Capturing Jonathan Pollard
Ronald J. Olive. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006. 288 pp. Illus. Index. $27.95
Reviewed by Thomas B. Allen
If you think you know all there is to know about Jonathan Pollard, this book, by a man who helped to catch the spy, will surprise you. While numerous books and articles have been written about Pollard spying for Israel while working as a naval intelligence analyst, this reveals honestly, and in great detail, how he got away with it.
When Pollard was brazenly stealing documents and hoodwinking the U.S. counterintelligence apparatus, the author was assistant special agent in charge of counterintelligence for the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) field office in Washington. Olive, through interviews and well-documented sources, tracks Pollard’s entry into the NIS (which has since become the Naval Criminal Investigative Service) and shows that his career could have been ended soon after he entered the Naval Intelligence Support Center at Suitland, Maryland, in 1980. Early on, Navy counterintelligence officials marked Pollard as an oddball with the belief that he had been making espionage overtures to South Africans.
After a polygraph test designed to reveal information about the South Africans, the machine’s operator stated the test showed Pollard needed professional medical help and should not be given access to highly sensitive information. That finding should have doomed his career. Incredibly, he was kept on the Navy payroll. “The reluctance of navy leaders to fire Pollard,” he writes, “proved fatal for the national defense of the United States.” This, he continues, “was a counterintelligence failure of catastrophic proportions, yet the signs of trouble were obvious from the very beginning.”
On many days, Pollard simply walked out of the Suitland building carrying documents in envelopes marked as highly classified. Asked by investigators why he had taken such a chance, Pollard said: "It had become so easy to remove documents, it just didn't make any difference."
The NIS investigation began when a coworker, unidentified by Olive, spotted Pollard carrying documents out to his car. It ultimately led to his arrest—not by NIS agents, but by FBI agents unfamiliar with the case. Writing at different times diplomatically and bitterly, Olive describes the turf squabbles between FBI and Navy investigators, who were often ignored or dismissed by the FBI.
Olive's narrative often has the momentum of a spy thriller. FBI surveillance of Pollard is complicated by the fact that he lived near the girlfriend of Ronald Pelton, another suspected spy. Amid strained and entangled FBI surveillance operations, Pollard and his wife, Anne, almost managed to dispose of evidence and evade arrest. Olive’s I-was-there account shows the NIS paperwork and behind-the-scenes bureaucracy that accompanies—and impedes—a counterintelligence investigation.
The FBI, not the NIS, brought the investigation to its dramatic climax in November 1985. The Pollards, pursued by a caravan of FBI surveillance vehicles, drove to the Israeli Embassy and sought refuge. Turned away, they were arrested outside the embassy. During five busy days, FBI agents arrested not only the Pollards but also Pelton and Larry Wu Chin, an interpreter with the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Pollards' arrest led to an unprecedented collaboration—a joint NIS-FBI task force—that produced for federal prosecutors the story dubbed Operation Foul Play. Thanks to Pollard's "overbearing cockiness," the spy responded eagerly to questions. Asked about the magnitude of his thefts, he said, "If I could see it and touch it, you can assume I got it. My only limitation was what I couldn't physically carry."
Olive estimated that Pollard delivered at least "one million-plus pages" to his Israeli handlers in the 18-month heyday of his spy career—this does not include documents he removed without leaving a paper trail.
Pollard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. More than 60 organizations—along with the Knesset, Israel's parliament—have campaigned for his release. "He has now reinvented himself as a great Jewish patriot," says Richard Haver, who was in charge of assessing the damage that Pollard did to the United States. The former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Pollard wrote in 1993 that material the spy passed on to Israel "was pure intelligence unusable to the Israelis except as bargaining chips and leverage against the United States."
For a long time, Israel claimed that Pollard had been supplying a rogue intelligence unit not supported by the government. But in 1998, Israel formally admitted what Pollard had been saying all along: He "acted as an official Israeli agent, handled by those serving as high-ranking senior officials of the Israeli Bureau for Scientific Relations (LAKAM)." Pollard has refused to apply for parole, but according to Olive, an obscure federal sentencing rule grants him automatic parole and release from prison on 21 November 2015.
Mr. Allen is a prolific author with more than 30 books, 11 National Geographic Magazine articles, and dozens of others to his credit. He is the co-author, with Norman Polmar, of Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage (Random House, 2004).
The Highway War: A Marine Company Commander in Iraq
Major Seth W. B. Folsom, U.S. Marine Corps. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2006. 424 pp. $29.95.
By David J. Danelo
Recently, a group of Marine captains who graduated from Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS) were talking with a friend who had left active duty. The captains, all of whom were headed to a first or second tour in Iraq, were lamenting the ancient tedium of their coursework. "Setting up linear defenses on Civil War battlefields does nothing to prepare us for modern combat," one of them said.
EWS instructors—and others looking to learn about modern combat—should study The Highway War. Major Seth Folsom's memoir about his command of Delta Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, is the finest account of infantry combat in the 2003 push to Baghdad that you'll ever read. By candidly contributing the company commander's perspective to the growing body of Iraq war literature, Folsom has offered peers, seniors, and subordinates a tactical decision game resource wrapped up in good storytelling.
Published this past June, Folsom's book was swept aside amid others that focus on the current state of the Iraq war. But members of the military, particularly professional Marines, should not miss this gem. Folsom's book doesn't offer strategic advice, but his wry style and rapid-fire episodic narrative give readers a chance to walk a mile in his lonely, blistered feet.
Folsom, at times painfully so, is harder on himself than his readers would be. Several times in the beginning of the book, he feels Eke a "complete failure" as a commander. As he analyzes his bitterness and navigates his path to success, readers who have served in Marine units will appreciate his perspective on the politics, pressures, and frustrations a company commander must face.
That doesn't mean readers will always agree with Folsom's calls, but that is part of the beauty of the book. Marines now on their third tour in Iraq will chuckle at the sense of urgency Folsom felt with getting his unit into combat. Others might wonder if Folsom saw the opportunities he lost by not wanting his light armored vehicle warriors to "play policeman" in April 2003. Others could question his attitude toward his media embed. Folsom's repeated conflicts with ABC's Bob Woodruff—who was wounded in January 2006—reflect an unprofessional chip on the captain's shoulder. His perpetual disdain for the media appears to make him less effective in the all-important information operations campaign.
But we can only Monday-morning quarterback Folsom's calls because he has described them so well. Several of his combat scenes rank with the finest war prose penned, right up there with Folsom's literary hero, William Manchester. Accounts at The Elbow and The Tunnel of company- and platoon-level combat should be studied by future tacticians looking to ready themselves for war in the months and decades to come.
Reflecting the operational level of company command, Folsom's book is a cross between Generation Kill by Evan Wright and The March Up by retired Major General Ray Smith and Bing West. At one moment Folsom is standing next to colonels and generals at high-level briefings; an instant later, he's blasting Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne at full volume—the modern equivalent of the fife and drum—and bellowing out the lyrics with his lance corporals. His fee lings about both will strike a chord with others who have shared similar circumstances.
The Highway War is not recommended for military novices. It is filled with acronyms and jargon, thus it is not easy reading for the uninitiated. But for those who know their northings and laager sites, Folsom's book is far from dead-lined. He's gunned up, buttoned down, and crossing the LD in full attack. Read it, and enjoy the snapshot of the fight with Delta's Dragons.
Mr. Danelo, a 1998 Naval Academy graduate and former Marine captain, is the author of Blood Stripes: The Grunts View of the War in Iraq (Stackpole Books, 2006) and the editor of U.S. Cavalry ON Point. He is Proceedings 2005 Co-Author of the Year.
Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Ian Toll. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. 540 pp. Notes. Bib. $27.95.
By Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Navy
In a confused international scene, with a global war raging in the background, a new nation grapples with fundamental divisions over the size, armament, training, and deployment of its nascent military. Iraq, 2006? Try the newly independent United States of America at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.
Six Frigates is a superb, page-turning history of America's first truly difficult set of political military decisions-both domestically and internationally. While the book focuses largely on the creation of the U.S. Navy, many ancillary issues are closely examined, ranging from the debate over a standing Army—the thin edge of dictatorship, as one contemporary commentator called it—to the exorbitant cost of new ship construction (some things never change).
This is a great, sprawling, and fascinating tale, well told in a voice reminiscent of the fine sea writer Patrick O'Brian, author of a superb series of books following the fictional, but largely fact-based, exploits of a British naval commander during the same period. The names of the first six frigates of the U.S. Navy—Constitution, Constellation, United States, Congress, President, and Chesapeake—arethe leitmotif that flows through the book, and in particular the story of their most famous one-on-one duels are stirringly told.
Toll takes the reader carefully through the political debates over the size and cost of the ships, as well as discussing in depth the naval architecture controversies, from the size of the new designs (larger than conventional frigates of the era, and faster than the lumbering giant ships-of-the-line) and the use of sturdy live oak in the construction of the bulwarks (leading to Constitution's nickname of "Old Ironsides").
Using the operations of the ships from the late 1700s through the early 1800s, Toll unfolds several fascinating early chapters in the history of the Navy, including:
- Quasi-War with France—Stumbling diplomatically into a conflict with the nation's first ally, the United States acquitted itself well in several initial battles at sea.
- Barbary Pirate Wars—Balancing the pragmatic course of paying a ransom against the high cost of fielding a Navy and sailing into combat, the young United States found itself in a stop-and-start series of mini-wars (fought largely, but not exclusively, at sea) with the Barbary pirates of Africa's Northern coast.
- War of 1812 against Great Britain—While the capital burned, the United States managed to push back hard against the dominant global power in a war that highlighted the ability of the young U.S. naval officer corps and led to a genuine sense of arrival for the young republic.
In the course of telling the story of the six frigates, we meet the United States Navy's impressive young officers-John Barry, holder of the first commission; Thomas Truxtun, stern disciplinarian; the swashbuckling Stephen Decatur; hard-luck William Bainbridge, Edward Preble, the taut, hot-tempered down-easterner from Maine; Oliver Hazard Perry, whose stirring victories on the Great Lakes thrilled the nation; and the best shipbuilder of his age, Joshua Humphreys. Each has a part to play in the story both of the frigates and the nation they ably served.
Along the way, the reader is treated to superb discussions of several of the most famous single-ship duels in maritime history, including Constitution versus Guerriere, United States versus Macedonian, and Constitution versus Java. We also are given a good view of the campaigns on the Great Lakes during the War of l812, especially the battles of Lake Champlain and Lake Erie-where Perry declared, "We have met the enemy and they are ours."
While the book could benefit greatly from charts of the battles, maps of the U.S. coasts and Great Lakes, and depictions of some of the famous naval officers, this is a small quibble. This is a terrific story, well told, that brings to life the very beginnings and therefore the founding culture of our U.S. Navy.
Admiral Stavridis, who holds a PhD in International Relations from Tufts University, is commander, U.S. Southern Command. He has commanded the USS Barry (DDG-52), Destroyer Squadron 21, and the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Carrier Strike Group. Ashore, he served in a wide variety of strategic and long-range planning assignments.
Colonel H. Avery Chenoweth, USMC (Ret.) with Colonel Brooke Nihart, USMC (Ret.). New York: Main Street, 2006. 480 pp. IIlus. Appens. Glossary. Index. $29.98.
Reviewed by Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan C. Knauth, U.S. Marine Corps
The introduction to Semper Fi provides a reader uninitiated to the ways of the Marine Corps a glimpse into the varied aspects of Corps life, striking on subjects such as our motto, boot camp, Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), mission, and Marine Corps values. It provides a brief insight into the Corps that segues into the detailed history that comprises the rest of the book.
This is a graphic book, and the authors use numerous illustrated details, facts, and timelines to break up the text flow into attention-grabbing, digestible, and entertaining bites. A subtle, but highly creative aspect of the presentation is the use of battle streamers to indicate the start of a new era or chapter and to highlight significant Marine Corps campaigns within the book.
Presented primarily as a pictorial history of the Marine Corps, this book is crammed with interesting facts, historical information, and fun-to-know tidbits that were news to even a 13-year veteran of the Corps. The information is well presented in a timeline fashion that makes it easy to track through Marine Corps history and the book. The photographs and illustrations, particularly those of the early 20th century, are amazing in their clarity and detail, and offer a rare glimpse into much of the Corps' renowned history.
Inset photos are professionally done with very clean edging and superb definition, are well placed, and provide interesting diversions for the reader. They break up the flow of the text by providing ancillary details about such topics as weaponry, gear, insignia, and Medal of Honor recipients. Many colorful quotes and stories from some of the Corps' legendary individuals are interspersed as well.
Where the images are the heart of this presentation, those in the last two chapters, the most recent events, are not on a par with those depicting the Corps' earlier history. The imagery lacks the dynamic aspects and impact that one would expect from modern-day photography. Much of the recent imagery is flat—one-dimensional—when compared to that found in previous chapters.
The book's structured timeline format gets lost in the last chapter as the authors seem to have crammed in last-minute information without the same thought or preparation that went into previous chapters. This detracts from the impact that this final chapter should serve, creating an abrupt ending that left me with the sense that part of the book was missing.
That aside, Semper Fi is thoroughly entertaining, informative, and enjoyable to read. The text does a sound job of telling Marine Corps history while the illustrations paint a vivid, dynamic picture of our Corps. This is a book for not only all Marines, past and present, but also those who enjoy military history.
Gunnery Sergeant Knauth, a combat photographer, is senior non-commissioned officer in charge of MCAS Yuma Combat Camera Unit. He won two each of first, second-, and third-place awards in the 2005 U.S. Marine Corps Combat Camera competition.