Pollard's Time

The Forward - Editorial - December 10, 1993

It's easy to forget, amid all the hysteria as President Clinton considers whether to grant Jonathan Pollard's request for clemency, that our government contracted with him, after bargaining for a plea, not to seek the maximum sentence. So it seems kind of late for the justice Department to be riding into the Oval Office with a sudden recommendation against commutation of Pollard's prison term to time served. It is particularly inappropriate to see the politically ambitious former federal prosecutor, Joseph DiGenova, campaigning publicly against Pollard with charges he never brought to a judge or jury.

We have said repeatedly here that the one case against clemency would be a demonstration that Pollard still possesses knowledge the sharing of which would be dangerous, but that's not the argument we hear being made. If that argument could have been sustained, it's hard to imagine the government would have made its original deal envisioning less than a life sentence. We have not published a syllable in this newspaper making light of the crime Pollard did commit; even the one count to which he pled is extremely serious. But the time he has served is also serious.

We are in a period now where our own government is disclosing the most intimate secrets of the Cold War, is sharing them at seminars with our old Soviet foes and is welcoming terrorist leaders to peace-making ceremonies on the White House lawn. Surely the charity that is shown to our erstwhile enemies can be shown to one of our own who panicked under the pressure of what he saw in our secret files.

Prime Minister Rabin, who made his own plea to Mr. Clinton on Pollard's behalf, is as staunch a friend as America has overseas. It will not be easy for Mr. Clinton to act on this issue. But it would be a courageous thing for him to do so now and grant clemency without compromise or gimmicks

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