Bush's unforgivable failure
Esther Pollard - WorldNetDaily - January 27, 2009
Israel's continuing abandonment of its agent, my husband, Jonathan Pollard, and its failure to support his bid for presidential clemency is reprehensible.
But no matter how morally repugnant the behavior of successive Israeli governments toward Jonathan may be, this does not excuse President George W. Bush's abdication of his responsibility to exercise his powers of clemency to right a two-decades-long injustice, especially in a case where no other avenue of relief exists.
The extensive powers of clemency the American Constitution grants to the president are his solemn responsibility. The Constitution grants these powers as part of the president's duty to safeguard the rights of all American citizens, especially in those cases where the judicial system either cannot or will not correct itself.
No issue can be taken with President Bush's unwillingness to use his powers of clemency for political expediency or reward. Nor would anyone quarrel with his unwillingness to bow to political pressure to grant clemencies in cases where the sentences were relatively short and the offenses serious.
Similarly, no issue can be taken with Bush's refusal to use his powers of clemency for those who were not in prison, but just seeking a pardon in order to restore their civil rights.
In cases such as these, where the justice system is not off kilter and the public good is neither threatened nor improved by the president's intervention, it is truly his prerogative whether or not to intervene.
But, in the case of Jonathan Pollard, where the ends of justice have been ill-served, where the judicial system has been inappropriately used to prosecute one American citizen excessively to serve other purposes, there was at very least a moral imperative compelling presidential involvement.
The median sentence for the offense Jonathan committed is two to four years. Jonathan is now in his 24th year of a life sentence with no end in sight.
After numerous security briefings on the issue, Rep. Anthony Weiner recently wrote in a letter to the president: "The life sentence which Jonathan Pollard is now serving is not a reflection of the severity of the crimes he committed, but rather the result of past ineffective counsel and a damage assessment report written by an intelligence community that was badly shaken by unrelated espionage cases earlier that year."
Even former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, the man who drove Jonathan's grossly disproportionate sentence, admitted in an interview before his death that the Pollard case was in fact "a minor matter" that had been exaggerated to serve other ends.
Nor is parole an option, as Jonathan's attorneys have explained:
Applying for parole is not an option for Mr. Pollard, because of a severe impediment which has been unilaterally imposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ has refused to allow Mr. Pollard's current attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman (both of whom have the appropriate Top Secret/SCI-eligible security clearances), from seeing the documents that were submitted to the sentencing judge prior to Mr. Pollard's sentencing in 1987. Although Mr. Pollard's lawyers have a clear "need to know," the DOJ has refused to allow them to see their client's entire court file, which is partly under seal. Without access to that file, persons opposed to parole know that they have free reign to say absolutely anything about Mr. Pollard without any risk that they will be contradicted by the documents.
The impediment cited above, hidden behind a veil of secrecy, has hamstrung all of Jonathan's efforts to bring his case back to court, and in the process all legal remedies have been exhausted.
Having served 24 years in the harshest conditions the American penal system has to offer, Jonathan is ill, his immune system depleted, and his very survival is at stake. In such a case, it was the solemn responsibility of the president to act. It was a sacred duty, not a mere prerogative.
Clemency petitions submitted by ordinary citizens like my husband need to have merit in order to survive the weeding-out process that takes place before a petition makes it to the president. The fact that we received confirmation that Jonathan's petition had made it onto George W. Bush's desk speaks volumes about its merit. The petition had been scrutinized by all the appropriate American officials and approved. The injustice it describes is clear, and even more so, the grossly disproportionate sentence Jonathan is serving.
This petition for executive clemency was my husband's avenue of last resort to resolve an injustice that now threatens to end his life in prison. The sublimely moral task of saving Jonathan's life, while at the same time safeguarding the American public good by correcting this injustice, fell to out-going President Bush.
George W. Bush failed morally, failed his presidency and the entire American nation, when he failed to discharge his solemn responsibility to safeguard the rights of all American citizens by acting to right a case where the American judicial system has clearly gone awry.
It is ironic that Bush, who boasted of such strong ties to Israel and of his friendship with the American Jewish community, chose to turn his back on a case that is so often exploited by government elements hostile to the Jews to call into question the reliability of Israel as an ally and the loyalty of the American Jewish community.
Worse still, it is unforgivable that Mr. Bush's callous abdication of responsibility in this case and his failure to exercise his powers of clemency for the national good unjustly condemns my husband, Jonathan, to languish in prison, G-d forbid, unto death.
Esther Pollard is the wife of imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard. For further information on the Jonathan Pollard case, visit the J4JP website.