1985 – Former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard was arrested after being accused of spying for Israel. He was later sentenced to life in prison.


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Jonathan Pollard is a former analyst at the Naval Intelligence Center for Counter-Terrorism in Maryland who was convicted of spying for Israel. After serving 30 years of a life sentence, he was released from a U.S. prison in North Carolina on November 20, 2015, at the age of 61.

While in the United States to speak at the 2018 AIPAC policy conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Trump and requested he lift restrictions on Pollard and allow him to move to Israel

In November 1985, the FBI arrested Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, on charges of selling classified material to Israel. Pollard pleaded guilty in 1987 to one count of providing defense information to a foreign government and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. His wife, Anne, was sentenced to five years in jail for assisting her husband but was released in 1989 after serving three and a half years. She then emigrated to Israel.
Immediately upon Pollard’s arrest, Israel apologized and explained that the operation was unauthorized. “It is Israel’s policy to refrain from any intelligence activity related to the United States,” an official government statement declared, “in view of the close and special relationship of friendship” between two countries. Prime Minister Shimon Peres stated: “Spying on the United States stands in total contradiction to our policy.”1

The United States and Israel worked together to investigate the Pollard affair. The Israeli inquiry revealed that Pollard was not working for Israeli military intelligence or the Mossad. He was directed by a small, independent scientific intelligence unit. Pollard initiated the contact with the Israelis.

A subcommittee of the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on Intelligence and Security Services concluded: “Beyond all doubt…the operational echelons (namely: the Scientific Liaison Unit headed by Rafael Eitan) decided to recruit and handle Pollard without any check or consultation with the political echelon or receiving its direct or indirect approval.” The Knesset committee took the government to task for not properly supervising the scientific unit.

As promised to the U.S. government, the spy unit that directed Pollard was disbanded, his handlers punished and the stolen documents returned.2 The last point was crucial to the U.S. Department of Justice’s case against Pollard.

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