Morris Pollard admits his son Jonathan provided classified information to Israel for six months between 1984 and 1985.
"Jay — we call him by his middle name — came to me and said he wanted to discuss what he was doing," recalls the 78-year-old father of the convicted spy.
"I have top security clearance, but I said no. That was a mistake. I should have talked to him and said to get out" of the espionage in which he was involved.
An oncologist who occupies an endowed chair at the University of Notre Dame, Morris Pollard was "being proper" about the law when he refused to speak with his son.
A U.S. Army reservist for 30 years, he had worked on infectious diseases for the military during World War II and was on "a special assignment" for Gen. George C. Marshall. But technically, the elder Pollard's security clearance did not apply to the material his son saw while working as a civilian analyst in charge of anti-terrorism for the Navy.
Later, Morris Pollard learned his son had become aware that the United States was withholding from Israel intelligence about poison gas plants in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
"He protested to superiors. They were not happy with him," Morris Pollard said. He added that his son "blew the whistle on Iran-Contra without realizing it by noting certain weapons being sent."
Now, "Jay's been in prison nine years," said his father, who does not believe the punishment fits the crime. His son was given the longest sentence of anyone who ever passed secrets to an ally — life in prison.
Jonathan Pollard "never claimed innocence" and wrote three letters of remorse, his father said. "He received the lowest charge, only one count of giving information to Israel."
The life sentence came after prosecutors promised Jonathan Pollard leniency in a plea bargain, and after the Justice Department threatened to punish his then-wife Anne if he insisted on a public trial.
Still, "They can't point to a single item of damage that has been done to the United States," Morris Pollard said.
Referring to a classified memo by former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger requesting the maximum jail term, Morris Pollard said, "They hide behind a veil of secrecy that is no longer needed" after the fall of the Soviet Union.
He also called on President Clinton to open the Weinberger memo and get to the bottom of the problem, and he feels public pressure on Clinton would help.
"Clinton said he made his decision on the `best available evidence.' I take that to mean there wasn't much available to him then," said Morris Pollard.
Jonathan Pollard comes up for parole in September, but his father considers his son's freedom unlikely under the circumstances.
"It's a real tragedy, and the longer it goes on, the more our government loses credibility," he said. "This is a miscarriage of justice."
With new evidence, the Pollard case could be reopened, his father believes. Disclosure of the Weinberger memo, whether to the public or to those with appropriate clearance, could constitute such evidence.
In response to a book review of The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus and Mark Aarons, Morris Pollard contacted the Washington Jewish Week. In keeping with the book, he charged Weinberger, former President George Bush and Secretary of State George Shultz — all of whom had connections to Bechtel Corp. — along with the former director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, with trying to discredit both Jonathan Pollard and Israel. He also said confessed Soviet spy Aldrich Ames scapegoated Jonathan.
"The excuse that there was a mole in the Mossad [who leaked Pollard's information to the former Soviet Union] is not credible because Jonathan was working for Israeli military intelligence, not the Mossad," said Morris Pollard, in accordance with another claim of Loftus and Aarons.
Morris Pollard details 10-1/2 months in which his son was detained in a psychiatric ward. "We'd drive 600 miles to see him in Missouri in the hospital for the criminally insane. This tactic smacked of the KGB. The assistant warden said it was embarrassing when the record read he was not there for treatment.
"They exposed him to the gambit: AIDS, suicide, patients screaming all night, people clawing at him if he went to shower. Then in Marion in southern Illinois he was handcuffed and in leg-irons" much of the time, subjected to five years solitary confinement.
Morris Pollard said his son suffered from a condition that has afflicted others subjected to solitary confinement for considerable time. Jonathan Pollard developed an addiction to being alone or a fear of going out. When he was moved to a medium security jail in Butner, N.C., he told his parents: "For the first time in six years I saw a tree."
Morris Pollard said that at present Jonathan is having difficulty. "It's showing on him. He gets depressed."
Jonathan Pollard is allowed to call a few approved phone numbers and is working as the principle cloth cutter in a textile factory making Navy shirts.
"He's permitted to walk four to five miles a day," the father continued. "He gained a lot of weight in solitary, but now it's down."
Morris Pollard said he wrote to President Bill Clinton in January 1994 "to plead for the life of my son." He received no response for five months. Then former White House counsel Lloyd Cutler wrote back that Morris Pollard's desire to meet with Clinton would serve no purpose because the administration had "made up its mind…If our government has a compassionate face, it represents a mask," said Morris Pollard.
He noted with pride that "105 Jewish federations and community relations councils around the country have recommended Jonathan's release, adding that "Agudas Israel of America has also contacted the White House saying that there is something screwy about this case."
Ultimately, Morris Pollard sees the treatment of his son as part of an institutional bias on the part of those in government who consider Israel a handicap to U.S. interests in the Middle East and wish to embarrass and weaken the Jewish state.