Watch CBSN Live

The Sins Of Jonathan Pollard

Of all the secrets confessed spy Jonathan Pollard sold to Israel, none was more sensitive than the top-secret manual the National Security Agency uses to intercept other countries' communications and prevent eavesdropping on U.S. communications, CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports.

The radio signals information manual is a 10-volume guide to every communications circuit NSA listens to as well as every circuit the U.S. government uses for its own communications.

That manual is one of the reasons CIA Director George Tenet has threatened to resign if President Clinton agrees to an Israeli request to release Pollard from prison.

U.S. officials opposed to Pollard's release are worried the president will make a commitment to release the spy when he visits Israel next week. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison.

Pollard pled guilty, so there was never a public trial. U.S. officials say that allowed him to create a number of myths about his spying, beginning with his first television interview.

"None of the information that I provided Israel, none of it, dealt with U.S. codes, agents, their identity, location, military hardware, war plans, intelligence collection devices or force dispositions," Pollard claimed.

But U.S. officials say Pollard enabled the Israelis to identify the CIA's sources inside the Palestine Liberation Organization. He also told them the disposition of U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean so Israel could strike PLO headquarters in Tunisia without being detected.

That 1985 raid was planned with satellite photos Pollard had given the Israelis. Pollard admitted all this to the FBI, but he maintains passing secrets to a friendly country like Israel does not merit a life sentence.

U.S. officials say Pollard also gave classified information to Pakistan and South Africa and that his motive for spying for Israel was money.

Earlier this year, the Israelis finally admitted Pollard had worked for them in a handwritten note from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pollard says that should clear the way for his release.

"I was a spy. That certainly I don't think has been in question. Ihe only problem has been whether the government of Israel would be willing to acknowledge it," Pollard said.

But U.S. officials say Israel has never admitted the full extent of Pollard's spying, claiming he only gave them 300 documents when in fact he passed at least 800 documents, plus thousands of messages.

U.S. officials believe Israel continues to put aside money for Pollard while he is in prison and that by now he is probably a millionaire. If he ever gets to spend it, these officials say, it will send a message that espionage pays.

Contacted in Israel, Pollard's current attorney said U.S. intelligence is trying to cover up its own "incompetence" by slandering his client.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved