The Pollard Affair

Prof. Howard L. Adelson - The Jewish Press - January 7, 2000

There are four aspects of the Pollard affair that must be considered individually. None of them can be said to reflect honorably upon the individuals involved. The first, of course, is the issue of justice and equity in an American courtroom. This is a vital issue for all Americans. Under that heading we must place another series of issues involving the conduct of Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, who sat in Judgement on this case, and the nefarious role of Caspar Weinberger, the former Secretary of Defense, who prepared the victim's impact statement, that is - to judge from what we know - a tissue of lies and preposterous assumptions based upon the work of a confessed Soviet spy, Aldrich Ames, who was most anxious to deflect suspicion from himself when he prepared an impact statement.

It should never be forgotten as well that Caspar Weinberger himself was indicted for perjury in connection with his description of his own actions as Secretary of Defense. He escaped prosecution by the skin of his teeth when President George Bush granted him a blanket pardon for all of his acts in connection with his tenure as Secretary of Defense. That a presidential pardon was considered necessary must cause all of us to question the truthfulness of Caspar Weinberger and his devotion to the ideals of American justice.

The second aspect of the Pollard affair that must be reviewed is the action or inaction of the Israeli government from November 21,1985, when Jonathan Pollard was arrested, until the present moment. Many of those actions and responses served to exacerbate the condition of Pollard and to make it even more difficult to work on his behalf.

A subsection of that aspect must be a review specifically of the deplorable conduct of the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. There is no doubt from a review of what we know about the wretched abandonment of Pollard by Ehud Barak, who is the highest political official in the State of Israel, that the reputation of Barak will suffer from that review. Jonathan Pollard worked assiduously on behalf of Israel, and is now suffering the most severe punishment, but has been abandoned by Barak.

The third aspect must be the response of the American Jewish community through its major organizations to the continued punishment of Jonathan J. Pollard. Has the organized American Jewish community truly done all that it might have done, not simply on behalf of Jonathan J. Pollard who has admitted his culpability in revealing secrets of the U.S. to a friendly power, but also on behalf of justice and equity? What have been the constraints on the organized American Jewish community? Have those who have urged more direct action by the Jewish organizations and an enormous public relations campaign helped or harmed the cause of Jonathan J. Pollard?

Fourthly, what has been the role of William Jefferson Clinton, who utilized the Pollard affair to apply pressure against Israel on other matters, and who converted the Pollard affair into a political football from which American Jewry will suffer while Pollard received no gain at all? Clinton "Slick Willie" has been his usual devious and immoral self in all of his actions with regard to the Pollard affair.

The answers to most of the issues raised above are self-evident. There is simply insufficient room in a single column to answer all of them once again. What must, however, be noted at the very beginning, is that the vile attempt by some anti-Semites to impugn the patriotism of those who are working on behalf of clemency for Pollard is a disgrace. It must not be allowed to influence the attitudes of dispassionate observers. The cry for justice is not unpatriotic, and the belief that Pollard has been unfairly treated is not a revelation of lack of patriotism. The anti-Semites and some terrified Jews have tried to instill fear in the Jewish community. They reveal how little faith they have in the fairness of the masses of the American populace.

There is no question that Pollard committed a crime for which he has repeatedly expressed his contrition. No organization or individual is currently arguing that Pollard is innocent and should not have been punished. Pollard himself has expressed his remorse in the most graphic fashion. Those who accuse him of being unrepentant are simply perverting the facts. Nevertheless, the question remains as to whether or not Judge Robinson behaved properly in voiding the plea bargain agreement that had been reached by Pollard with the U.S. Government. It seems as though the prosecutors beguiled Pollard into perpetrating a minor violation, and that act was used by Judge Robinson as the premise for voiding the plea-bargain agreement. He did so on the basis of a 46-page victim's impact statement submitted by the notorious Caspar Weinberger. That impact statement was based upon an impact statement prepared by Aldrich Ames, who later confessed to spying for the USSR, and who obviously had an axe to grind.

The Weinberger impact statement has never been given the analysis that it deserves. It is the basis for the unusual punishment meted out to Pollard, but it apparently is full of unwarranted assumptions and contentions that are manifestly false and improper. Weinberger claimed that Judge Robinson solicited the impact statement from him, but the Judge never confirmed that. Given Weinberger's penchant for distortion, his claim should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

It is important to note that the impact statement was not made available to the defense in time for them to prepare a rebuttal, and that it has not been fully available since the trial. It has been kept from the defense from the trial to the present by surrounding it with an impenetrable layer of classification as "Top Secret," etc. Even those with the proper clearance have been barred from seeing the entire document. It is, however, apparent that the reported claim that Pollard's actions adversely affected U.S. relations with the Arabs as well as the ability of the U.S. to apply pressure to Israel, is manifest nonsense.

On the other hand, it is not unlikely that the impact statement would reveal that the U.S. Department of Defense under Caspar Weinberger was violating the 1983 U.S.-Israel agreement about providing Israel with information about Arab military development. The U.S. Government, according to Alan M. Dershowitz, has been using the classification of documents to serve political rather than security interests. Even the prosecutor Joseph DiGenova, hardly a supporter of Pollard, has called for the release of all documents in the Pollard case, but the government has continuously refused to do so.

It must also be said that Israel itself has not cooperated in the Pollard defense. It has been consistently unwilling to provide a full list of the copies of the documents delivered by Pollard. That would demonstrate that only documents related in some way to the security of Israel were included. Ehud Barak, of course, has been the worst Prime Minister in terms of dealing with the Pollard affair. He has gone so far as to counsel that it is an internal American affair, and he is even reported to have asked the U.S. Jewish organizations to refuse to work on behalf of Pollard's release. Before Barak assumed office of Prime Minister, many of the leading U.S. Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents had called for the commutation of Pollard's sentence into time-served.

It is quite clear that the sentence imposed upon Pollard is not consonant with previous or current practices in the U.S. The sentence of life imprisonment imposed upon Pollard by Judge Robinson, which would make Pollard first eligible for parole in 2015, is excessive, even according to Milton Viorst, who was definitely not sympathetic towards Pollard. He pointed out that by 1995, nine Americans who had spied for the USSR received life sentence. About a dozen more were sentenced to terms of 15 to 30 years. Those convicted of spying for friendly states received sentences of from two to eight years. Pollard's sentence stands alone in its harshness.

Those who spied for South Africa, the Philippines, South Korea, Egypt, the Netherlands, or Australia received much shorter sentences. Pollard has already served 15 years. What is most interesting is that on the day before the sentence was pronounced upon Pollard, March 3, 1987, Caspar Weinberger again intervened to contact the Judge with a supplementary statement.

Caspar Weinberger's nefarious role is inescapable in a review of the Pollard affair, and it cries out for review. Weinberger has since stated publicly that he felt that Pollard deserved to be shot. It is a disgrace that he intervened in the manner that is evident.

Let us now turn to the horrible role of the Israeli Government in dealing with the Pollard affair. For the longest time, the Israelis claimed that Pollard was simply a rogue mercenary and not an Israeli agent. By 1995, however, the Israeli Government finally admitted that Pollard was an Israeli agent and that he acted solely on behalf of Israel and was managed by an Israeli officer. It must be stated that most Israeli Prime Ministers worked to secure his release. They recognized that the sentence appeared to be excessive. Even Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli who was convicted of atomic spying against Israel and became an apostate, only received a sentence of 18 years for the most horrendous betrayal. Israel currently holds in prison an Israeli officer who was convicted of spying for the U.S., but as far as I have been able to determine, there has been no effort to have an exchange of spies such as the U.S. often worked out with the USSR.

Netanyahu believed that he had Clinton's word that Pollard would be released to accompany him home to Israel after the Wye River Plantation negotiations. As should have been expected, Clinton had no intention of honoring his word. Netanyahu, however, still signed the Wye River Plantation Memorandum. He should have gone home without signing. That he did not, was a serious error. Clinton promised at the time, a serious, and presumably not prolonged review of the Pollard affair. As should have been expected, however, anything dependent upon the word of President Clinton is useless. Apparently very little has happened.

Ehud Barak is the current Prime Minister of Israel, and his conduct with regard to the Pollard affair is as laden with appeasement of Clinton and betrayal of Pollard as can be imagined. A court case in Israel has been filed because of Barak's inactivity with regard to this matter. Clinton and Barak are proving to be eminently suited to one another. They are cooperating in harming Israel and in punishing Pollard. Barak's failure to act in any meaningful fashion on behalf of Pollard - regardless of whether or not individual U.S. citizens support Caspar Weinberger - or appeal for the commutation of Pollard's sentence to time-served, must be regarded with horror. If the Israeli Government has been found wanting, the failure of Barak, and his activity on behalf of Clinton rather than on behalf of an Israeli agent, must elicit universal condemnation.

There is obviously a great deal more to be said about the Pollard affair, but the space limitations preclude us from saying more. That as a result of the intervention of Caspar Weinberger, the sentence imposed upon Pollard was harsher than in should have been, is inescapable. That the Israeli governments have failed in their duty towards one of their agents is also obvious. That Barak is intent upon appeasing Clinton as well as the Arabs, even at the extent of the suffering of a former Israeli agent is also obvious. That Clinton wants to use the Pollard affair as a weapon to bring pressure upon Israel is manifest. It is also obvious that the vast majority of American Jews want the inequity corrected. Only a minority of Jews is against clemency for Pollard, even though they may try to conceal their real efforts. Equity and justice must be pursued!