In 1979, after leaving graduate school, Pollard began applying for intelligence service jobs, first at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and then the navy. Pollard was turned down for the CIA job after taking a polygraph test in which he admitted to prolific illegal drug usage between 1974 and 1978. He fared better with the navy and was hired by the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NFOIO), an office of the Naval Intelligence Command (NIC), as an intelligence specialist working on Soviet issues at the Navy Ocean Surveillance Information Center (NOSIC), a department of NFOIO. A background check was required for the job as well as security clearances, but no polygraph test. In addition to a 'Top Secret' clearance, a more stringent 'Sensitive Compartmented Information' (SCI) clearance was required. The navy asked for but was denied information from the CIA regarding Pollard, including the results of their pre-employment polygraph test showing Pollard's excessive drug use. Pollard was given temporary non-SCI security clearances pending completion of his background check, which was normal for new hires at the time and assigned to temporary duty at another NIC Department, the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) Surface Ships Division, where he could be employed in tasks not requiring SCI clearance.
Within two months after Pollard was hired, the technical director of NOSIC, Richard Haver, requested that he be terminated. This came after a conversation with the new hire in which Pollard offered to start a back-channel operation with the South African intelligence service and lied about his father's involvement with the CIA. Instead of terminating Pollard, Haver's boss reassigned him to a navy human intelligence (HUMINT) operation, Task Force 168 (TF-168), an office within Naval Intelligence Command (NIC), the headquarters for Navy intelligence operations. This was apparently because Pollard had a friend from graduate school in the South African intelligence service. In the vetting process for this position, Pollard, it was later discovered, lied repeatedly: he denied illegal drug use, claimed his father had been a CIA operative, misrepresented his language abilities and his educational achievements, and claimed to have applied for a commission as officer in the Naval Reserve. A month later Pollard received his SCI clearances and was transferred from NISC to TF-168
While transferring to his new job at TF-168, Pollard again initiated a meeting with someone far up the chain of command, this time with Admiral Sumner Shapiro, Commander, Naval Intelligence Command (CNIC) about an idea he had for TF-168 and South Africa. (The TF-168 group had passed on his ideas). After the meeting, Shapiro immediately ordered that Pollard's security clearances be revoked and that he be reassigned to a non-sensitive position. According to The Washington Post, Shapiro dismissed Pollard as a "kook", saying later, "I wish the hell I'd fired him."
Because of the job transfer, Shapiro's order to remove Pollard's security clearances slipped through the cracks. However, Shapiro's office followed up with a request to TF-168 that Pollard's trustworthiness be investigated by the CIA. The CIA found Pollard to be a risk and recommended that he not be used in any intelligence collection operation. A subsequent polygraph test was inconclusive, although it did prompt Pollard to admit to making false statements to his superiors, prior drug use, and having unauthorized contacts with representatives of foreign governments. The special agent administering the test felt that Pollard, who at times "began shouting and shaking and making gagging sounds as if he were going to vomit," was feigning illness to invalidate the test, and recommended that he not be granted access to highly classified information. Pollard was also required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
Pollard's clearance was reduced to Secret. Pollard subsequently filed a grievance and threatened lawsuits to recover his SCI clearance, and subsequently began receiving excellent performance reviews. In 1982, after the psychiatrist concluded Pollard had no mental illness, Pollard's clearance was upgraded to SCI once again. In October 1984, after some reorganization of the navy's intelligence departments, Pollard applied for and was accepted into a position as an analyst for the Naval Intelligence Command.
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