half until a colleague noticed Jay removing a sealed package and going to his car. This colleague thought he was going to another XYZ agency to compare notes but Jay drove in the opposite direction when he left work.
After worrying overnight about this, the colleague reported Jay to his manager. There was a reluctance to snitch on colleagues in case it was all completely innocent. Having overcome his doubts, the colleague was sure something was wrong.
After more Fred Karno stuff, the FBI had to get involved, wanted complete jurisdiction and then the wrangling started. The FBI were already keeping someone else living close to the Pollards under surveillance, this spooked Jay and his wife, they panicked and left a suitcase full of top secret documents with a neighbour.
Finally Jay decided to flee to the Israeli Embassy where he thought they were sure of a warm welcome. The Israelis hung them out to dry and Jay and his wife ended up in jail. It was estimated he delivered over 1 million pages of documents to the Israelis and that is only what the investigation found, the assumption is that he supplied a lot more than that.
Pollard was sentenced to life and immediately set about rewriting history. He wasn’t in it for the money, he thought Israel was not treated with enough respect by the USA, he only did it to help Israel by being a good Jew. It was only at this stage that his employers were told he was Jewish. He didn’t really hurt the USA because Israel was an ally and every other excuse you can think of.
Casper Weinberger, the then Secretary of Defence, was apoplectic. He had written so the court to explain how much damage Pollard had done to the USA. Some of the intelligence came from other countries under the strict understanding that it would go no further. Now untold amounts of it had been divulged to a third party. So much for the case that he hadn’t really damaged the USA. Some of the intelligence the Israelis received had nothing to do with Israel and there is no way the US can be sure the Israelis didn’t sell it on.
His case took hold in Israel and there were demonstrations demanding his release because he had just been doing his duty as a Jew. This went on for several years and may still be the case today. Jay’s insistence that he did not do it for the money is not true, he set out to be a spy and would have sold anything to anyone. The only question is was his priority to be a spy or be rich. He liked the cloak and dagger side but he also enjoyed the extra money he earned, I find his claim to be doing his duty to Israel a bit far fetched, it may have been a part of what he did but it was way down his list of objectives.
© well_chuffed 2020
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