Plea for Pollard's Release

Seymour Reich - NY Times [Letters] - December 23, 2010

Re: "Israel Plans Public Appeal to Ask U.S. to Free a Spy" (news article, Dec. 22):

As possibly the first American Jewish community leader to speak out on Jonathan Pollard's behalf and to visit him, along with Elie Wiesel, when Mr. Pollard was incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in Illinois in 1987, and who has discussed his case with every Israeli prime minister since and with Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, I wish to point out several important facts.

Every Israeli prime minister quietly asked his concurrent American president to release Mr. Pollard.

Mr. Pollard was accused of - and pleaded guilty to - passing classified information to another country. Though that country was Israel, an important ally, he broke the law and deserved punishment. The normal prison sentence for his crime, however, is four to five years, not life.

The plea agreement provided that the government would not seek the maximum sentence. But just before sentencing, a classified memorandum from Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense, was delivered to the judge, who then sentenced Mr. Pollard to life.

Mr. Pollard has publicly expressed his remorse, and the Israeli government has stated that it will not engage Americans to pass classified information to it.

On humanitarian grounds alone, President Obama should commute Mr. Pollard's sentence to time served. Mr. Pollard would undoubtedly go to Israel, where he would be part of the news cycle for one or two days and then fade from public view.

Seymour D. Reich
New York, Dec. 23, 2010

The writer, an attorney, is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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