Clinton Advisers Oppose Leniency For American Who Spied for Israel

David Johnston - The New York Times - December 7, 1993

Faced with solidifying opposition within the Administration, officials said it appeared unlikely that Mr. Clinton would shorten Mr. Pollard's sentence despite an intense lobbying campaign by American supporters and a personal plea last month by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel.

But these officials were cautious about predicting Mr. Clinton's action in exercising what is solely a Presidential power to grant clemency. They emphasized that he had yet to make up his mind and that protests following reports of his opposition to clemency could alter the dynamics of his decision making.

"There is no question that what Pollard did was wrong and cannot be justified," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League in a Sept. 15 letter to Mr. Clinton in which Mr. Foxman said he was speaking only for himself. "However, he has acknowledged his transgressions, and he has paid a steep price for them." Two Implacable Views

The emotional case has trapped Mr. Clinton between seemingly immutable and irreconcilable forces; Israel and some American Jewish groups on one side and Federal prosecutors and intelligence officials on the other. The latter group ardently opposes a pardon, citing the seriousness of Mr. Pollard's offense.

"This was largest physical compromise of United States classified information in the 20th century," said Joseph E. diGenova, a former United States Attorney here who prosecuted the case.

A precise assessment of the damage Mr. Pollard did remains classified, Mr. diGenova said, but the material he gave to Israel included a vast array of documents. Among them were numerous satellite photographs of Iraqi chemical weapons plants, code making and code breaking data that allowed the United States to eavesdrop on Israel's Arab neighbors and raw intelligence documents providing the locations of American ships and information about American training exercises.

Some Pollard supporters said the Administration had quietly floated alternative scenarios that would let Mr. Clinton avoid a decision now while holding out the prospect of future leniency. Under one proposal, the President could commute Mr. Pollard's sentence but only on the condition that he serve the nearly two years remaining before he is eligible for parole in November 1995. Another would have Mr. Clinton merely hint that he might act favorably in the future.

The officials said Mr. Clinton might decide the case by the end of the week.

Mr. Pollard systematically pilfered classified libraries of military and intelligence agencies while he was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy, Mr. diGenova said. He carried away his haul in a suitcase and photocopied it in a Northwest Washington apartment rented by his Israeli handlers, Mr. diGenova said.

One Administration official said the White House had recently ordered an expedited review of the Pollard case, directing the Justice Department to submit its recommendations no later than today. Under the law, the department's pardon attorney compiles the evaluations of all Federal agencies with comments on the Pollard case and submits them, with an overall recommendation, to the President through the Deputy Attorney General.

The officials said they did not know of any agency or official personnel, including prosecutors at the Justice Department and senior analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency or military officials at the Pentagon, who supported a pardon.

At the State Department, officials prepared an analysis that included an assessment of the foreign policy implications of both rejecting Mr. Pollard's petition and of Israel's reaction to such a decision.

It was not clear how American diplomats gauged the likely Israeli reaction, but officials said the likely disappointment in a rejection of clemency did not outweigh security concerns.

"However much the Israelis may have pressed us on this," one Administration official said, "I'm not left with the impression that there is a groundswell of support for just putting aside our espionage laws." Array of Support

Much of the support for Mr. Pollard in recent years has come from the United States, including mainstream Jewish groups, other religious organizations and civil rights figures like Benjamin L. Hooks, the former head of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Father Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame.

Some American Jewish groups once seemed reluctant to embrace Mr. Pollard's cause, because they feared they might be accused of divided loyalties between the United States and Israel and because some felt that he had embarrassed American Jews.

But with Israel moving toward peace with its neighbors, the Israeli Government, some American Jewish groups and other religious leaders have shifted toward support for Mr. Pollard, acknowledging that his crimes were serious but contending that he had been punished enough.

In September, after Mr. Rabin had signed a peace accord with the Palestinians, he wrote to Mr. Clinton asking whether in a time of "a peaceful Middle East" the President would commute Mr. Pollard's sentence on humanitarian grounds.

Theodore J. Boutrous, one of Mr. Pollard's lawyers, said, "It is the ideal time to heal this wound in the Israel-U.S. relationship." . Comparable Sentences

Mr. Pollard's lawyers argue that no other individual convicted of disclosing confidential information to an ally has received a sentence as severe as Mr. Pollard's. In a memorandum to Mr. Pollard's supporters earlier this year, they said a more typical sentence was usually less than the nearly eight years their client has already served, including more than five years in solitary confinement.

Moreover, they said, Mr. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison even though prosecutors said they would not seek a life sentence if he cooperated with them and did not intend to harm the United States.

In addition, the issue of silence in the face of a perceived threat to Israel resonates through the arguments of some of Mr. Pollard's supporters who say he was confronted with a moral dilemma and spied on his own country, in part, out of a belief that the United States collected detailed intelligence about the development of chemical weapons by Arab states but did not warn Israel. Pollard's Defense

Mr. Pollard's lawyers first submitted their petition for a commutation last year, when Yitzhak Shamir, who was Prime Minister when Mr. Pollard was arrested, wrote to President George Bush with an plea for leniency. On the last day of his Presidency, Mr. Bush turned down the petition.

Mr. Pollard began spying for the Israeli Defense Ministry in the mid-1980's. He said later that he had acted to defend Israeli interests, but prosecutors dismissed that assertion, saying he had been paid thousands of dollars for spying on the United States.

In a Government memorandum before Mr. Pollard's sentencing in early 1987, Federal prosecutors said he had "compromised a breadth and volume of classified information as great as in any reported espionage case and adversely affected U.S. interests vis-a-vis numerous countries, including potentially, the Soviet Union."

In 1985, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Mr. Pollard outside the Israeli Embassy here. He had tried to seek refuge inside but was turned away by security guards who did not recognize him.

After a lengthy inquiry, Mr. Pollard pleaded guilty to one count of supplying classified information to a foreign power. Although he contended that he had fulfilled his plea agreement by cooperating with prosecutors, Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. of Federal District Court sentenced him to the most severe sentence possible: life in prison.

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