Interview with agent who caught US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Twenty-six years ago this month, a United States court convicted Jonathan Jay Pollard, a US Navy analyst who had been caught spying on his country for Israel. Pollard, who is still serving his life sentence, enjoys tremendous popularity in Israel as well as among pro-Israeli public figures in the US. His supporters in Israel and elsewhere view him as a hero who is serving an unfairly harsh sentence and they pressure the US government to release him. In light of that, it is worth paying attention to a recent radio interview with the man who caught him spying on America. The interview was conducted by Mike Lanchin, a reporter and producer for BBC radio’s Witness program. Lanchin managed to trace Ron Olive, a retired Assistant Special Agent at US Navy Counterintelligence, who in June 1986 cracked the Pollard case, leading to the spy’s arrest and eventual conviction. Olive, who now runs his own security consultancy firm in Arizona, told Witness that it took him and his fellow investigators over six months to piece together their case against Pollard. He added that, according to his investigation, “Pollard stole so many documents, so highly classified, more so than any other spy in the history of this country, in such a short period of time”. The case, said Olive, was the worst he had ever seen and it “devastated the entire [US] Intelligence Community”. The reason was not only the volume of stolen classified material, but also the fact that Pollard “could have been stopped from the very beginning”.

Olive’s investigation showed that Pollard contacted Israeli intelligence in 1984, almost immediately after he began working for the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Olive’s office was alerted after Pollard was seen leaving his office with a brown envelope under his arm by one of his ONI colleagues. Special Agent Olive’s initial reaction was dismissive; he apparently knew Pollard and did not think him smart enough to carry out espionage work. But he agreed to place Pollard under surveillance, which soon confirmed that the Navy analyst frequently left his office carrying with him brown envelopes stuffed with documents. Eventually, Olive joined a team of FBI agents that searched Pollard’s house, where they found a large volume of classified US government documents in Pollard’s bedroom closet and under his bed. In a subsequent interview, Pollard told counterintelligence agents that he would often take work material home because he did not have enough time to finish his administrative tasks at the office. Remarkably, according to Olive, the FBI agents “believed Pollard, and walked out of the case”.

But Olive persisted and wanted Pollard to undergo a lie detector test. After Pollard refused, Olive questioned him during a three-hour session, in which Pollard eventually cracked and confessed that he had been paid over $30,000 by his handlers —which he did not name— in return for spying on the US. Pollard was eventually arrested in 1985, after he and his wife Anne tried unsuccessfully to claim asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Olive ends the ten-minute interview by reminding listeners that “Pollard never, ever, in his life showed remorse for this”. As to why he thinks Pollard did what he did, Olive responds by stating: “What was motivating Jonathan Pollard was the number one thing that has motivated people to turn traitors and betray their country for decades and centuries: greed, money. Now, though, now he pretends that it was for the love of Israel, only. And now he has tens of thousands of supporters trying to get him out of jail”.

2 Responses to Interview with agent who caught US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard

  1. Greg says:

    Laws applying to espionage, apply regardless of whether the recipient of the information is an ally or a foe.

  2. Frank says:

    Maybe, but 30 years!! Let him go now!

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