American Jewish Committee Letter to President Bush

January 5, 1993

The Honorable George Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

On June 4, 1986, Jonathan Pollard pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Although Mr. Pollard did not appeal his conviction, he sought unsuccessfully to have his sentence reduced by the district court and thereafter sought the court's approval to withdraw his guilty plea which was denied. This fall the Supreme Court denied Mr. Pollard's petition for a writ of certiorari, thereby ending judicial review of his sentence and guilty plea.

With the judicial process now ended, the American Jewish Committee requests that you exercise your constitutional power to determine whether life imprisonment was the appropriate sentence and, if not, that you reduce Mr. Pollard's sentence. In making this request, we do not seek to minimize the seriousness of the crime to which Mr. Pollard pled, nor do we suggest what the appropriate sentence should be. This is a determination that we believe can only be made by someone in authority having access to the entire record, a critical part of which remains highly classified.

By statute the courts could only grant relief to Pollard if they first determined that the sentence imposed on him resulted "in a complete miscarriage of justice" or "from an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure" - a barrier that a majority of the court of appeals concluded could not be met even if, as Pollard asserted, and the dissenting opinion concluded, the government had breached its plea agreement with Pollard. No such restrictions impede the exercise of your constitutional power to commute his sentence, if you deem commutation to be warranted.

At the time Pollard was sentenced the Cold War was at its height and there was a fear that highly sensitive intelligence information could fall into the hands of the Soviet Union or its allies, with the potential of seriously jeopardizing the security of the United States. Although the disclosure of intelligence information by Mr. Pollard was to a friendly country, Israel, Secretary of Defense Weinberger in a pre-sentencing memorandum to the court urged that it impose a sentence commensurate with the "enduring quality of the national defense information he can yet impart." By incarcerating Pollard for life, the court was undoubtedly influenced by Secretary Weinberger's plea that Pollard be quarantined for the longest possible time. Almost seven years have passed since Pollard was sentenced. The Cold War has ended and a fresh look can be taken at whether today Pollard possesses information that could endanger our countries security, even if one were to assume, which is by no means indicated, that Pollard were disposed to disclose such information to unauthorized persons.

The question remains whether or not the sentence imposed on Mr. Pollard, life imprisonment, the maximum sentence permitted under the Espionage Act, is disproportionate to the sentence imposed on others convicted under the same act, including those who either pled guilty or were convicted of turning over highly classified intelligence information to Soviet agents at the height of the Cold War. However grievous Pollard's offense, there has never been any suggestion that he was seeking to harm the United States or endanger its security by turning over classified information to Israel, a country friendly to the United States.

We make this request for review knowing of your many acts of compassion both before and during your presidency and of your commitment to the basic principle of fairness. We therefore have every confidence that if the record in he Pollard case is reviewed by you, your decision will be a just one, and for that we shall be grateful to you.

Sincerely yours,
Alfred H. Moses

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