Presidential Pardon Season: Does Pollard Have A Shot?
By Adam Dickter- The Jewish Week [NY] 12/20/2012
Jonathan Pollard: Will he ever see freedom?
Once again it’s that time of the year when the president considers granting
clemencies and once again the name of Jonathan Pollard has surfaced. The
former U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst was arrested in 1985, pleaded
guilty the following year to spying for Israel and was sentenced to life in
prison. He is still there.
"There is no doubt that he paid a heavy price and, from the standpoint of
either punishment or deterrence, we believe he has been imprisoned long
enough," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) wrote in a letter to the president asking
that he commute Pollard’s sentence.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx, Rockland, Westchester) also signed the letter,
which was signed by 42 other House members, most of them Democrats. The JTA
noted, however, that a number of Republicans also signed on and that a
similar effort last year drew support from only Democrats. The fact that
Smith signed and circulated the letter indicates that Republicans -- who
until now believed Pollard’s national security breach was so egregious that
he should never be released – believe Pollard has suffered enough.
The letter was sent just days before the declassification of a 1987 CIA
damage assessment in the Pollard case that Pollard supporters said
demonstrates how the U.S. government has lied about key issues in the case.
An editorial in the Jerusalem Post said the report “bolsters official calls
for the immediate release” of Pollard. It said it confirmed claims that
“Pollard spied for Israel, not against the United States.”
Specifically, the report said Pollard was seeking nuclear, military and
technical information on the Arab states, Pakistan and the Soviet Union –
and nothing about the U.S. It said Pollard’s Israeli handlers told him to
provide them with information about Syrian drones and central
communications, Egyptian missile programs and Soviet air defenses.
An article on the website of the National Security Archive said Pollard
handed to the Israelis information on the “PLO headquarters in Tunisia; the
specific capabilities of Tunisian and Libyan air defense systems; Iraqi and
Syrian chemical warfare productions capabilities (including detailed
satellite imagery); Soviet arms shipments to Syria and other Arab states;
naval forces, port facilities, and lines of communication of various Middle
Eastern and North African countries; the MiG-29 fighter; and Pakistan’s
nuclear program” and a U.S. assessment about Israeli military capabilities.
The Jerusalem Post called this information a “game changer.” It noted that
the document said Pollard was fully cooperative with prosecutors and that
the amount of material Pollard gave Israel was “far less than claimed.” And
it said the document “reveals the subterfuge used by the U.S. government to
breach its plea agreement with Pollard” and instead request that the court
sentence him to life in prison.
Perhaps most damaging was the document’s claim that the reason the
government broke the plea deal was because Pollard gave an “unauthorized”
interview to the Jerusalem Post and his wife gave one to 60 Minutes.
“No reporter, much less one carrying a camera and a tape recorder, could
possibly gain access to a prisoner in a U.S. federal prison without
authorization,” the Post said, calling the government’s claims
And regarding the damage Pollard caused to justify such a harsh sentence?
The Post said newly released documents “reflect the damage as being nothing
more than short-term friction between the U.S. and unnamed Arab countries
and temporary reduction in bargaining leverage held by the U.S. over Israel.
Not the kind of permanent, irreversible and overwhelming harm to U.S.
national security that some have claimed.”
At the age of 58, Pollard, who has repeatedly expressed remorse for his
actions, has battled health issues for several years and was recently
The Congressional letter pointed out also that a “number of people convicted
of spying for other countries, ranging from the former Soviet Union to South
Korea, have been given lighter sentences than Mr. Pollard. We would not
expect that Mr. Pollard would be treated any better than anyone else who has
committed similar acts, but we certainly do not believe he should be treated
The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, which has
championed Pollard’s release for many years, said in a statement that it
hoped President Barack Obama would “heed the appeal of the many leaders from
a wide variety of spheres of American life, in addition to the many members
of Congress who have appealed for his release. This includes people who were
involved in the case or others who were initially opposed to any act of
Speaking in behalf of the National Council of Young Israel, Rabbi Pesach
Lerner, the group’s executive vice president emeritus, noted that unless he
is freed soon, Pollard “will spend his 10,000th day in prison. On behalf of
justice and humanitarian concerns, we join in the call for his freedom.”
We have also heard from the director of Israel Policy and Advocacy for the
Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who
issued a statement saying there is “nothing to be gained from keeping
Jonathan Pollard in prison any longer. He has suffered long enough and has
taken responsibility for his actions. For him to continue to be
incarcerated, when others who have been convicted of greater crimes and who
have been found guilty of compromising our nation’s security have served
less time, makes one wonder why he is still being held as a prisoner.”
And we have heard from the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union,
Rabbi Steven Weil, who was quoted as thanking members of Congress for their
We have yet to hear from President Obama.
JUSTICE FOR JONATHAN POLLARD
Follow J4JP on Twitter:http://twitter.com/J4JPollard
Follow J4JP on Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/justice4jp