Israel to push U.S. for Pollard’s release as Obama visit nears

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
As United States President Barack Obama is preparing to visit Israel this week, several public figures are joining the Israeli government in lobbying for the release of a convicted spy, who betrayed American secrets to Israel in the 1980s. The pressure campaign reportedly includes a symbolic hunger strike and a public petition in favor of clemency, which contains nearly 200,000 signatures. Jonathan Jay Pollard was a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money from 1984 until his arrest in 1986. Many in US counterintelligence consider him one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, where many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. In 1998, after many years of official denials, Israel publicly admitted that Pollard had operated as an Israeli agent in the United States. Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. The New York Times reports that many Israelis see Obama’s visit to Israel on Wednesday —the first in his presidency— as “the perfect opportunity” to pressure the US President for clemency for Pollard. In addition to a high-profile hunger strike in Tel Aviv, several notable Israeli citizens have signed an extended petition urging Pollard’s release. They include Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as several retired generals and Nobel Prize-winning academics. Notable American signatories include former Assistant Secretary for Defense Lawrence Korb, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey, as well as former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #780

Syrian rebel video of downed dronesBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Israeli Prime Minister rebukes President’s Iran comments. Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a stinging rebuke to the country’s president, Shimon Peres, after he said that Israel should not act alone in launching military action against Iran’s nuclear program. In an interview on Israeli television, Peres said: “It is clear to us we cannot do it on our own. We can only delay [Iran’s progress]. Thus it’s clear to us that we need to go together with America”. Officials from Netanyahu’s office were quoted in the Israeli media as saying: “Shimon Peres forgets what the role of the president of Israel is”. The row is a stark example of the sharp differences at the heart of Israel’s political, military and intelligence establishment over the merits and dangers of an early unilateral military strike on Iran.
►►Russian embassy in UK alleges attack by Syrian activists. Russia’s embassy in London accused British police on Friday of taking no action to prevent an attack on its building by a group of activists protesting Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It made the accusation as about 40 protesters clad in balaclavas demonstrated outside the embassy, located in an upscale part of London, against the verdict in a trial of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow. An embassy spokesman said a group of protesters chanting anti-Assad slogans attacked the building overnight, throwing stones and smashing windows.
►►Syrian rebels put captured Iranian drones on YouTube. The opposition to Bashar al-Assad says it’s captured spy drones made by Assad’s patron, Iran. And it’s put the evidence on YouTube. In the video, Syrian rebels show off three smallish, unarmed surveillance drones they say they downed. The two larger drones appear to be variants of Iran’s homemade Ababil, or Swallow, surveillance aircraft. All three show signs of damage, with the tiny drone’s nose cone looking to have taken the worst, and alongside the drones are pamphlets displaying the face of the dead Iranian ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It’s yet more evidence that Iran considers Syria’s civil war to be a proxy contest with much at stake for their influence in the region.

News you may have missed #715 (Israel edition)

Dan MeridorBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Israeli Deputy PM says “attack on Iran won’t help us”. In this interview conducted at Israel’s embassy in London, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor, says that “an attack on Iran wouldn’t add anything to [Israel’s] security”. He adds that “it’s possible that we have to use force”. But, he notes, “I don’t think Israel should use the military option. I don’t agree with some of my colleagues who support a military strike”. Compare that with the last time he spoke about this issue.
►►Analysis: Beware of faulty intelligence on Iran. The experienced Israeli intelligence correspondent Ronen Bergman argues that the decision to attack Israeli militarily “will be driven to an extraordinary extent by intelligence reports” produced by Washington and Tel Aviv. For this reason, he argues, “even a slight intelligence gaffe could have an outcome of historic proportions”. Furthermore, he calls on America and Israel not to rely on “scraps of information […] as the basis for action against Iran”, insisting that “a miscalculation could be the worst possible outcome”.
►►Israeli spy Pollard back in prison after hospitalization. Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a letter to United States President Barack Obama last week urging him to consider granting clemency to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard based on his ill health. The White House rejected the appeal and now Pollard, who was convicted in 1987 for selling classified US government information to Israel, is back in prison.

US rejects calls to free Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The White House has rejected persistent calls by Israeli politicians and lobbyists to free a United States Navy intelligence analyst serving a life sentence for giving classified US government documents to Israel. Jonathan Jay Pollard was convicted in 1987 for selling classified information to the Israeli government. Ronald Olive, a former counterintelligence officer for the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who led the US Navy’s prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, has described Pollard’s spying activity as “one of the most devastating cases of espionage in US history”, involving the theft of over “one million classified documents”. Recently it emerged that, before spying for Israel, Pollard had attempted to spy on the US for the government of Australia. However, in Israel, Pollard, who is now an Israeli subject after renouncing his American citizenship, is widely considered a national hero. Last week, senior Israeli political figures renewed persistent calls to the administration of US President Barack Obama to free Pollard. According to the Israelis’ reasoning, the life sentence imposed on Pollard is too harsh considering that he spied for a US ally. Last week’s calls were led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged the White House to free the convicted spy “in the spirit of the Jewish Passover. Netanyahu said that “the Festival of Freedom of all the Jews should be turned into Pollard’s private one”. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plea was echoed in a personal letter addressed to President Obama by Israeli President Shimon Peres, along with a petition signed by over 80 members of the Israeli Knesset. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #504

  • Israel spy pleads to Obama for release. United States Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel, has pleaded for his release in a personal letter to President Barack Obama. The letter was apparently handed to Obama by Israeli President Shimon Peres when he visited the White House on April 5.
  • US-Pakistan spy feud boils over CIA drone strikes. The Pakistani government has voiced strong criticism of a fresh CIA drone attack, which has killed 26 people. But an anonymous US counterterrorism official, who spoke to the McClatchy news agency, said that “the Pakistanis should spend less time complaining to the press [about the drone strikes] and more time trying to root out terrorists within their country”.
  • Colombia to issue international warrant for ex-spy chief. Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office will issue an international arrest warrant for Maria Pilar Hurtado, former director of the country’s disgraced DAS intelligence agency, who was granted political asylum in Panama.

Documents show Israel offered nukes to apartheid South Africa

Sasha Polakow-Suransky


Apartheid-era government documents unearthed by an American doctoral researcher reveal that the government of Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the racist regime in South Africa, and could possibly provide the first documentary evidence of the existence of Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal. Successive Israeli governments have followed what is often called ‘a policy of ambiguity’, refusing to either confirm or deny the nuclear weapons’ rumored existence. But the documents, which date from 1975, contain detailed minutes of meetings between senior Israeli and South African cabinet officials, including then South African defense minister P.W. Botha and then Israeli defense minister –and Israel’s current President– Shimon Peres. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, the American academic who requested the declassification of the controversial documents, says the Israeli government tried but ultimately failed to prevent the South African government of Jacob Zuma from releasing them. Read more of this post

Israel, Azerbaijan, tight-lipped on rumored reconnaissance deal

Ilham Aliyev

Ilham Aliyev

The Israeli and Azerbaijani governments are apparently keeping quiet about rumored plans to jointly manufacture unmanned drone aircraft and spy satellites. Representatives of Israel’s reconnaissance and aeronautics industry were among dozens of Israeli business leaders who joined last June’s state visit to Azerbaijan by Isarel’s President Shimon Peres. It was the first-ever visit to the Caspian Sea state by an Israeli head of state. Soon after the end of the visit, there were rumors in the Israeli press that Tel Aviv had managed to convince Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, after four years of negotiations, to approve the construction of a manufacturing plant in Azerbaijan that will construct unmanned drone surveillance aircraft. Moreover, Israel was said to have agreed to help Azerbaijan construct a TecSAR all-weather satellite reconnaissance system. Azerbaijan, which borders with Russia, Iran, Armenia and Georgia, is one of the few predominantly Muslim countries that maintain bilateral relations with Israel.

Bookmark and Share

%d bloggers like this: