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Pollard Seeks New Hearing; Jewish Groups Are Criticized for Seeking His Release

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
September-October 2003

Jonathan Pollard, sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for Israel in 1987, appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C. in September as his attorneys sought access to a secret report used in a judge’s decision in sentencing.  

Eliot Lauer, one of Pollard’s attorneys, said that the government denied 20 pages of a memorandum by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger because, it claimed, unauthorized disclosure of the secrets there might cause grave damage to U.S. national security. Access to the memo was denied on earlier requests in 1990, 2000 and 2001.  

Steven Pelak, an assistant U.S. attorney said at the hearing that earlier rulings denying Pollard access to the memo should stand. “At this time, the defense has simply not shown the need to know.”  

A number of Jewish groups and leaders have spoken out in behalf of Pollard’s release, According to Washington Jewish Week (Sept. 4, 2003), Seymour Reich, a former chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who was in the courtroom representing the conference’s Pollard committee, said, “It’s time for the president to release Pollard on humanitarian grounds. Eighteen years is enough time.” Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Weisenthal Center, hailed the hearing as “a major achievement” for Pollard’s attorneys.  

Writing in The Forward (June 28, 2003), Edwin Black, author of “IBM and The Holocaust,” states that, “It is clear by now, as it should have been from the beginning, that the Pollard case is not a Jewish communal issue. Protracted efforts to uncover anti-semitism in the case record have yielded nothing. Pollard was not given a draconian, disproportionate sentence for reasons of ethnic prejudice. He received a life sentence, in violation of a plea agreement in which the government had promised not to seek the maximum, primarily because of is own provocative conduct in the period between arrest and sentencing. That behavior, combined with government discoveries regarding the import of the classified information he compromised, deeply unnerved the judge, prosecutors, and even his own defense lawyers.”  

Though Black believes that Pollard should now be released, he argues that, “It would help if Pollard supporters stopped portraying their movement as a Jewish cause. It is not. It is a constitutional justice issue. Unfortunately, the ‘Free Pollard’ movement has promoted his cause as a Jewish issue, continually pressuring and ridiculing Israeli and American Jewish leaders seeking to define the leaders’ legitimacy by their devotion to the Pollard cause. Those efforts should be ignored ... The new address for Pollard’s campaign should be the American Civil Liberties Union.”  

Declaring that Pollard should never be freed, columnist Ralph Peters, a retired Army intelligence officer and the author of “Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World,” writes (New York Post, Sept. 3, 2003): “Spying is spying. Treason is treason. Such acts must be punished and deterred, without exception. It doesn’t matter if the recipient of the information is North Korea, Israel, or even Canada. Every American citizen’s first and incontrovertible loyalty must be to the United States. Many of us have loyalties and even family ties abroad. Every country in the world is represented in America. But while we may celebrate our various heritages, no American may ever place the welfare of another state or of a religious group or ethnicity above his or her obligations to our Constitution and our national security.”  

Peters notes that, “Perhaps the saddest - and most dangerous aspect of the Pollard case is that demands for his release are an enormous gift to anti-Semites and Israel-haters. Pollard, who has managed to recast himself as a champion of Israel, was no such thing. He was as willing to sell secrets to China or to various Muslim states as he was to pass information to Israel. His hallmark was greed, not courage ... As a determined supporter of Israel, it frustrates me no end to hear Jewish Americans defend this mercenary creature. I beg you: Stop for a moment. Ask yourself how your defense of Pollard looks to your fellow countrymen. He betrayed an elementary trust. You appear to condone it, implying that Israel should get a pass when it comes to espionage.”  

Pollard, Peters concludes, “did grave damage to American national security. And Israeli intelligence, too clever for its own good, allowed some of the information Pollard sold to end up in Soviet hands. When anyone argues for Pollard’s release, they are saying that the loss of secrets even to the Soviet Union was, ultimately, a pardonable matter. ... Pollard needs to spend next year in prison, not in Jerusalem.”  

Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Pollard, said that Pollard “got the sentence he deserved ... If Pollard wants to be released from prison, he should do what he was entitled to do in 1996, which is apply for parole. That he has never done. Mr. Pollard has purposely never applied for parole because he wants this to remain a political matter.”  

Editorially, The Washington Post (Sept. 12, 2003) declared: “Mr. Pollard’s sentence is not the most severe among people accused of espionage or related crimes. The government sought the death penalty against Brian Regan, for example, despite charging him with only attempting to spy - and eventually netted a life sentence. Therese Marie Squillacote and her husband, Kurt Alan Stand, received 21- and 17-year sentences respectively, though they were never even alleged to have successfully passed classified information to any foreign power. By contrast, Mr, Pollard, over a period of more than a year, compromised highly sensitive information. The government no doubt responded aggressively. But that is the risk you take when you become a spy. As Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court wrote in 1992 for himself and Ruth Bader Ginsburg - then a judge on the court - Mr. Pollard ‘has never denied that he is guilty of the crimes for which he is imprisoned. Nor is there any allegation that his guilty plea was induced by the promise of a specific sentence that he subsequently did not receive. Under such circumstances, it cannot be said that justice completely miscarried.’”  

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