Pollard confession documents hint at official Israeli involvement in spy case

Documents released by the United States government yesterday in connection with the guilty pleas entered by Jonathan Jay Pollard and his wife, Anne Henderson-Pollard, in federal District Court here raise new questions about Israeli espionage against the US. Mr. Pollard, a former civilian analyst with the US Navy, pleaded guilty to one count of spying against the United States. He acknowledged stealing hundreds of pages of classified documents from the Naval Intelligence Service in 1984 and '85 and passing them to Israeli citizens. Mrs. Pollard pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and illegal possession of classified documents.

Last weekend, the Israeli government denied American press reports suggesting that Israel had run a widespread intelligence operation in the US and that Pollard was only part of it. An Israeli embassy spokesman in Washington said the reports were ``baseless,'' and maintained that Pollard's spying was ``an unauthorized deviation from the clear-cut Israeli policy of not conducting any espionage activity whatsoever in the United States. . . .''

However, according to facts acknowledged by the Pollards in court documents released yesterday, Pollard's espionage efforts were carefully supervised and directed by persons with presumptive ties to the Israeli government. One of his ``handlers,'' Rafi Eitan, was introduced to Pollard as a man who for many years had been an Israeli intelligence official. Another supervisor was Joseph Yagur, then the science consul at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Pollard has admitted receiving monthly cash payments for obtaining the information. He also said that during a trip to Israel last year, his contacts offered to provide him with a new identity and Israeli citizenship once he completed his espionage work. His handlers estimated the life of his operation would be 10 years, Pollard claims.

The Pollard case has raised concerns within the State Department that an investigation and subsequent prosecution might strain US-Israeli relations.

State Department officials are seeking to avoid public disclosures that might harm US relations with its Mideast ally. A plea bargain serves the State Department's interests by avoiding a trial at which the evidence gathered about Israeli spying in the United States would be laid out in public.

A government spokesman said that, although the government will make note of Pollard's cooperation at time of sentencing, it ``will recommend that the court impose a sentence of a substantial period of incarceration as well as a monetary fine.''

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