Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Jonathan Jay Pollard Spy Case

Cloud of Suspicion

In the spring of 1985, James Agee caught Pollard in two outright lies. Neither was about anything of great importance to the agency. Rather, they were fibs designed to make Pollard seem like a bigshot. Agee saw nothing extremely sinister in the man's lying but it raised a red flag as to his trustworthiness.

At approximately the same time, Jay's work for the NIS began to slide in quantity if not in quality. It can be a daunting task to fire someone who works for the government but that was the general direction in which Agee's aims regarding this employee were heading.

Then, by pure happenstance, an incident occurred that set off loud warning bells for Agee. He was strolling past a clerk's desk and idly picked up a few envelopes. He saw papers labeled 'Top Secret' and dealt with intelligence regarding Soviet military equipment going to Arab states. It was also, according to Agee, about "subjects which we, as an organization, had absolutely no interest in or should have had no interest in."

Agee irritably asked the clerk, "What the hell does this have to do with anything we're dealing with? Why did we get this?"

"Jay Pollard ordered them," the clerk responded.

"What does he need these documents for?"

"I don't know."

Agee strode to the office of Pollard's immediate supervisor, civilian analyst Tom Filkens. Agee ordered Filkens to find out why Pollard had ordered these papers "and then get rid of them. Let me know why he got them. Destroy them or send them back. We are not going to keep them here."

When Filkens asked Pollard about the papers, he calmly said: "They're background for a project I'm doing on terrorist threats in the Caribbean."

The explanation was accepted.

However, the dissatisfaction with Pollard grew. He was an unproductive, unreliable employee. Agee and others believed the division would be better off without this boastful slacker.

In September 1985, Agee told Filkens to formally warn Pollard that if he did not soon produce a long-overdue report, he would get an official notice that he was not performing his duties. That is the initial step toward firing someone.

On a day shortly after that, Pollard was absent from the office from early morning until late afternoon. Agee thought the man was neglecting his work to traipse about at will. He asked Jay where he had been.

"I was doing research at another intelligence library," was Pollard's easy and immediate reply.

Agee had not had the man followed but suspected that he was lying so he decided to call him on it. "That's not true," he replied, bluffing in a firm voice.

"Okay," Pollard said. "You caught me." Pollard claimed he had gone on a job interview but lied because, for obvious reasons, it is not a good practice to tell your present employer that you are putting out feelers elsewhere.

Agee accepted this false story as welcome news. If Pollard quit of his own volition, it would save Agee the time and trouble involved in firing him. Privately, he wished the man luck in getting a position elsewhere.

Something happened on October 1, 1985 that filled Jay Pollard with joy and pride. Israel bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Approximately 60 people, some of them civilians, died. Many people expected Yassir Arafat to be killed in the raid because his residence was located at the Tunisian headquarters. However, he escaped uninjured because he was not home at the time.

Jay was proud because he had collected and passed to the Israelis information about Arafat's headquarters and Tunisia's air defense system, together with Libya's air defense system (the Israelis had to fly over Libya on the way to Tunisia), that had been utilized by Israel in planning the raid.

The raid was in retaliation for triple killing of unarmed Israeli civilians by a PLO group called Force 17. That incident had occurred on September 25, Yom Kippur weekend.

As the month wore on, Agee grew increasingly concerned that Pollard was not going to quit. Thus, Agee needed to gather more information to justify dismissing him. He thought he was getting it when one of Pollard's co-workers phoned to say he had spotted Jay leaving the office with what appeared to be Top Secret documents. If he was taking such materials home, he was breaking his contract and could be kicked out. Following up on the lead, Agee discovered that Pollard was regularly picking up such documents on Fridays documents that were in no way necessary to his work. He began monitoring Pollard closely and examining items around his cubicle.

Early on November 9, 1985, a Saturday morning, Agee was examining everything he could find in Pollard's desk and work area. He had been doing it for several hours when the realization hit him like a bolt of lightning: "I've got a spy here!"

Agee immediately phoned Lanny McCullah, the head of counterintelligence at the Naval Security and Investigative Command in Suitland, Maryland. He informed McCullah that a most serious problem was afoot and one that could not be discussed over the telephone. Agee drove to McCullah's home and shared with him all that he had discovered about Jay Pollard.

McCullah came to the same conclusion Agee had: "The guy's a goddamned spy."

When discussing what country it was that could be interested in the data Pollard was gathering, both concluded it was Israel.

Then Agee and McCullah met with other agents to plan how to make a case against Pollard. They all agreed it was vital to catch him off-guard.

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