Bill Owes Pollard A Pardon

Sidney Zion - New York Post - January 16, 2001

JONATHAN Pollard had his bag packed last Friday. After 15 years in prison for spying for Israel, he was assured by the highest sources in the Barak government that Bill Clinton would finally make good on his promise to commute Pollard's life sentence.

The hardest thing to do in the can is to unpack a bag. Tough enough on the way in, but cruel and unusual punishment after they've told you that you're on the way out.

Pollard's life sentence is the harshest in American history for a person spying for an ally - nobody ever got more than a 10-spot for it.

Now he unpacks for the second time. He was all set to be freed and sent back to Israel in the fall of 1998.

More than anyone, he knows that Bill Clinton's word is subject to change without notice. The president guaranteed his release to then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was the only way he could get Bibi to come to the Wye conference on the eve of the congressional elections.

As soon as Netanyahu agreed to concessions that turned out to be a political death warrant, Clinton delivered a Godfather's kiss. "I can't do it, my CIA director will quit if I let Pollard go. But I promise I'll review the issue."

The spin came out the opposite way - that Bibi was the blackmailer who tried and failed to make an American president bend to his will in behalf of Pollard, the "traitor."

The media bought this lie wholesale and it buys it still. Worse, it refuses to look into the true issues of the Pollard case, which involve nothing less than due process of law and the right to counsel.

On both grounds, Jonathan Pollard deserves freedom, for he was constitutionally raped by the Justice Department with the approval of the federal courts.

Start with the bottom line: Pollard pleaded guilty to one count of espionage and received the maximum sentence, life in prison.

Nobody ever got max on a plea. And Pollard got it for spying for Israel, an American ally if there ever was one.

And the Justice Department had promised that he would get a "substantial sentence" - which as I said meant no more than 10 years, at worst. But at the 11th hour, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger delivered a poison-pill memo to the sentencing judge, alleging that Pollard was a traitor, and the worst in the "year of the spy."

This meant he was worse than the Americans convicted of spying for the Soviet Union that year - including the notorious Walker spy ring. Weinberger, a well-known hater of Israel who never seemed to forgive his grandfather for his Jewish name, made the difference in the sentence.

Pollard's lawyer spent a half-hour reading this report, but he never asked for a hearing on its findings. Nor did he ever inform Pollard that he had a right to such a hearing.

And after the trial judge gave Pollard the life sentence, this lawyer - Richard Hibey, hired by Pollard's family - did not file a notice of appeal, nor did he tell Pollard that he had the right to appeal the life sentence.

In September, Pollard's new lawyer accused Hibey of "ineffective counsel," for this and many other reasons. He asked for a hearing on sentencing - and I tell you I have never read a more compelling brief.

Trouble is, it came before U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson in Washington. Who last Friday, while Pollard was packing, ruled that his lawyer, who has a top-secret clearance from the Justice Department, could not see Weinberger's memo. Why not? "National security."

Kafka lives, and Clinton has four more days to kill him off and let Pollard go. And for once make his word good.

See Also:
  • Netanyahu Reveals Clinton Double-Cross On Pollard Release
  • US Court Upholds Use of Secret Evidence Against Pollard
  • Pollard Was No Pelton
  • The Court Case 2000 Page