Quinn's Worst Sin

Sidney Zion - NY Post - February 12, 2001

IF there's a reason to doubt the cynics who hold that a suitcase filled with large notes collateralized the Marc Rich pardon, it's that nobody has turned up an e-mail to prove it.

Just about everything else in this fabulous heist was laid out in detail on the computer by the best and brightest lawyers money could buy around the world.

The Constitution makes the pardon power absolute in the president. But the unpardonable sin in the real world is to put the heist in writing.

"Can you believe these schmucks?" That's Bones Rachles talking, my old Jersey pal. "If they had e-mail in Passaic in the '50s nobody would have survived. But our guys didn't need computers to know that you never leave fingerprints."

Bones is a guy who would love to put Bill and Hillary in the dock. But his love for the old days, when nobody could even talk on the telephone, overrides his prejudice. "You don't put it in writing, period and end of sentence," says Bonesy.

And this is the way I grew up. When I went to college, my mom asked me never to send letters to her: "I don't want you to get into bad habits."

When I became a reporter in New York in the early '60s, I was comfortable with Mamma's advice. Every politician I met knew better than to give me the real stuff on the record. I picked up my best stories at crowded bars, where the din could not be recorded.

Vince Albano, the Republican leader of New York City, refused to give me the inside skinny off-the-record. "Lawyer-client," he'd say, knowing that I was an attorney, when the stuff he was about to deliver was hotter than a stove.

Roy Cohn, when it really mattered, would never talk on the phone, though the phone was his umbilical cord to the media. I saw him once on the beach in Southampton cutting off a conversation with a publisher when a helicopter flew over.

That's the way it was in those days, when guys would turn the water on when they talked to their children. And today, here is Jack Quinn, the ex-counsel to Bill Clinton, laying the conspiracy to pardon Marc Rich for all the world to see on e-mail.

Which in a one-day hearing permitted the Republicans to make a case against Clinton that Bobby Kennedy as U.S. attorney was never able to make against Roy Cohn after three trials in New York.

I think the most damning stuff that came out of the Quinn e-mails was the effort to get the Israelis behind Marc Rich. Because Ehud Barak, as the e-mails documented, went whole-hearted for Rich.

Barak, as the prime minister of Israel, was supposed to do everything in his power to free Jonathan Pollard. Instead, he cashed his marker for Rich, and if this isn't a scandal, what's a scandal?

Barak leaves his spy, who informed Israel about Arab intentions to destroy the Jewish state, to languish in prison - while Marc Rich, fugitive from American justice, goes free?

Barak, the man who was allegedly in charge of the Pollard spy operation, did next to nothing to free him. And put all his power in behalf of Marc Rich.

In an impassioned appeal to the new prime minister, Ariel Sharon, Pollard the other day asked Arik to use his influence with George W. Bush to do justice, at long last.

Sharon was the only Israeli politician to truly demand the release of Pollard. If he pushes now, Bush would be smart to do it. And then the only guy without money will be pardoned.

See Also:
  • Letter from Jonathan Pollard to PM elect Sharon
  • Setting the The Standard for US-Israel Relations
  • The Clemency Page