IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Spy Jonathan Pollard caught on tape

Surveillance video from 1985 shows American Jonathan Pollard stealing secrets for Israel. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.

What you see here is rarely caught on tape — a spy in action.

"This is Pollard actually in the act of stealing highly classified information," says formal Naval investigator Ron Olive. "1500 top secret documents in a matter of seconds."

Olive helped catch Jonathan Pollard and has written a book about the Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel.

NBC News has obtained surveillance video, which for the first time, actually shows Pollard pilfering classified documents and stuffing them into a briefcase supplied by Israel.

When a co-worker walks by, Pollard reaches to close his drawer, then resumes what's he's doing.

"That tells us that he knows that he is stealing," says Olive.

Soon, the briefcase is so full Pollard has trouble closing it! But eventually he succeeds and walks out the door with some of America's most sensitive secrets.

Over 18 months, he stole an estimated 1 million documents, including sensitive intelligence about the Soviet Union and the Middle East, potentially compromising sources and methods.

"It devastated the national security of this country," says Olive.

Though Pollard confessed to the crime, leaders of Israel and Pollard's supporters in the U.S. have vigorously lobbied to get him released from prison or pardoned, arguing that he was, after all, spying for a friend of the U.S., not a sworn enemy.

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison and has served 20 years.

"He has served longer than any American in history for spying for an ally, and every day he spends in prison now is a day of injustice," says Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz.

But prosecutors and those familiar with the still-classified details of what Pollard gave the Israelis for $54,000 in cash and gifts say that a pardon is unthinkable.

"It was the closest guarded secrets that this country had," says Olive.

The Israeli government says it will continue to work for Pollard's release on humanitarian grounds.