Friday, November 27, 2015

“We felt betrayed, not only by Pollard but by Israel.” Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair

In an interview on “the David Brinkley Show Richard Helms, director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973, was asked by Sam Donaldson,  "Well, surely, Mr. Helms, the United States isn't spying on its allies, is it?" Helms matter-of-factly replied, "I certainly hope so."”

Several months ago Stratfor published an article by Fred Burton: Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair. Timed to coincide with Jonathan Pollard’s release from thirty years in prison Stratfor chose to republish the “analysis” which, with its abundant weaknesses should not have seen the light of day the first time. The piece is emotional and lacking in objectivity, two qualities that are better suited for “pop journalism” than a reputable open-source intelligence provider. Burton’s piece reads more like “polemic”:


“Maybe 30 years is long enough to bring the former U.S. Naval Intelligence analyst to justice. But I still vividly recall what a powerful sense of betrayal the entire intelligence community felt... As special agents and analysts at the intelligence services, every day we handled sensitive, classified information. Most of us took that responsibility extremely seriously… But Jonathan Pollard broke that trust… After he was discovered, a deep fog of anger settled over the U.S. intelligence community. We felt betrayed, not only (or even primarily) by Pollard but by Israel — and specifically, by the Israeli intelligence service.

My primary criticism of Burton’s starting point is his apparent naiveté, certainly unbecoming one who served and, according to his biography, rose in the ranks of the US Defense Security Service (DSS) and is described by Stratfor as "one of the world's foremost experts” in his field. “We felt betrayed”? Betrayed? That any branch of US intelligence, including that of the State Department, would be emotional regarding the common practice of espionage between allies and enemies should, by itself, raise questions regarding the author’s credibility and qualifications.

But back to the substance of Stratfor’s emotional and one-sided “analysis” of Jonathan Jay Pollard’s admitted crimes and those of “the Israeli intelligence service.” Coincidentally, even as Pollard was spying for Israel, half a world away America’s Central Intelligence Agency already had in place an Israeli spying for the United States.

Yosef Amit was a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) major who worked in intelligence and operated agents in Arab countries. Soon after his release from the IDF Amit was recruited by a CIA agent based at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Tasked with providing highly classified information on Israeli intentions and troop movements in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Amit was arrested in 1986, one year after Pollard. Not only was he employed by the CIA against his own, and far more vulnerable country, the major was also alleged to have passed classified information to a NATO country in Europe.

So much for Fred Burton’s plaintive, “After he was discovered, a deep fog of anger settled over the U.S. intelligence community. We felt betrayed...” As former CIA director Helms acknowledged when asked about US spying on allies, “I certainly hope so.” fdIt is a matter of record that the United States had been spying on the Yishuv even before it became Israel!

Having failed to provide a level playing field for inter-ally espionage and limiting focus only on Israel, what follows from Burton’s article only reinforces the rank amateurism with which he approaches his topic. Take, for example, the following assertions:

“Rather than go through the established liaison channels, Mossad recruited Pollard and went behind our backs to commit espionage that, at least to my knowledge and to that of all my colleagues, we would have been open to sharing with them anyway.”

In another incident of either poor “tradecraft” as journalist or commitment to position sans facts Burton again demonstrates ignorance of the facts of the Pollard Affair. Pollard was neither recruited (he volunteered) nor was he accepted by Mossad. Any unbiased observer with even a nominal knowledge of the Affair had to know that the Pollard operation was handled by Lakam, Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations headed by Rafi Eitan.

As to: “we would have been open to sharing [intelligence] with them anyway…” this only raises further questions regarding its author’s qualifications in his profession; how limited his knowledge of, or interest in the actual facts surrounding Israel’s decision to accept Pollard’s offer. As Burton should know, Pollard was an analyst for Naval Intelligence, an office under the umbrella of the Department of Defense. DOD was headed by Caspar Weinberger widely knon to be both antisemitic and anti-Israel. Weinberger was instrumental, for example, in the decision to provide the Saudis AWACS battlefield control aircraft which compromised Israeli security while having opposed the sale of advanced fighter planes to Israel. According to Ollie North, a close adviser to Vice President Bush (the elder) during the years of Irangate,


“[Weinberger] seemed to go out of his way to oppose Israel on any issue and to blame the Israelis for every problem in the Middle East. In our planning for counterterrorist operations, he apparently feared that if we went after Palestinian terrorists, we would offend and alienate Arab governments – particularly if we acted in cooperation with the Israelis… Weinberger’s anti-Israel tilt was an underlying current in almost every Mideast issue.”

As Burton describes there was an agreement in force at the time between President Reagan and Israel, a Memorandum of Agreement regarding close intelligence sharing between Israel and the United States. Even Burton should be hard-pressed to explain why Israel, in a trusting relationship with Reagan Administration would risk the MOU by engaging an American Jew to spy on the US if, as Burton assures, the MOU was working? Which beggars the question how it was that a young and boastful Zionist, employed by Naval Intelligence, would have found himself among the negotiating team tasked with providing Israel intelligence due her under the MOU: Whatever the state of compliance of other US intelligence agencies, there was a state of non-compliance in Weinberger’s Defense Department. And “conveniently” Zionist Jonathan Pollard was well-placed to observe the non-compliance. It was his participation in the team, as Pollard explains to Blitzer in Territory of Lies, that led him to approach Israel as a volunteer.

I responded to the Burton article when it first appeared and hoped that his severely flawed Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair would have achieved its just desserts, oblivion. Embarrassing that Stratfor, an otherwise respected source for intelligence, would resuscitate so poorly researched and fact-checked an article as this. At best the explanation for Burton writing it was a deep-seated prejudice from his exposure to the Pollard Affair as a new, naïve and impressionable “special agent” for DSS. At worst it is just a poorly written polemic. In neither case should it have passed editorial oversight to appear in Stratfor.

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