Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clemency for Jonathan Pollard - A New Appeal

Last Sunday there was a post in Matzav.com that detailed the basis of a new appeal to the President for clemency for Jonathan Pollard .

Pollard was caught and convicted of spying for Israel while working as a naval intelligence officer for the CIA. The prosecution claimed that his offence was so serious and the compromise to security so massive that it endangered the United States and the lives of covert agents working abroad. Then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger argued that it warranted abrogating a plea deal whereby Pollard would receive a lighter sentence in exchange for his full cooperation – which he gave.

The book was thrown at him and he was sentenced to life in prison. Many people Jew and non Jew saw this as a grossly unfair sentence back then including me. But at the same time none of us had all the facts of the case because for national security reasons - they were not released to the public. So the bottom line for me is that I just didn’t know whether the sentence was just or not since I was not privy to all the information that was available to prosecutors and the judge.

Nonetheless I have no problem with petitioning the President for clemency. My gut feeling is that Pollard’s punishment was too harsh. I think Pollard has been punished enough for his crime. 25 years is a long time and he should be released. The details of the appeal do not address the facts themselves but they reveal a level of bias that support accusations that there has been a great injustice done here. Among some of the things mentioned are the following. From Matzav.com:

(Rafi) Eitan, who was Pollard’s (Israeli) handler, revealed on Thursday after press time that the US had violated an oral agreement with Israel to release Pollard after 10 years. In an interview with Israel Radio, Eitan also accused the US of deliberately perpetrating a travesty of justice by violating Pollard’s plea agreement and slapping him with what he called a grossly disproportionate life sentence.

He pointed out that at the time of Pollard’s sentencing in 1987, secret charges were laid against Pollard blaming him for the crimes of a Russian mole within American intelligence, Aldrich Ames. Pollard was neither informed of these charges nor given a chance to challenge them in a court of law.

(Lawrence J.) Korb who was assistant secretary of defense under Caspar Weinberger at the time of Pollard’s arrest, wrote a letter to Obama calling for Pollard’s release that was released last week. The letter called Pollard’s sentence “grossly disproportionate” and said it was the result of Weinberger’s “visceral dislike” of Israel, and not because of the offense Pollard had committed.

(Casper) Weinberger said in a 2002 interview that the Pollard case was a “minor matter” that had been “made much more important than it was” in order to serve another agenda.

Here we have insiders telling us about prejudice - and factors irelavant to Pollard’s guilt that nonetheless impacted his sentence. But I still have to ask why it is that so many Presidents refused to grant him clemency? From Reagan in the 1980s to Obama in the present day. The biggest impediment seemed to be the intelligence community’s opposition. It has been constantly argued that they would be demoralized and outraged at Pollard’s release!

It can’t just be anti Semitism no matter how paranoid one is about entrenched anti Semitism in the intelligence community. There has to be something so terrible that releasing Pollard would shake the intelligence establishment to the core. This seems to be the case now for over two decades.

What that is I don’t know but 5 Presidents knew and based their refusal on it. None of them can really be called anti Semites. Furthermore granting Pollard clemency would have surely boosted their stature among most Jewish voters and increased Jewish support for their Presidency. That they did not do so says a lot.

Matzav ignores these very important questions. Pollard may not have been guilty to the extent he was accused of but I assume that every President knew exactly what the details of his case were and still refused to consider commute his sentence.

Why do I bring any of this up? Justice should not require an abrogation of truth. Jonathan Pollard was apparently a lot guiltier than this appeal makes him seem.

That said, I reiterate what I said at the outset. I agree with the clemency request. Pollard’s sentence should be commuted to time served. Let him go and live in peace already. Enough is enough.