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Pollard Given Life Term as Spy for Israel : Wife to Serve Lesser Sentence in Espionage Held Harmful to U.S.

March 05, 1987|ROBERT L. JACKSON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Confessed spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, who seriously damaged national security by passing thousands of pages of U.S. defense secrets to Israeli intelligence agents, was sentenced to life imprisonment Wednesday and his wife received two five-year sentences.

Pollard, 32, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, stood passively as Chief U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. imposed the sentences. But his wife, Anne Henderson-Pollard, 26, screamed, "No, no, no!" and collapsed into the arms of Pollard and her attorney, James Hibey.

Pollard could be eligible for parole in 10 years but U.S. Atty. Joseph E. diGenova, who directed the prosecution, said he believes that Pollard never will be paroled because of the gravity of his crime. Henderson-Pollard, who had pleaded guilty to lesser charges, will be eligible for parole after serving 46 months in prison, authorities said.

Express Remorse

Before sentencing, the Pollards expressed remorse for their actions and each made emotional pleas to the judge to show leniency to the other. They said that they had only sought to help Israel and believed that no harm had come to the United States.

But Robinson said he was convinced that their actions had seriously damaged U.S. national security, as reflected in a classified statement from Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that prosecutors gave the court.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles Leeper said that Pollard's spying caused "exceptionally grave damage" to national security and that the documents passed to Israel amounted to "a volume of classified information, 10 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet."

The documents included satellite photos, data on Soviet weaponry and the location of U.S. ships and training exercises, according to government officials. Leeper discounted claims by the Pollards that no harm could befall the United States by sharing such data with an ally like Israel, saying that no other country can be counted upon to "give the same measure of protection" to U.S. intelligence.

The sentencing of the Pollards, combined with the indictment only a day earlier of a senior Israeli Air Force officer in connection with the case, is certain to add further tension to U.S.-Israeli relations, which already have been significantly strained by disputes over the extent of Israel's role in the Iran- contra affair.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Washington indicted Israeli Brig. Gen. Aviem (Avi) Sella on charges that he recruited Pollard in 1984 and, together with lower-ranking officials, received documents from him over an 18-month period.

Sella is the first official of a U.S. ally ever to be charged with espionage against the United States. However, authorities said he may never be tried because the U.S.-Israeli extradition treaty does not cover espionage.

Begins Without Pay

Pollard, addressing the court, said that he had begun spying without pay, attributing his actions to his affection for Israel, but that he later accepted $45,000 in payments from Israeli agents over several months, money that he said was "a corrupting influence."

He expressed remorse for his actions and for having harmed relations "between two otherwise amicable nations."

"I took the law into my own hands," he said. "I violated another trust too--the trust of my wife. I sacrificed her for political ideology. She was a victim of my errors. I am the responsible party."

Henderson-Pollard pleaded guilty last June to two counts of conspiring to receive government property and being an accessory to possession of national security information. She had packed sensitive documents in a suitcase to help her husband when he had telephoned home in November, 1985, and used a code-word--"cactus"--to indicate that he was in trouble.

In her own tearful remarks to the court, Henderson-Pollard said she was "so sorry for what happened" and urged leniency for her husband, calling him "my best friend, my greatest love--he means everything to me."

Series of Cases

The Pollard sentencing is the latest chapter in a series of espionage cases that have arisen in the last two years.

John A. Walker Jr., a former Navy warrant officer, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1985 for giving the Soviets top-secret Navy communications data. His brother, Arthur J. Walker, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, also was sentenced to life in prison.

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