Hillary Pulls Strings for Pollard

New York Post - EXCLUSIVE - September 1, 2000

by Gregg Birnbaum

Hillary Rodham Clinton has intervened to block spy Jonathan Pollard from being transferred to a potentially dangerous unit of the federal prison where he is serving a life term, The Post has learned.

The first lady quietly went to bat for Pollard last week after Jewish leaders told her prison officials planned to move him out of the relatively safe unit where he has spent the past seven years.

Pollard's supporters fear he would have faced attacks in the new unit, said to house violent inmates including white supremacists, because he spied for Israel and is an Orthodox Jew.

Under special arrangement, Pollard is imprisoned in a small unit at North Carolina's Butner prison, used primarily to house nonviolent sex offenders who are receiving treatment. The unit, called Clemson, is regarded as among the safest in the prison.

Pollard's friends had warned that he would be transferred to the Virginia unit, where fights, stabbings, racist incidents and rapes are not uncommon.

They believed prison officials want to transfer him to make room in the Clemson unit for additional sex offenders because the prison gets more funding for housing them than for other inmates.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to passing military secrets to Israel.

Whether he should be granted clemency has been a political issue in the Senate race and is even reported to have come up in Mideast peace talks over the past few years.

Jewish officials told The Post they were thankful for Clinton's assistance in trying to prevent Pollard's transfer.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who notified Clinton's campaign aides about the situation Aug. 24, praised the first lady for acting quickly "on a humanitarian basis."

"We asked for help, and I was told she took care of it and that she wanted to stay on top of it if there were any changes," Hikind said. "We're all grateful."

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson confirmed the Democratic candidate's involvement.

"This issue was brought to Hillary Clinton's attention, and she was concerned on humanitarian grounds," Wolfson said.

"She had those concerns conveyed to the appropriate authorities."

Pollard's supporters believe Clinton's action has quashed the transfer, but federal prisons spokesman Scott Wolfson said that, as a matter of policy, the agency doesn't comment on inmate housing.

Jewish leaders - who claim Pollard's life term doesn't fit the crime and is disproportionate to sentences received by other spies - have pressed Clinton and her GOP rival, Rick Lazio, to endorse clemency for Pollard. Neither has taken a position on whether Pollard should be freed.

Hikind and other Jewish officials believe Clinton would pick up badly needed votes in the Jewish community, particularly among Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, if she comes out in favor of releasing Pollard.

See Also:
  • Now Let's Talk Clemency
  • Esther Pollard's Letter to Hillary Clinton
  • Jonathan Pollard Letter to Israeli Official
  • Senate Race page