US official disappointed with Israeli help in Pollard inquiry. Prosecutor John Martin cites failure to identify spy's handler
Washington — In an interview Wednesday, John L. Martin, the top spy prosecutor at the United States Justice Department, said the failure of Israel so far to cooperate fully in the Pollard spy investigation was a ``disappointment.'' Jonathan Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced last week to life in prison for selling US secrets to Israel. One of his alleged handlers, Aviem Sella, a high-ranking Israeli Air Force officer, has been indicted, and the Justice Department is investigating three other Israelis tied to the spy ring.
Here is a portion of the interview with Mr. Martin:
How would you characterize Israeli cooperation in the Pollard matter?
Selective. ... We have received some cooperation, but the cooperation has not been at the level we had expected .... We want to get everything we can about the case, and there is a tendency for those we are seeking it from to protect real or imagined interests....
Did the Israelis mislead American investigators during the initial phase of the Pollard inquiry?
We learned a good deal when we went to Israel in December 1985; we learned a good deal more when we came back [to the US].
In addition to talking to the Israelis, we conducted our own independent investigation. We obtained the cooperation of the Pollards. We talked to other people who had knowledge of this. I think one of the big holes in the December 1985 investigation is that Aviem Sella was not identified to us by the Israelis. We obtained that information through Pollard and through independent investigation. So the failure to provide that information was one significant aspect of what we might characterize as a disappointment.
Were there other disappointments?
Information was withheld from us and lies were told concerning material facts in the investigation....
We would have expected a full and complete inquiry by the Israeli government and then a report to us regarding their findings. They did not conduct that inquiry and have not conducted it since. We as a government want to know and we have a responsibility to find out what happened. Our security interests are at stake and we are moving to protect those security interests as zealously as any other country, including Israel.
Was the Pollard spy operation a ``rogue'' operation?
The Israelis are claiming it is a rogue operation. We have not identified any people beyond those already known to us [former Israeli intelligence official Raphael Eitan; Joseph Yagur, a former science adviser in Israel's New York consulate; former Israeli Embassy staff worker Irit Erb; and Air Force officer Sella, the purported handler who now commands an Israeli air base].
Our inability to tie in anyone higher up certainly makes their assertion that it is a rogue operation plausible.
What is your view?
The extent to which we have learned what has gone on, the money that has been involved, the number of people, the level of production that Pollard exhibited, suggests otherwise.
Did the State Department attempt to limit the scope of the Pollard investigation?
We have a right in the Justice Department to push as vigorously as possible to carry out our enforcement responsibilities, and the State Department has every right to look after its foreign-relations responsibilities.
We have shared problems, and we have worked through them. These problems are not easy. We have apparently overcome those concerns that [State Department officials] apparently had in December 1985, and I am glad that we have.