In a wide-ranging interview provided to Israeli media, convicted spy Jonathan Pollard alternates between claiming to being a hero and a victim. He settles on how Jews who currently have a U.S. national security clearances should spy on behalf of Israel.  He continued how his breaking trust with the United States was motivated by his religion, yet omits how well remunerated he was for his espionage efforts on behalf of Israel.

It is hard to forget Pollard provided Israel with more than 360 cubic feet of classified materials. Retired Adm. Thomas Brooks, former director of naval intelligence is quoted in Foreign Policy as saying ‘The amount of highly classified material the confessed spy disclosed “is exceeded only by Edward Snowden.'”

Pollard – MOney Driving espionage

The original, redacted, damage assessment, crafted in 1987, walks the reader through the June to November 1984 recruitment of Pollard by Colonel Aviem Sella, an Israeli Air Force officer who met with him a few times and then who turned him over to others during a 1984 meeting in Paris. At that meeting, Pollard was introduced to two new contacts: intelligence officer Rafael Eitan and Joseph Yagur, counselor for scientific affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York.

According to the damage assessment, Pollard was “instructed to bring with him his latest leave-and-earnings statement to Paris for examination by Israeli intelligence officers, so that they might use it as a basis for establishing payment for his espionage.” At this meeting, Pollard was promised $1,500 per month (roughly equivalent to his net salary), provided $12,000 as reimbursement for his trip to Paris, and given diamond/emerald rings for his spouse.

Over the course of the next 17 months, Pollard responded to direct Israeli tasking, and augmented this tasking with his own harvesting of information which he thought would benefit Israel. He would literally deliver suitcases filled with classified materials to Yagur on a bi-weekly basis. He met with Yagur on the last Saturday of each month for tasking instructions; these meetings would last multiple hours.

In the spring of 1985, Pollard’s monthly remuneration for espionage was increased by Israel from $1,500 to $2,500 per month (to place this in context, in 1985 a GS-12 naval analyst’s monthly gross pay would be between $3,400 to $4,400).

In July-August 1985, Pollard traveled to Tel Aviv for meetings with Eitan and Yagur.  During these meetings, Pollard was told that should his espionage be detected that Israel would take care of him and informed him that in addition to the monthly salary, an additional $30,000 would be placed in a Swiss bank for Pollard. Furthermore, Pollard was asked to work for ten years, at which time he could emigrate to Israel and use the accumulated $300,000 to establish himself. He was given the alias “Danny Cohen” and told the bank account was in this name, which would be his Israeli identity.

The uncovering of Pollard occurred when the officer-in-charge of the unit to which Pollard was assigned became suspicious of Pollard’s handling of large amounts of classified material in the fall of 1985, and given the contemporaneous Navy investigation into the espionage of Walker/Whitworth, all were operating under a heightened sense of counterintelligence awareness.

Pollard 1985-2021

Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage on June 5, 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment on March 4, 1987.

At the time of his 1987 sentencing, then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, described it was difficult “to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel.” Weinberger continued, Pollard characterized himself as an Israeli pilot shot down behind enemy lines, whose loyalty to Israel was greater than his loyalty to the United States.

In 1996, while imprisoned in the United States, Israel conferred citizenship upon Pollard. In November 2015, having served 30 years of his life-sentence, he was released from prison, with five years of restriction on his movements. In late-December 2020, Pollard emigrated to Israel. Also in late-December, Aviem Sella, the Israeli Air Force officer who was indicted in 1986 for the recruitment and handling of Pollard, was granted a presidential pardon.

Pollard’s ignoble advice

During the interview, Pollard was asked what his advice would be “If a young Jewish naval intelligence officer today is asked by Mossad to work for Israel.” His response, not surprisingly, lands on encouraging those who have national security clearances and who enjoy the trust and confidence of the United States, to place their loyalty to the United States behind that of their religion and by extension, Israel.

The morph of Jonathan Pollard is complete, from a greed driven Navy intelligence analyst who leveraged his insider access to fill his pockets on behalf of a foreign power, to a self-aggrandized poster-boy for espionage, encouraging others to follow his ill-advised path.

He should be ignored.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of