Time for Compassion

As Mideast tensions ease, Clinton should find a more fitting sentence for Pollard.

Editorial - New York Newsday - November 15, 1993

Justice4JP Prefacing Note

In following editorial which calls for clemency for Jonathan Pollard, Newsday can barely conceal its venom towards Jonathan Pollard. But in spite of its obvious animus is, and misconstruing of the facts of Jonathan's case, the editorial clearly recognizes that Jonathan's sentence is disproportionate and reflects out-dated " political realities" rather than anything approaching proportional justice.

President Bill Clinton should reduce the treason and espionage sentence being served by Jonathan Pollard, the American sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for selling vast quantities of classified military documents to Israel. [J4JP Note: Jonathan was never accused, indicted, nor convicted of treason! Nor was he ever indicted or convicted for selling secrets to Israel. The only charge for which he was indicted was one count of passing classified information to an ally, with no intent to harm the U.S. See the Facts Page.]

Clinton, after receiving a personal appeal for leniency on Pollard's behalf by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin last week, said he will make a decision after the Justice Department reviews the case. A thorough and dispassionate review should convince Clinton that Pollard, though justly convicted, was unfairly sentenced. Pollard's life term was dictated as much by the political considerations of the time and the diplomatic exigencies of a former administration's Mideast policies as by legal or historical precedent.

Documents surfacing long after Pollard had been clapped in solitary confinement for life at the maximum-security lockup in Marion, Ill., show that former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger wrote a memo to the sentencing judge to press for the stiffest possible sentence, ostensibly to show Arab allies that the United States would not show favoritism toward Israel. Attorneys for Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst who received substantial sums for his spying, [ J4JP: Not true! Jonathan Pollard was an ideologue, and a bona fide agent of Israel, not a mercenary. See the Facts Page] to this day insist Weinberger's memorandum effectively entombed Pollard for life.

Pollard's case is unusual. It involves a U.S. citizen spying not simply for a foreign power, but for one of the nation's closest allies. Unlike the many Cold War instances in which East and West caught each other's spies routinely, a prisoner swap was impossible in this case. Pollard had no diplomatic immunity. In other times, he would have been hanged for treason. [J4JP Note: Nonsense! Jonathan Pollard was never accused of, indicted for, or convicted of treason. See the Facts Page.]

But other Americans have, in recent times, been caught spying for an ally and have received substantially more lenient sentences. [J4JP Note: Even those caught spying for enemies have received far lighter sentences than Jonathan. See Comparative Sentences.] Even though yesterday's geopolitical considerations could have justified taking a harsh line on a spy for Israel, the political equation in the Mideast today has changed. Forgiveness and compassion are no longer unthinkable between ancient foes. So, too, should an overly harsh sentence dictated by superannuated strategic calculations now be softened to match the new political realities.