The Pollard Case: The Colman/Lieberman Correspondence
Editorial, The Jewish Press - June 9, 2000
In the March 17th issue of The Jewish Press we published an open letter NYS Assemblyman Sam Colman (Colman also serves as Democratic Whip of the Assembly) wrote to U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, chiding him for thwarting the freeing of Jonathan Pollard. Mr. Colman asked Senator Lieberman, given the Draconian sentence imposed on Pollard for Israel: "Don't you understand that he (Pollard) was arrested as an American but punished as a Jew?" Senator Lieberman responded in a letter which was reprinted in The Jewish Press, in which Mr. Lieberman said that Jonathan Pollard did a terrible thing with the greatest adverse consequences for the United States and that in any event, "as a general personal policy, I believe the courts, which have access to the full breadth of evidence and testimony in criminal cases, are in the best position to decide matters of guilt or innocence, and sentencing. They should do so without influence from elected legislators, or our courts will not be truly free and independent."
In an April l0th letter, again carried in The Jewish Press, Assemblyman Colman acknowledged that Pollard's crimes were serious but noted that a letter signed by 61 Senators, including Senator Lieberman, which Mr. Colman referred to as the "Lieberman letter," represented the sort of political involvement the Senator said he eschewed. Assemblyman Colman also noted that it was the political involvement of Caspar Weinberger that resulted in the life sentence for Pollard, such that Lieberman's non-intervention policy was misplaced, at least in this case. Here is Senator Lieberman's response:
This letter is in answer to your letter of April l0, 2000, regarding the Pollard case.
The letter to President Clinton signed by 61 Senators was not initiated by me. You are the only person I have ever heard call it the "Lieberman letter," perhaps because that is factually incorrect. It was initiated by Senators Shelby and Kerrey, then respectively, Chairman and Ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Deciding whether to sign or not was very difficult for me notwithstanding my conclusions about the seriousness of Mr. Pollard's crimes, because of my previously described policy of political non-intervention in criminal cases. I ultimately decided to sign the Shelby-Kerrey letter because of my previously described policy of political non-intervention in criminal cases. I ultimately decided to sign the Shelby-Kerrey letter because I viewed its primary purpose to be to urge the President not to be pressured by participants in the Middle East peace process to make a decision in the Pollard case that was not on the merits. In that sense the letter was consistent with the principles that led me to my personal policy of non-intervention in criminal cases, which should be decided on the merits, not on political pressure.
We are dismayed by Senator Lieberman's reference to President Clinton's being "pressured by participants in the Middle East peace process to make a decision in the Pollard case that was not on the merits," and his comment that the Pollard issue should be "decided on the merits, not on political pressure."
Is the Senator suggesting that we and others who urge the release of Pollard are doing so not on the "merits"? Is he suggesting that we are choosing freedom for Pollard over the interests of the United States? For shame!
Of course the reverse is true. We firmly believe that on the merits, Pollard was unjustly sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. The sentence was unprecedented in its severity, and we believe that this occurred because of the fact that Pollard spied for the Jewish State. Correcting this injustice is, to our mind, very much in the best interests of our country, Senator Lieberman.
Many officials claim to have seen the non-public information contained in the Pollard file, and state that what they have seen justifies the sentence imposed on Pollard. Yet this past week United States Senator Charles Schumer of New York disclosed that he had seen the file and didn't believe there was anything of the sort in it. Which raises the issue: Maybe it's time for Senator Lieberman to review the file, if he has not as yet done so, and not rely on the accounts of others.
It has been reported that Senator Lieberman was recently asked what it is that he saw in Pollard's classified file that was so disturbing that it warranted a grossly disproportionate life sentence. Senator Lieberman replied that
he has never seen Pollard's file, and that
all that he knows about the case he learned from CIA briefings... Senator Charles Schumer, unlike Lieberman, has seen the Pollard classifed file, and he states that there is nothing in it to justify the harsh and unprecedented sentence that Jonathan Pollard is serving.
See Also: Colman Appeals to Lieberman's Conscience
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