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In many predominantly progressive and libertarian circles journalist Glenn Greenwald is regularly praised and even called a hero for his courageous and unflinching criticism of the developing national security state and for his custodianship of what might be described as the Snowden papers. Through the years I too have generally found his insights both informative and refreshing and, while I have believed Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning’s theft of huge masses of classified information to be a considerable overreach, I do think that after twelve years of government autarky it is now time for the White House to come clean on what it has been doing to its own citizenry, something that would not be taking place without the intelligence leaks.

But all of that conceded, I often find that people on the left of the political equation are frequently trapped by the terms of their own orthodoxy which is every bit as conducive to tunnel vision as would be a tea party pronouncement made by a Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz. Greenwald is now calling for the release from prison of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina and he is appearing on the Israeli media to make his case.

Greenwald’s logic goes something like this: as the Snowden papers demonstrate that the United States has been spying on Israel Washington has no right to judge others engaged in the same behavior and is therefore hypocritical when it continues to hold an Israeli spy engaging in espionage against the United States. He states that Snowden and Pollard are connected, “When the US government goes around the world criticizing other countries for spying on allies and prosecuting them, are they going to maintain that with a straight face when they’re doing exactly that?” Greenwald calls the double standard governmental hypocrisy and insists that no country has the right to tell other countries not to do something that it itself is secretly engaging in. He rejects the argument that the NSA spying has been carried out to protect against terrorism and asks rhetorically if the US, revealed to be spying on Israeli officials, really believes that “democratically elected” Israelis are involved in terror?

Greenwald goes on in his interview with Israeli television Channel 10 to assert that the leak of the Snowden documents has “defended the values of American democracy.”

I, perhaps not surprisingly, see the issue differently. There is a certain amount of smugness and self -justification in what Greenwald is trying to sell about Snowden (and Pollard). Does he claim that stealing great masses of documents is intrinsically a defense of democracy or is he only referring to those documents that reveal illegal or unconstitutional behavior that should be halted and condemned? If stopping illegal activity by the United States government is his actual objective why is he releasing documents on spying on foreign officials, an action that is neither illegal in the US nor unconstitutional? Or is he designating himself as arbiter of acceptable behavior for the entire world? So I am not quite sure what to make of his logic and fail to understand what exactly he is condemning. Nor is it clear to me if there are any limits to what he might reveal.

I believe that spying is essential for every country that needs information relating to its legitimate foreign interests that is not available through public records or open sources. I at the same time concede that United States intelligence post 9/11 has become an out-of-control monster pursuing its own agendas and believe espionage should only be employed when it is a last option and only in a situation where a vital interest is at stake, limitations that have not been much in evidence over the past twelve years.

One can believe that the government’s spying on its own people in a fashion that is arguably both illegal and unconstitutional should be subject to the scrutiny that it is now receiving and should be stopped immediately, but spying on foreign countries is another issue altogether as is the spying carried out by other nations directed against the United States. Every nation in the world that engages in espionage, which means nearly all nations, denies that it is engaging in such activity and is certainly hypocritical in its professed attitudes towards spying, as Greenwald notes, but that does not mean that spies cannot do serious damage and should not be arrested and punished as a consequence. The Greenwald line of argument does not recognize that distinction and his comments suggest that all spying is wrong and indefensible so therefore those involved in it at any level or in any place should be judged by the same standard.

Sometimes spying is the only option for learning about foreign government activity that might do genuine damage to one’s country. And Greenwald should know better than to ask whether the “democratically elected” officials in Israel are carrying out terrorism. Of course they are, and all he has to do is refer to the murder of nine unarmed Turks on the ‘Mavi Marmara’ in 2010, the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010 and the assassinations of Iranian scientists over the past three years.

Might it be in the interest of Washington to know exactly what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up to, particularly as he described 9/11 as “good for Israel” while much of the world will blame any outrage carried out by Israel on the United States particularly as the Israelis have frequently used foreign passports to carry out their assassinations? And would it be a good idea for the United States to have prior knowledge if Israel were about to bomb Iran to get American ships in the Persian Gulf out of the way if for no other reason? And Greenwald might also consider the proportionality issue relative to the espionage that goes on between Israel and the US. It is largely a one way street with Israel doing most of the spying. Among nations friendly to the United States Israel is the most aggressive in its espionage activity, largely because it knows it can get away with it given the Justice Department’s all too convenient unwillingness to prosecute Israelis.

Greenwald also does not appear to appreciate the damage that Pollard did. Pollard was undoubtedly motivated to help Israel because he was Jewish but he also tried to sell information to several other countries and might even have been involved in trying to set up arms deals that could have placed sophisticated weapons in the hands of terrorists. Ultimately, he spied for Tel Aviv because he was paid for his services. He violated his oath to protect the information he had access to and gave the Israelis an entire room full of highly classified information. Some of that intelligence wound up in the Soviet Union in exchange for increased Jewish emigration. Greenwald might recall that the Soviets were (and still are) fully capable of destroying the United States in a nuclear exchange, so the provision of information that revealed US technical intelligence capabilities was potentially a serious matter. It has also been alleged that American intelligence sources were executed as a result of the information obtained in Moscow from Pollard by way of Israel.

It is not clear to me where Greenwald is likely to go next but employing logic similar to that which he uses with Pollard he might well conclude that because the US criminal justice system is flawed and sometimes convicts people who are innocent all people who have been judged guilty and sent to prison should be set free. The suggestion is appropriate applied to Pollard as he is, apart from anything else, a criminal. He stole something that did not belong to him and sold it. He betrayed his country. To claim that government hypocrisy is good grounds for freeing him is ludicrous.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Glenn Greenwald, Jonathan Pollard 
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  1. The crux of this argument reverts upon itself. Every nation spies on others, but only spying by my own nation (whichever it is) is legal (and by logical progression, morally right.) If Israel is guilty of terrorism (so defined because the identical behavior by America isn’t?), then spying on Israel is justified (unless you are Israeli – or not?)

    Pollard acted out of monetary motives against America and had no intention of serving American public discourse. He revealed nothing of wrongdoing to any public nor the extent the domestic population is being surveilled in contravention of the morally held ideals of a democratic people, whatever the manufactured legality.

    It is true that our government has behaved so badly and hypocritically against its own people that it really no longer has even moral equivalence to Pollard’s own treasonous actions, though it did at the time he was discovered and prosecuted – the government had its own Pollards working for it then and now in just the same way against other nations. It wasn’t clear that this was against allies who didn’t expect it, though – really, a surprise Gouzenko moment for allies vis-a-vis their real relationship with the U.S.

    But this doesn’t excuse either Pollard or our own now democratically unaccountable surveillance state actors and their wrongdoing. Nor the fact that the NSA itself – and others – do just what Pollard did, providing raw intercepts of mass surveillance of Americans to Israel’s spy agencies, wholesale, violating legally required protections for innocent Americans. The betrayal and moral degradation of Pollard and those who have done this to the American people is of a piece.

    Edward Snowden is no hypocrite, unlike either Pollard or those democratically unaccountable authorities whose carefully hidden conspiracies of unAmerican activities Snowden has revealed to the people through the careful mediator of the press.

    And whatever Greenwald believes about what should happen to Pollard now, whatever the merits, has no bearing at all upon our positive judgment of the badly needed service Snowden has provided our society kept in the dark and criminally misled about what has been done to us against our will.

  2. From Glenn Greenwald:

    This whole article is based on a patently false premise: that I am “now calling for the release from prison of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.”

    That’s a total and obvious fabrication. I said no such thing.

    I appeared on an Israeli television show for an interview about the Snowden stories. Unexpectedly, they asked me about Jonathan Pollard, and specifically whether the recent revelation that the NSA was spying on top Israeli officials meant that there was some hypocrisy in the US position on the Pollard case.

    I’ve given very little thought to the Pollard case: I don’t think I’ve ever written about it or spoken about it, certainly not in any substantial way. On the spot, when asked about Pollard, it occurred to me that the crux of that case has been U.S. outrage that its close ally, Israel, would spy on it. So I said that the NSA stories reveal some hypocrisy: how can the US be outraged that Israel spies on it when, at the same time, the US is spying on Israel?

    That’s the only point I made. Contrary to the claim in this article, I never called for Pollard’s release. I don’t have any position on that at all, and never expressed one. My point was the extremely narrow one about US hypocrisy, which I made spontaneously when I was unexpectedly asked on TV about a case I’ve thought little about.

    As for whether Israel commits “terrorism”: I’ve made the case many times that they have by any normal meaning of that term. See here for one example of many over the years:

    My point was that the US Government certainly doesn’t think Israel engages in “terrorism”, yet spies on them anyway, which shows that NSA spying is often about many things other than terrorism.

    For the record, it was the NYT – not me – that revealed NSA spying on Israeli officials, so if you have a problem with that report, blame them. That said, I absolutely do believe that NSA bulk spying on populations around the world is newsworthy, and so, as a journalist, I’m going to report it. The privacy of Americans matters, but not only their privacy matters.

    • Replies: @Philip Giraldi
  3. @Glenn Greenwald

    I am no lawyer but it would seem to me that calling the US government hypocritical for continuing to hold Pollard while it is engaged in spying on Israel is suggesting that he should be released. If you do not think Pollard should be freed you should have said so in response to what was a pretty straightforward series of questions from your interviewer.

  4. I think the US Government is hypocritical for imprisoning ordinary citizens for violent crimes while shielding from prosecution top-level officials who have committed war crimes.

    I think the US Governmental is hypocritical for imprisoning ordinary citizens for financial crimes while shielding from prosecution Wall Street executives who have committed systemic fraud.

    That doesn’t mean – rather obviously – that I’m in favor of releasing from prison ordinary citizens who have murdered and committed embezzlement.

    Nor would any reasonable person construe my observations about hypocrisy in the US justice system (which I happened to write my last book about) as a call for the release from prison of people who have committed serious crimes.

    The observation that the US is guilty of hypocrisy when imprisoning Person X doesn’t remotely mean that Person X should be released from prison.

    Whatever else is true, you really shouldn’t write that “Greenwald is now calling for the release from prison of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard” when I’ve done no such thing.

    • Replies: @Philip Giraldi
  5. Realistically, as with many Spy Vs. Spy government spying operations, exchanges of spies are a matter of government to government negotiation. Pollard is, after all, a citizen if Israel (although it is an anomaly that Israel’s Supreme Court recently ruled there is no such thing as an Israeli, only Jews and other ethnicities.) Whether or not he will be repatriated to Israel (where he would in any case have the right of return as a Jew even if Israel had not overtly made him a citizen) is a matter for the U.S. and Israel governments and as Secretary of State Kerry’s comments indicate, the question of Pollard is indeed under such bilateral discussion.

    The journalistic function of pointing out the hypocrisy in these negotiations is revelatory.

    Notably, Snowden was not sponsored by any foreign nation nor acting on its behalf, but acted on behalf of his own, in its public interest, unless we want to define a nation as being only those who wield power over it, not its citizens.

    One major correction. The Russians are no longer governed by the Soviet, since the Soviet communist system no longer exists. Thus, while a valid concern at the time, “Greenwald might recall that the Soviets were (and still are) fully capable of destroying the United States in a nuclear exchange, so the provision of information that revealed US technical intelligence capabilities was potentially a serious matter” is no longer an issue about that Manichean ideological struggle. American politicians have morphed late allies, anti-Soviet jihadists, into new existential adversaries elsewhere, which has become the new raison d’etre for the vast surveillance state turned inwards against the American people.

  6. Seymour Hersh article on Pollard:

    Fran, I agree that the Russians are not the Soviets but tell that to the American political class who enjoys pushing into Russia’s sphere of influence. It is sad that RT is more honest regarding the US than the US media. I hope Kerry offers to release Pollard after Israel removes all settlements, ends its imperialism in the US and in the Palestinian territories, allows for a legitimate Palestinian state to be created, all the information Pollard stole is returned to the US, and they drop the nonsense about Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

    I fully support the US spying on extremely dangerous people like Netanyahu, but not the mass collection of data on ordinary people. This is literally a lucrative war on privacy. How far should the US go in spying on other nations?

    I have been wondering for a while what Glenn Greenwald thinks about the criticisms coming from Paul Pillar:

  7. While not using the specific word “Release.” It’s difficult to see where else the following quote leads.

    “It’s proper to raise Pollard’s case in the context of U.S. spying on its Israeli ally, he continued, because that underscores the hypocrisy of what the U.S. itself is doing. The U.S. government, Greenwald charged, does exactly what it accuses its enemies of doing, and no country has the right to say other countries shouldn’t do something while it is secretly violating that very same taboo.”

    So if “we have no right to say other countries shouldn’t do something while it is secretly violating the same taboo,” does it not logically follow that we have no right to continue to hold Pollard? Were you saying that it’s all a lot of hypocrisy and yes, I’m for it?

    It is also significant that the US is accused of vacuuming up signals intel via electronic means, but the Pollard case involves Israeli collusion in the treacherous conveyance of secret material by an American citizen. That’s not quite the same thing.

    In light of current events however, and the knowledge that Israel awarded Pollard citizenship, we might consider releasing him into the custody of the Federal Reserve.

  8. @Glenn Greenwald

    Okay, let’s make it real simple – do you believe that Pollard should be released or not?

  9. It’s suspicious to me that the intent to link Pollard to Snowden is to denigrate Snowden as similarly as traitorous to the United States as Pollard, and thus equally as unworthy of either amnesty or honor.

    However, it is clear that to the Likudnik ruling faction in Israel and even perhaps in Israel generally, the perception is that Pollard acted heroically for Israel and is deserving of honor.

    Only if one believes that accountability and subservience to Israel’s rulers is the proper authority for Americans to submit to, could Pollard credibly claim to be acting in America’s best interests. Sadly, there are leading U.S. politicians who subscribe to just such a view, who want Pollard freed. The same do not regard that their responsibility is to the American people they were elected by, and in whose unaccountable mass surveillance of they collude. Snowden, in contrast, earned their antipathy by acting on his belief that his own higher responsibility was to the Constitution and to the American people who it is meant to both protect and ensure informed accountability to. No better definition of an American patriot can be found.

    Since famed U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz explicitly condemned Snowden as a traitor, while calling for Pollard’s release – and now has said that he himself is likely to seek Israeli citizenship and perhaps move to Israel, Pollard sympathists do not seem to be those moved to support Snowden, but rather condemn Snowden’s actions as contrary to the political interests of Israel’s current government.

    I do not find Pollard a sympathetic figure, given what I have read of the details of his case. Whatever services as a mole he performed for Israel, it appears that greed was also involved. And Dershowitz has been a primary apologist for the NSA’s piece of the unaccountable shadow government, that has turned a turnkey secret mass surveillance system inwards against the American people and democracy, which unAmerican activity he applauds.

    Would I free Pollard? It is not for me or Glenn Greenwald to decide, but it seems to me that not only would the U.S. taxpayer be freed from further financial drains from his incarceration and the legal costs and distractions of his appeals, but that it would make plain Israel’s own often aggressively hostile intentions to America, so often out of sync with public perception. If we won’t allow Guantanamo inmates here, why Pollard? Once Pollard exercised “the right of return” we could end the faux sympathy for him as anything other than a foreign spy who worked for a foreign country. Perhaps this could lead to the return of America to what it once was – and Israel actually becoming – “normal” western democracies, instead of morphing into draconian national security states.

  10. You look foolish Mr. Giraldi. I suggest you stop digging.

  11. NB says: • Website

    Philip, Glenn Greenwald already answered your question:
    “Contrary to the claim in this article, I never called for Pollard’s release. I don’t have any position on that at all, and never expressed one.”

  12. Obama’s NSA shares the American people’s information with Israel. We know this only because of Edward Snowden.

  13. KA says: • Website

    If Pollard were detected anytime in last 12 years,he would have been quietly flown out like the Israeli Art Students ,the Dancing Fives and bunch of Saudi Royals were. He was caught at wrong time ,in wrong environment .America was still back then had the spine to differentiate between America and Israel at the administrative,cultural,academic,military ,and economic level. Today it is all about Israel and to some extent about the countries that promise to serve Israel.( Saudi ,be careful. After all said and done – Iran is nuked the way the neocons want ,Israel will blame you. They will sneak under the rug to find out worn out anti Iranian cliche in Saudi -Suni fiber to blame Iran fiasco on Saudi)
    Pollards is no hero,a is a spy who committed treason the way some Muslim American did against US for their religion mandated them to do. Difference between the two (Pollard and Muslim American is that the former was also hoping to make money and aid Soviet not only his religion based country.) are many.
    It is a sacrilege to compare Snowden to the scumbag Polard. Snowden has exposed the nature of the beast to the Americans . Pollard is a beast who thrives in that beastly environment . Today Israel does not need Pollard. NSA wil do it for them.

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I don’t see Greenwald as defending Pollard. I do hear him offending U.S. in stating the hypocrisy. If you believe Greenwald is saying let Pollard go for spying then you would also believe him to want U.S. to be “let go” for spying. Truly disappointed at the lack of understanding in the spoken word, written word, and human sentiment that Phillip Giraldi exhibits.

  15. J.M. says:

    In the exchange between Giraldi and Greenwald:

    Greenwald: “Whatever else is true, you really shouldn’t write that “Greenwald is now calling for the release from prison of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard” when I’ve done no such thing.”

    I inferred too from the video that Greenwald was calling for Pollard’s release. He didn’t explicitly say so, but given the connection being made between Snowden and Pollard, Israel’s current push for Pollard’s release, the idea that both Snowden and Pollard were victims of U.S. hypocrisy, etc., I don’t know how one could have gotten the impression Greenwald was not in favor of Pollard’s release. For the U.S. to escape censor, I concluded Greenwald + anchor thought both should be be freed. From the quote above “…I’ve done no such thing.” Mr. Greenwald, you are a slippery one.

  16. J.M. says:

    Correcting the last two sentences of my first post:

    Regarding “I’ve done no such thing,” I think Greenwald is a slippery one. In the video, which conveys non-verbal communication as well as verbal, I think he is in agreement with his immediate company: the villain is the U.S., not Snowden and not Pollard. He’s made his case for Snowden, now Pollard is introduced.

  17. J.M. says:

    “It is a sacrilege to compare Snowden to the scumbag Polard. Snowden has exposed the nature of the beast to the Americans . Pollard is a beast who thrives in that beastly environment . Today Israel does not need Pollard. NSA wil do it for them.”

    I agree.

  18. I’m shocked that the Pollard case keeps coming up every few years, as if time makes him less of a criminal and less of a traitor. I understand of course the Israeli position; he spied for them and they feel they owe him. Just as I would like Dr Shakil Afridi released from Pakistani custody and allowed to come to the US. He helped us get Bin Ladin, and I think we owe him. However I understand if the Pakistani’s hold a differing view.

    Snowden I find little different from Pollard. He was a traitor as well, although rather than betraying his to a particular country, he released the information he stole to the entire world. His payment? Ego strokes.

  19. I’m much more concerned about Israeli spying on the US than about the NSA spying on US citizens in the USA, primarily because I believe that NSA’s excesses are largely driven by Israeli espionage on US soil, crimes that – Pollard being the exception – often receive very little press coverage. Here is but one example:

    The 9/11 terror attacks, and the neoconservative Bush administration’s reaction to them, fundamentally changed relationships between US and Israeli spook shops. Israel became a partner in ways that seriously damaged US counter-intelligence efforts. NSA documents stolen by Snowden and revealed by The Guardian are explicit in that regard. See:

    “While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigint sharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.

    “‘Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled ‘History of the US – Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992’. “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.’”

    Meanwhile, the biggest bombshell in the NSA documents published by The Guardian thus far goes largely unremarked on by anyone:

    Who developed the technology in GVEs? What are they doing with it? Why? And what does that have to do with, for instance, the gun massacre at the Washington Navy Yard?

  20. The Israeli government is an advocate for and practitioner of NSA-style mass spying on Americans. It’s obvious that they do not appreciate Greenwald’s view of good journalism being investigatory and revealing government’s inner workings. Insofar as governance becomes divorced from democratic accountability, by opposing that Greenwald can’t be said to be advocating for Pollard, who spied in secret and whose cause is promoted by unaccountable Israeli government spying agencies. Greenwald helped break the news that Israel is being handed raw mass surveillance on Americans, without meaningful oversight or redaction, which information on Israel’s spying on Americans they certainly did not want brought to light.

  21. I note a new tweet from Glenn Greenwald that expresses agreement with Phil Giraldi about AIPAC:

    Glenn Greenwald ‏@ggreenwald Feb 4

    NYT suggests AIPAC’s power is declining: if true, long overdue and still not nearly enough

  22. In the fullness of time, putting two and two together, it’s revealed just whose loyalties lie with leviathan instead of with the American people. Interestingly, stances on AIPAC and Pollard are not peripheral to exposing this divide, as Phil Giraldi observed.

    Former CIA mandarin James Woolsey has publicly stated that a genuine spy, who while in the remunerative employ of a foreign government covertly sold it military plans over a period of many years with the motives of greed and primary disloyalty to the American people, ought to be granted amnesty. He muses that opposition to freeing Jonathan Pollard must be motivated by antisemitism, echoing AIPAC.

    No similar call for amnesty from national security autocrat Woolsey for Edward Snowden, who blew the cover for us on the turnkey totalitarianism turned inwards against the American people that Woolsey helped rule. For the whistleblower loyal first to the Constitution of the United States and the better angels that inform our concepts of truth, justice and the American way, Woolsey called for Snowden to “be prosecuted for treason [and] hanged by his neck until he is dead.”

    Woolsey’s own mindset is, after all, so much more in sympathy with that of Pollard. Both traded in deceit and received remuneration for their betrayal of their nation’s highest principles, as well as its highest laws. Both Woolsey and Pollard were engaged in making sure their crimes of espionage would never see public light and both endangered the America people. They may have been on opposite sides, but unlike Edward Snowden, they were not on our side.

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