March 4, 2006
Three news bulletins
catch the eye.
The first touches
on Jonathan Pollard. We knew he was an American spy. When he was
apprehended in 1985 it transpired that he had been sending American
national secrets to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. It
is nice that Israel was an ally of the United States, but that
was not exonerative in U.S. vs. Pollard. He was sentenced to life
today is of his handler back then, Rafi Eitan of Mossad. What
the hell -- it's all behind us now, Mr. Eitan is quoted as saying
in an article in the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot. But
historians should know that this guy Pollard was such a super
spy, he fed Israel boatloads of absolutely accurate U.S. intelligence
information. Information "of such high quality and accuracy,
so good and so important to the country's security (that) my desire,
my appetite to get more and more material overcame me." Eitan
is saying that he was so elated by the results of Pollard's sedition
that he rose above any qualms about stealing U.S. information.
It gets nicely complicated
when the name of Aldrich Ames is brought in. Ames' customer wasn't
Israel, but the Soviet Union. Ames worked from deep within the
CIA and was also successful. When we finally caught on to Ames,
he tried to blame Pollard for exposing the names of CIA agents.
This didn't work, but the handler, Rafi Eitan, now says that he
is certain Pollard would have been given a lighter sentence if
Ames' collaborative treachery had been known at the time -- though
some of us have a problem figuring that one out.
A second bulletin
is from Rome. An Italian parliamentary commission has concluded
"beyond any reasonable doubt" that the attempted killing
of the pope in 1981 was indeed the work of the Soviet Union.
What happened, on
May 13, 1981, in broad daylight in St. Peter's Square, was a shot
fired point blank at Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet
Ali Agca. The would-be assassin was apprehended with the help
of a nun in the tight circle around the pope, and John Paul was
rushed to a hospital where he very nearly died. The gunman gave
out story after story, and went to jail -- from which he was eventually
released but then reimprisoned for having killed (this time successfully)
The whole world was
seized by the event. Was this a KGB operation? The Cold War was
at its coldest, and the most arresting development of the season
had been first the elevation of the Polish Karol Wojtyla to the
papacy, and then the support he gave to the Polish Solidarity
movement, the striking challenge to Soviet claims on the loyalty
of the working class.
As the investigation
proceeded, the claims of Soviet non-involvement hung largely on
the question of Sergei Ivanov Antonov. He was a Bulgarian official
accused of hiring Agca on behalf of the Soviet Union. He claimed
to have been in his office at the time of the shooting, and he
was acquitted by an Italian court.
Twenty years later,
the commission appears to have established, by new analyses of
the photographs of the crowd in St. Peter's Square, that Antonov
was indeed there, validating conclusions that he had been involved
in the shooting. The missing proof that he was there has now been
made available by new technology used to examine the photos. The
Italian commission is busy investigating Italy's Cold War security
system, following up on material brought to the West by a Russian
archivist who defected to Britain in 1992.
And so, as the years
go by, we learn more and more about the penetration of our intelligence
systems. In the matter of Israel, information was got "of
such high quality and accuracy" that the handler's desire
"to get more and more material overcame me."
Overcame his what?
Overcame any doubts he had about encouraging a U.S. naval intelligence
officer to betray his country, never mind that the vital material
went to an ally. The rules don't change according to whom we given
stolen secrets to.
And, in another theater,
intelligence failed first in protecting the pope from an assassin,
second, in identifying the agent of that plot. What the Soviets
feared most, on Nov. 22, 1963, was that someone might link a Soviet
agency to the doings of Lee Harvey Oswald. They feared nearly
as much two decades later, in the matter of the pope.
The third item in
the day's news is that the Senate got around to approving the
Patriot Act, with its provisions against terrorist infiltrations.
2006 Universal Press Syndicate