The New Republic Embraces Unjustifiable Error

Justice4JP Release - November 17, 2000

The following exchange of correspondence between Jonathan Pollard's attorneys and the editors of The New Republic was printed in the November 20/00 edition of The New Republic. Although The New Republic is unable to justify its blatant mischaraterization of Jonathan Pollard, the editors refuse to acknowledge their mistake or to correct it. Their "don't-confuse us-with-the facts; our-mind-is-made-up" attitude speaks for itself in the letters below.

As published in THE NEW REPUBLIC - November 20, 2000


Mr. Peter Beinart, Editor


Jonathan Pollard

To the Editors:

We are attorneys for Jonathan Pollard.

We take strong issue with a statement in The Courtship (Oct. 16, 2000), in which you refer to Mr. Pollard (on page 36) as "a convicted traitor." Mr. Pollard has never been charged with or convicted of being a traitor. He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, conspiracy to commit espionage.

The distinction is significant. "Traitor" is defined in the law as one who commits treason. Treason entails aiding an enemy of the United States. For example, Black's Law Dictionary (7th ed. 1999) gives the primary definition of "traitor" as "A person who commits treason against his or her country." That same legal dictionary defines "treason" as "The offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies."

Mr. Pollard was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, conspiracy to deliver classified information to the State of Israel, an ally of the United States. He has never aided any enemy of the United States. The indictment filed against Mr. Pollard by the United States government does not charge him with treason, nor with intending to harm the United States. Your reference to him as a "convicted traitor" is totally unfounded.

You cannot justify your use of the word "traitor" on the ground that you intended the word to be understood in a colloquial, rather than a legal, sense. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed. 2000) defines "traitor" as "One who betrays one's country, a cause, or a trust, especially one who commits treason." That dictionary gives the primary definition of "treason" as "Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies." Thus, popular usage is consistent with legal usage. Even more significantly, you chose to preface the word "traitor" with the word "convicted." By phrasing it this way, you told your readersfalselythat the courts have adjudicated Mr. Pollard guilty of treason.

As journalists, you have a responsibility to be accurate. Propagating factual misstatements about Mr. Pollard's crime does a disservice to your readers, who are entitled to know the truth.

Mr. Pollard's sentencing proceeding was infected with falsehood and distortion, as well as with other fundamental defects, for which we have recently sought redress in the United States District Court. Because fact and not fiction, and truth and not distortion, are essential to correcting the injustice to Mr. Pollard, your deviation from the truth is very troubling.

We demand that you issue a public apology and a retraction of the accusation that Mr. Pollard is "a convicted traitor."

Very truly yours,
Eliot Lauer
Jacques Semmelman


As we stated in a letter to Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, we stand by David Grann's characterization of Jonathan Pollard as a "convicted traitor."

A number of dictionary definitions of "traitor" say nothing about spying for an enemy. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, for instance, defines "traitor" as "One who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty." Even Black's Law Dictionary, which Lauer and Semmelman cite, has the following as one of its definitions of "traitor": "one who betrays a person, a cause, or an obligation."

Lauer and Semmelman write, "You cannot justify your use of the word "traitor" on the ground that you intended the word to be understood in a colloquial sense rather than a legal sense." But our use of the word is consistent with the broader and more popular definition found in many dictionaries, and, as a popular magazine, it is entirely appropriate for us to rely on such definitions.

Lauer and Semmelman also conveniently fail to note that the very same paragraph to which they object includes the fact that Pollard spied for an ally. Needless to say, we consider neither an apology nor a retraction appropriate.