It's Time We All Saw The "Secret Charges" Against Jonathan Pollard
Richard Z. Chesnoff - US NEWS And World Report Correspondent
JEWISH WORLD REVIEW - March 5 1999
[May be Reprinted with appropriate accreditation]
WHO KNOWS MORE ABOUT THE DANGERS of half-truths and phony smears than
William Jefferson Clinton? So let's hope that now that his impeachment
trial is over, the President will keep those dangers in mind as he
starts dealing with some of the real issues he faces. Among them: the
fate of Jonathan Pollard.
Pollard's the former American naval intelligence aide caught spying for
Israel in 1985 and then handed a
life sentence after the United States
government reneged on a plea bargain deal. During the recent Wye
Plantation Mideast Conference, Clinton solemnly promised Israeli leaders
he'd carefully reconsider clemency for Pollard.
That notwithstanding, Prisoner Pollard's still being denied basic legal
rights by both the Justice Department and Pentagon. The same
inside-the-beltway crowd that's steadily refused to allow Pollard to be
interviewed in his federal prison under normal freedom of press
conditions, also denies Pollard's lawyers a detailed account of the
"secret" charges against their client.
This stonewalling hasn't prevented faceless US intelligence sources from
continuing to spread alleged details of those charges in an attempt to
further discredit Pollard: everything from claims he stole codes he
claims he had no access to, to the outrageous speculation that Israel
passed his espionage material to the Soviet Union -- then its biggest
An amazing number of people have swallowed this disinformation. Seymour
Hersh, who's made Israel bashing a second career, took up the
anti-Pollard cry in a recent article in the New Yorker. That's the same
Hersh who once wrote an "investigative" book about Israeli nuclear
capacity without even bothering to visit there for his investigating.
Hersh isn't alone. A recent op-ed piece by Peter Beinart in the NY Times
churlishly implied that American Jews pleading for mercy for Pollard are
guilty of dual loyalty.
Beinart doesn't have to worry about Senator Joe Lieberman. The
Connecticut senator loudly rejects the idea of any mercy for Pollard.
Lieberman, who likes being touted as "a devoutly orthodox Jew", was
among the first to put his John Hancock on a letter demanding Clinton
turn Pollard's clemency request down. Yet the annoyingly self-righteous
senator sees nothing wrong in the fact that Pollard can't see the same
details of the charges against him that Lieberman claims he's seen. Even
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright argues that
there are "no compelling foreign policy reasons" for clemency.
I don't agree. Freeing Pollard could help win the confidence of many
Israeli opponents to the peace process for who Pollard's freedom is a
major cause. But diplomacy aside, there is another very compelling
reason to grant Jonathan Pollard the clemency that he deserves. It's
what Mrs Albright's grandfather might have referred to as "rakhmunes"
- mercy - a sacred biblical duty that ranks right up there with truth and
A trio of senior figures from the American Jewish community -- World
Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman, Harvard Law School's Alan
Dershowitz and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel -- have asked to see the
President to plead Pollard's case.
*[Justice for JP: The President has
not responded to the request made months ago.]
They won't claim he's a hero; Pollard committed serious crimes. But they
will point out that his sentence is harsher than some meted out to
turncoats who sold security secrets to our worst enemies. Mostly they
will say that after 14 years behind bars, he should be allowed to leave
for Israel of which he is now a citizen.
In the meantime, Pollard deserves basic justice. His lawyers -- and the
public -- must be permitted to see what this man is really charged with.
JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a
senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist
at the NY Daily News. His book on the wartime plunder of the Jews,
Pack of Thieves, will be published by Doubleday this spring.