A Synopsis of the Lieberman - Colman Letters

The Algemeiner Journal (NY) - June 22, 2000

Lieberman Refuses Plea from Colman to Urge Clemency for Pollard;
Hillary Bases her Pollard Stance on Lieberman's Opposition to His Release.

Senator Joseph Lieberman has refused to heed a plea from New York State Assemblyman Sam Colman that he urge the President to release Jonathan Pollard from prison, where he is serving an excessively harsh life sentence for passing classified information to Israel. Such action by Lieberman would constitute a disavowal of his original and present position contained in a joint letter signed by 60 other Senators, asking Clinton to reject clemency for Pollard.

In a letter on March 8, Colman wrote Lieberman that Hillary Clinton acknowledged the injustice of Pollard's sentence but stated that she could not take a position on the issue "because Senator Lieberman, a Jew, is against his release."

Colman added that he strongly disagrees with the position taken in some sectors of the Jewish community that Pollard can "rot in jail" because the energy expended on his case is not cost effective. He called Lieberman's attention to the fact that 'as the highest ranking Jewish office holder, "you do apparently speak on our behalf."

Lieberman, answering Colman on April 3, declared that 1) he does not speak for the Jewish community and 2) his modus operandi has always been that of "non-intervention" by legislators in criminal cases, which are the concern of the Judiciary and the only way that the Courts can be "free and independent."

A week later, Colman pointed out in his next letter that Lieberman had, indeed, already violated his own personal non-interference directive when he persuaded 60 other senators to sign a letter to the President "to express our strongest opposition to any commutation of the life sentence given to Jonathan Pollard for betraying our country" and asking Clinton to "deny clemency in the interest of justice and in the interest of national security."

Colman pointed out that then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger last-minute and still secret memorandum to the sentencing judge 15 years ago is what resulted in Pollard's life sentence, and that Weinberger himself "had actually called for Pollard's release from prison seven years ago."

"It was Weinberger's political interference which gave Pollard a life sentence and it was your political interference which keeps him in prison."

Lieberman answering Colman on May 10, insisted that he had in no way initiated the letter to Clinton to deny Pollard clemency, and that it was not referred to by anyone but Colman as "the Lieberman letter". Rather, he wrote, it was initiated by Sen. Shelby, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sen. Kerry, its ranking Democrat.

Lieberman added that he was the 56th senator to sign the letter. It did not, he claimed, violate his noninterference policy because it urged the President not to be influenced by political pressure but only to consider the merits of the case itself.

In his final letter to Lieberman on June 1, Colman said that first of all, the letter is referred to by everyone as the "infamous Lieberman letter," possibly because his is the most significant signature on that document."

His second point harkened back to his first letter to Lieberman in which he stated that Pollard had been "arrested as an American but punished as a Jew." He wrote June 1 that, "We Jews in America will truly be first class citizens only when we have the courage to state openly and publicly that we will not accept a double standard of justice.

"When a Jew commits a crime, he should be punished, but not more severely than another American in similar circumstances," he continued. "As equal American citizens we must reject the 'compliment' of the anti-Semites that more is expected of us and therefore a more severe sentence is warranted."

Senator Lieberman has not responded to this letter.

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