Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Jonathan Jay Pollard Spy Case

Pollard Meets the Pilot

Israeli Air Force Col. Aviem Sella (AP)
Israeli Air Force Col.
Aviem Sella (AP)

Pollard's plan to spy for Israel solidified when his friend, Steven Stern, described a fascinating lecture he had recently attended. The speaker had been the distinguished Israeli Air Force Colonel Aviem Sella, mastermind of the air assault against Syrian warplanes during the 1982 war in Lebanon in which Israel shot down 90 Syrian MIGs while not losing a single plane of its own. A lean and handsome man with a high forehead and strong cheekbones, the Colonel had taken a leave of absence from the Air Force so he could study computer science at New York University.

Jay listened to Stern's description of Sella's lecture with undisguised awe. Would it be possible for Stern to arrange a meeting between Pollard and Sella? Jay was more than willing to make a special trip to New York for such a meeting. Stern promised to try to set something up. The next time he saw Sella, he told him of his buddy, Jay Pollard, who badly wished to meet the Israeli Colonel about whom he had heard so much. Sella told Stern he had to think it over.

What he really had to do was clear it with his superiors, for Sella had an inkling of what Stern's friend might be up to. The Colonel contacted Yosef Yagur, a well-liked engineer who worked as science counselor at the Israeli Consulate in New York. Yagur also worked for a scientific intelligence-gathering unit of the Israeli Defense Ministry known as LAKAM. Yagur told Sella to wait while LAKAM researched Pollard. After the unit assembled information on the American, Yagur informed the career air force man to go ahead with the meeting but be very careful. After all, Pollard could easily be a plant of some kind, involved in a sting operation.

So Sella told Stern that, yes, he would meet with this Jay Pollard. No trip to the Big Apple would be necessary on Pollard's part. Rather, he, Sella, would travel to Washington, D. C.

Jay Pollard got a phone call. The voice on the other end was that of a stranger but it was friendly. "This is Avi Sella," the man said.

"Shalom!" an awestruck Pollard shouted as he leapt to his feet to stand at attention for the man who could not possibly see him.

At least, this is the version of the initial phone contact that is given in Blitzer's Territory of Lies. Knowing that it makes him sound comically childish, Pollard disputes that he jumped to attention at the call.

The pair soon met for lunch at the coffee shop of the Washington Hilton Hotel. Sitting in a corner booth, the two men made some chit chat.

Then Jay came right to the point. "I know I can help you," he told the Israeli pilot. "You have no idea how much vital information the United States is denying Israel."

The military officer was a bit put off. This was much too blunt. Was Pollard setting him up? Sella wondered uncomfortably. While saying little himself, the Israeli allowed the American to continue. As Sella listened, he became more and more convinced of Pollard's sincerity. The pilot remained cautious. He asked Jay to produce an example of the kind of material he had in mind. Pollard eagerly assured him that he could and would.

Sella reported back to Yagur who gave him a cautious go-ahead for more meetings with the prospective spy.

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