WASHINGTON (Jul. 2)
Attorney General Edwin Meese appeared to distance himself on Wednesday from statements emanating from the Justice Department that Israel has not been sufficiently helpful in the Jonathan Pollard espionage investigation.
“My understanding is that the Israeli government is cooperating in that case,” the Attorney General said at a press briefing in which the Pollard issue was raised only briefly.
Although Meese has consistently refrained from speaking publicly about the Pollard case, Justice Department officials had been quoted in the press as charging that the espionage activities of Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy analyst accused of spying for Israel, were part of an extensive operation authorized by the Israeli government and that Israel had withheld information on the case in violation of an agreement to cooperate with U.S. investigators.
WHITE HOUSE SAYS ISRAEL IS COOPERATING
The State Department and White House have since maintained that Israel has fully cooperated with the American investigation of the case, and that this is the view of the entire Administration. But a Justice Department official was subsequently quoted in the press maintaining that Meese had never approved of the statement.
By saying it was his understanding that Israel has cooperated, Meese also appeared to avoid saying that he personally was convinced Israel had done all it could do to comply with its pledge to make information on the case available.
At the same time, he downplayed the public criticism of Israel by FBI Director William Webster, who recently charged that Israel was extending only “selective cooperation” in the Pollard investigation.
DEFENDS FBI DIRECTOR
“Don’t forget that Mr. Webster was answering a question and the question was don’t you agree that the Israeli government has not been cooperating with the United States government in the Pollard investigation? And he made it an affirmative statement by saying that they had been selectively cooperative,” Meese maintained.
A high level Israeli delegation met with Justice Department officials in Washington on Monday to discuss the prospects fro bringing criminal charges here against an Israeli Colonel, Aviem Sella, who was named as an unindicted conspirator in the indictment of Pollard. Sella, who allegedly served as Pollard’s chief contact with the Israeli government, was never mentioned in the interviews conducted by an American delegation in Israel last December.
Two others interviewed by that delegation received immunity from prosecution in exchange for their agreement to be questioned and were subsequently among the four Israelis named as unindicted co-conspirators in the indictment. The fourth was Irit Erb, a secretary at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.