Analysis: Missed red flags on Israeli spy

SHAUN WATERMAN, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The Navy counter-intelligence officer who garnered a confession from Israeli spy Jonathon Pollard says that U.S. agencies missed a forest of red flags about him and risk repeating the same mistakes today they made more than 20 years ago.

Ron Olive, the investigator who debriefed Pollard in 1985, says in a new book that "The warning indicators and the problems were clear from the beginning of (Pollard's) career" and even before, and that his bizarre behavior should have prevented him from ever working for the U.S. government.


"It's a wake-up call to U.S. intelligence today," he told United Press International, about his account: "Capturing Jonathon Pollard," published by the Naval Institute Press.

The book discloses what Olive says are fresh details about the sensational spy case -- a whirlwind 11-day-long investigation which eventually revealed that Pollard passed 360 cubic feet of "the most classified intelligence material the United States possesses" to his Israeli handlers.

Olive's book reveals that administrative convenience and bureaucratic bungling allowed Pollard to be recruited and promoted despite being "a dreamer, a fantasist," who repeatedly exhibited behavior that should have barred him from working for any U.S. government agency.


Among the red flags that investigators missed when Pollard was being considered for a top secret clearance from the Navy was his prior rejection by the CIA, where Pollard had applied for work in 1978.

Pollard told a CIA polygraph examiner that he had used marijuana 600 times and told nine foreign nationals that he was going to work for the agency. "Not surprisingly, he didn't get the job," Olive told UPI.

But when Defense Department investigators asked the CIA if they had any record of Pollard, they were told no.

"If they had told (background investigators) that Pollard wasn't hired because of drug use, he would never have been in the history books," Olive said, adding that "It was CIA policy at the time" not to disclose the results of pre-employment polygraph tests to other U.S. agencies. He said the policy was based on a misunderstanding of federal privacy law.

Following Pollard's guilty plea, Olive says the CIA agreed to change the policy and share that kind of information during background checks.

"The agency should at least get credit for keeping him out," said one retired CIA counter-intelligence veteran.

Olive also faulted the background investigators, from the Pentagon's Defense Investigative Service, for not even bothering to check whether Pollard had a masters degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Boston, as he claimed. In fact Pollard had dropped out and never completed the degree.


"If they had talked to one or two of his roommates" from Stamford University, where he got his first degree, said Olive, they would have come across accounts of his bizarre behavior.

Pollard told acquaintances at Stamford that he worked for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and had been made a colonel in an elite Israeli army unit, Olive said.

He added that on one occasion, Pollard had run through the corridors of a university building waving a firearm, shouting "everyone's out to get me."

In the event, Pollard was issued with his clearance via a waiver, said Olive, and was never actually subjected to a proper background check.

Olive said he fears a repetition of that kind of mistake is almost inevitable given the huge numbers of people being recruited to intelligence agencies and contractors to fight the war on terror.

Growing pressure for clearance investigations to be completed on a foreshortened timetable, so that people could begin work, is "a disaster waiting to happen," he said.

Even after Pollard started work for the Navy, Olive pointed out, his bizarre behavior continued, and should have raised serious questions about his reliability.

On one occasion, Olive relates, Pollard excused his lateness and disheveled appearance at a job interview for a naval intelligence post by claiming that his wife had been kidnapped by the Irish Republican Army.


Another time, he approached senior officials, asking for permission to run a "back-channel" collection effort against South Africa.

Pollard claimed that he knew a South African naval attaché in Washington, which was true, and that his father had been CIA station chief in South Africa -- an easily checkable lie.

"We've got a kook on our hands," said then-Director of Naval Intelligence Adm. Sumner Shapiro in April 1980, after a meeting where Pollard outlined his South African scheme.

Moreover, Olive said, Pollard was in desperate financial straights, "getting eviction notices, borrowing money from friends."

"You can't do that with a clearance," said Olive, noting that one object of the clearance process is to weed out people who might have a financial motive to betray their country.

Despite all this, Olive said Pollard was repeatedly promoted and eventually his clearance, which had been reduced to a "Secret" level because of concerns about his stability, was restored after he repeatedly threatened to sue the Navy.

Olive also recounts how FBI agents interrupted his interrogation of Pollard after he had begun confessing. He had acknowledged spying for Israel, but had not yet begun to reveal details of what he stole. Two agents arrived at the interview room and told Olive that Pollard had to be taken to the magistrate's court for an initial appearance.


"I said, 'Are you crazy? ... This man has waived his Miranda rights, he is confessing to espionage.' They just said it was FBI policy that suspects be taken to court on the day of their arrest and they had to take him."

"If they would have let us (continue to) talk to him ... I was convinced in the next two or three hours, we could have gotten the whole story," said Olive.

An FBI spokesman told UPI that the policy was based on U.S. Supreme Court rulings that arrestees have to be taken before a court within "a reasonable period" of time.

"I've had the same thing happen to me (during an investigation)," said the Bureau's Michael Brooks, "and it's frustrating. But those are the rules."

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