Lieberman signs letter against clemency for Pollard

Connecticut Jewish Ledger - Feb. 5, 1999 - David Bilmes

Sen. Joseph Lieberman was one of 60 senators to sign a letter last month urging President Clinton not to release spy Jonathan Pollard from a Federal prison. It was one of the first times the Connecticut Democratic senator has publicly taken a stand on the controversial issue.

"The senator signed the Pollard letter because he believes Pollard hurt our national secutiry and violated his oath of allegiance to the United States," said Leslie Phillips, a spokesperson for Lieberman. "The senator has been in several highly classified briefings on Pollard's actions and the repercussions of those actions and he feels pretty strongly that Pollard is guilty of serious crimes against the people of the United States."

Connecticut's other senator, Democrat Chris Dodd, also signed the Jan. 11 letter.

Among the 40 Republicans and 20 Democrats to sign the letter were Jewish Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.); and Herbert Kohl (D-Wis). Other signees included nearly every member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Pollard has served 13 years of a life sentence after admitting in a plea bargain that he stole U.S. intelligence documents and passed them to Israel. Pollard's supporters point to the fact that Pollard received a harsher sentence than others who spied for American allies and cite the fact that as part of the plea bargain, he was not to receive a life sentence.

The effort to win Pollard's release was renewed during the October Wye Plantation peace negotiations, during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportededly asked Clinton to grant clemency to Pollard.

Trumbull students write on Pollard's behalf

Pollard's cause peaked the interest of Matthew Gottlieb, who teaches sixth graders Jewish history and current events in the religious school at Congregation B'Nai Torah in Trumbull.

"Around the time of the Wye talks, I came in with the idea that maybe we should write letters to our congressmen," Gottlieb said. "Everyone in the class agreed that Pollard should be released."

Gottlieb's class wrote letters to Lieberman, Dodd and 5th District Rep. Christopher Shays saying, "We feel that it is finally time for President Clinton to grant Mr. Pollard a pardon."

Only Lieberman responded, sending the class a letter thanking them for their letter, but making no promise that he would press for Pollard's release.

"They (the students) were pretty excited to get a letter from Lieberman, " Gottlieb said. "We hung it up in the school."