Obama's Faith Advisor Calls on the President to Free Jonathan Pollard

Justice4JPnews - October 17, 2011


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Following Vice President Joseph Biden's recent revelation that President Obama was considering granting clemency to Jonathan Pollard, one of the President's chief faith advisors called upon the President to free Pollard through a commutation of his sentence.

Jonathan Pollard has spent 26 years of an unprecedented life sentence languishing in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israel, an ally of the United States. The median sentence for this offense is 2 to 4 years. Next month on November 21, 2011, Pollard will enter his 27th year in captivity. No one else in the history of the USA has ever received a life sentence for this offense.

In a statement released by Rabbi David Saperstein, the Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, he implored the President to act swiftly, and with compassion, in releasing Pollard.

"Jonathan Pollard has been incarcerated for over 20 years, after he plead guilty to one count of delivering classified information to the Israeli government," said Rabbi Saperstein. "As we have said many times, we neither condone breaking the law, nor do we support clemency for Mr. Pollard out of a belief that that he is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. However, Mr. Pollard's time spent in jail has been grossly disproportionate to sentences that others have received for comparable espionage offenses. Only those who spied for enemy nations have received life sentences. No other individual convicted of disclosing information to an ally has received such a sentence."

"In the midst of the Days of Awe, as we ponder the wrongdoings we have committed and pray for God's mercy, we pray as well that President Obama will act with mercy and grant Mr. Pollard long-overdue clemency," continued Rabbi Saperstein.

Following Vice President Biden's recent comments, in which he expressed his opposition to granting Pollard clemency, Rabbi Saperstein spoke with the Vice President and urged him to reconsider his position.

Rabbi David Saperstein has spent the past thirty years as the director and chief legal counsel at the Union for Reform Judaism's Religious Action Center, which is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.

Rabbi Saperstein was one of the first members appointed by President Obama to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which makes him a key liaison between the White House and American Jewry.

Over the past three decades, Rabbi Saperstein has become a powerful and renowned advocate in Washington, D.C. In 2009, Newsweek magazine selected him as the most influential rabbi in the country. The Washington Post has called Rabbi Saperstein the "quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill."

During his tenure as director and counsel at the Union for Reform Judaism's Religious Action Center, Rabbi Saperstein has headed a number of national religious coalitions, including the Coalition to Protect Religious Liberty. In 1999, Rabbi Saperstein was elected as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was created by a unanimous vote of Congress.

In 2008, Rabbi Saperstein was selected to deliver the invocation at the Democratic National Convention's final session, before then-Senator Barack Obama accepted the party's nomination for president.

In addition to Rabbi Saperstein, a number of prominent leaders close to President Obama have called upon him to release Pollard.

Former Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida, a close friend of President Obama who is regularly consulted by the President on issues relating to the Jewish community, wrote to the President and asked that he commute Pollard's sentence to time served.

Lee Hamilton, a former U.S. Congressman from Indiana who is currently a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, also called on President Obama to free Pollard. Congressman Hamilton served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Jonathan Pollard's sentencing.

In addition, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, who was President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama's law professor at Harvard and remains friends with them today, called upon the President to grant clemency to Pollard.

There have been numerous calls for clemency for Pollard from prominent government officials, high-ranking individuals in the national intelligence arena, leading professionals in the legal world, and renowned religious and communal leaders.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey, former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former Deputy Attorney General and Harvard Law Professor Philip Heymann, and former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, each of whom had the opportunity to thoroughly review Pollard's classified file and is fully familiar with the circumstances of his case, have called for Pollard's release.

Henry Kissinger, who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and who was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board at the time of Pollard's sentencing, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he commute Pollard's sentence to time served.

In addition, a wide array of American leaders have called for a commutation of Pollard's sentence, including former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Arkansas governor and former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Arlen Specter, Senator Charles Schumer of New York, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, Congressman Allen West of Florida, former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, former New York City Mayor and former Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, Congressman Michael Grimm of New York, former Republican Senator Steve Symms of Idaho, former Republican Congressman Matthew Salmon of Arizona, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, well-known conservative leader Gary Bauer, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame, well-known Christian leader Pat Robertson, and Pastor John Hagee.

Jonathan Pollard has repeatedly expressed his remorse publicly and in private in letters to many Presidents and others. His health has deteriorated significantly during his two-and-a-half decades in prison.

Pollard's life sentence is grossly disproportionate when compared to the sentences of others who have spied for allied nations. Despite the fact that Pollard entered into a plea agreement and fully cooperated with the prosecution in his case, he nonetheless received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled, which was in complete violation of the plea agreement he had reached with the government.