Jon Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst in the Navy, wanted to be a spy so
badly that he even seemed to think he was a spy long before he actually was. As
a college student at Stanford he boasted that he had contacts in the Israeli
intelligence services and that his father was a CIA agent who worked in Prague.
Both claims were false. He entered phoney education and employment information
on job applications and mailed himself telegrams under aliases he made up for
himself. Strangely, none of the odd details about Pollard's personality were
noted on his Navy background check report.
Pollard became a Navy analyst in 1979, after leaving a graduate program in law
at Tufts University. Initially, he was given an unusually high level of
security clearance, but it was revoked within a few months after Pollard made
unauthorized and suspicious contact with an attaché from the South
African Embassy. It is unclear what business Pollard had with the embassy
official, and it was never investigated.
In 1984 Pollard was promoted to a position as an analyst in the Naval Criminal
Investigation Service (NIS), and his security clearances were reinstated. He
was placed in a new, high-priority unit, the Anti-Terrorism Alert Center, where
he gained access to satellite photographs and CIA reports. At least three of
Pollard's acquaintances recall that within months of his assuming his new post he
mailed them unsolicited collections of classified information for no apparent
Shortly after he began working at the NIS Pollard met an Israeli intelligence
officer in New York named Avi Sella, who was posing as a graduate student at
New York University. Sella requested classified information from Pollard—any
information he could deliver—and told him that he would be paid for whatever
he could provide.
A few days later, Sella and Pollard met in Washington. Pollard provided
detailed information on chemical warfare manufacturing plants in Iraq. For this
initial transaction Pollard was given a $10,000 diamond and sapphire ring for
his fiancée, Anne Henderson, and paid over $10,000 in cash. Sella also
agreed to pay Pollard $1,500 a month for his espionage activities as long as
For about a year after the time Pollard met Avi Sella, he gathered computer
printouts, satellite photographs, and classified documents from his department
three times a week and brought them to various Washington apartments. There,
they were copied and returned to Pollard, who restored them to the Navy the
following day. In exchange for his services Pollard received, in addition to
the agreed salary, a lavish collection of gifts for himself and his wife,
including a honeymoon in a private compartment aboard the Orient Express.
By his own estimates Pollard passed to his Israeli handlers more than 800
classified publications and more than 1,000 cables, probably the largest cache
of materials ever passed through espionage. At one point, when Pollard's new
wife was hoping to clinch a job interview at an international public relations
firm with branches in China, he brought home five secret studies on China. Her
presentation was assessed as brilliant.
Pollard was eventually captured on November 18, 1985, rather unceremoniously,
walking out of his office with 60 top-secret documents in his briefcase. His
supervisors had become suspicious of his voracious consumption of materials.
Commenting not as much on the massive loss of classified documents to Israel
and elsewhere but more on the extraordinary lack of security surrounding
Pollard's carefree espionage activities, then Secretary of Defense Caspar
Weinberger said, "It is difficult for me...to conceive of greater harm done to
Pollard pleaded guilty to espionage and was sentenced to prison for life. His
wife served a five-year sentence for unauthorized possession of government
documents. Upon her release, Anne Henderson Pollard divorced her husband. In
1993 Secretary of Defense Les Aspin reported that Pollard had tried 14 times to
disclose classified information in letters written to various recipients from
his prison cell.