Jonathan Pollard Biography

Jonathan Jay Pollard is a former U.S. defense analyst who gained notoriety for his conviction of spying and sharing classified information with Israel. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987, making him the first American to receive such a severe punishment for providing top-secret information to a U.S. ally. Pollard claimed that his actions were driven by the belief that the American intelligence establishment was jeopardizing Israel’s security by withholding vital information. He admitted to selling numerous confidential state secrets and exposing the identities of thousands of individuals who assisted U.S. intelligence agencies. Despite efforts from Israeli officials, American politicians, and activist groups to reduce his sentence, many high-ranking U.S. officials opposed any form of leniency. After serving thirty years in prison, Pollard was finally released on November 20, 2015.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Jonathan Jay Pollard
  • Age: 69 Years, 69 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Anne Henderson Pollard, Elaine Zeitz
    • Father: Morris Pollard
    • Mother: Molly Pollard
  • American Men
  • Stanford University
  • City: Galveston, Texas
  • U.S. State: Texas
  • More Facts:
    • Education: 1976 – Stanford University, Tufts University

Childhood & Early Life

Jonathan Pollard was born on August 7, 1954, in Galveston, Texas, to Jewish parents Morris Pollard and Molly Pollard. He was the youngest of three children. In 1961, his father, a microbiologist, moved the family to South Bend, Indiana, where he became a professor at the University of Notre Dame. Growing up, Pollard was aware of the Holocaust and the impact it had on his family. His parents instilled in him and his siblings a strong sense of Jewish identity and a passion for the cause of Israel. In 1970, Pollard visited Israel for the first time during a science program at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He graduated from Stanford University in 1976 with a degree in political science.


In 1979, Pollard was denied a job by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after failing a polygraph test that revealed his drug use from 1974 to 1978. He was also suspected of fabricating stories that portrayed him as an Israeli intelligence agent. He then attended Tufts University to study law and diplomacy. From September 1979, he worked at the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NFOIO) in Maryland. The NFOIO tried to obtain information about Pollard from the CIA during a background check, but the CIA did not provide any information. In 1981, after the NFOIO discovered his repeated lies, they revoked his security clearance and advised him to seek psychiatric help. However, his security clearance was later restored after he filed a grievance and threatened legal action.

In mid-1984, Pollard expressed his desire to work as a spy to Aniem Sella, a former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot who later became the Director of Operations. A few days later, in June 1984, Pollard began his espionage activities by passing classified information to Sella. He received monetary compensation and other benefits for his services. In October 1984, he was hired as an analyst at the Naval Intelligence Command in response to his application. His espionage activities were first suspected by a co-worker and later confirmed by his superior in 1985. He was interrogated by the FBI, and during this time, he called his wife Anne to remove classified documents from their home. Although Anne transferred most of the documents to a neighbor who was a naval officer, the FBI still obtained some documents that went unnoticed by Anne. When Pollard was asked to undergo a polygraph test, he admitted to his espionage activities with Israel. His neighbor, who had become suspicious of the suitcase full of documents, contacted military intelligence and cooperated with the investigation.

On November 21, 1985, Pollard and his wife Anne attempted to seek refuge in the Israeli Embassy, but they were turned away by the Israeli guards. Pollard was then arrested by FBI agents, while Anne managed to escape. Pollard’s espionage activities were later revealed to include passing top-secret information to South Africa, stealing data related to China for his wife’s business, and attempting to negotiate an arms deal with Iran and Pakistan. He compromised sensitive information about American intelligence sources and methods and disclosed the names of thousands of individuals who assisted the US intelligence network. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison on March 4, 1987, while Anne received a five-year prison term.

Personal Life & Legacy

On August 9, 1985, Pollard married Anne Henderson in Venice, Italy. However, due to his life sentence, Pollard chose to divorce Anne, and they officially divorced in 1990. He later married Canadian teacher and activist Esther “Elaine” Zeitz. There have been doubts about the legality of their marriage, as Esther conducted Pollard’s release campaign and held a public hunger strike for him. Throughout his imprisonment, there were efforts by pro-Israel groups, Israeli officials, and some US politicians to secure his release or reduce his sentence. However, many former and current US officials opposed any form of clemency, arguing that Pollard’s espionage was driven by greed rather than patriotism. After serving thirty years in prison, Pollard was released on November 20, 2015.

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