US ambassador: Pollard lucky to be alive

From today’s Jerusalem Post:

The US ambassador to Israel on Monday said it is unlikely that convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard will ever be released, saying the fact that he has not been executed should be seen as an act of clemency by Washington…

“It came out in the trial very clearly, Jonathan Pollard took money for what he did, he sold out his country,” [Ambassador Richard] Jones said in comments at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv. “The fact that he wasn’t executed is the mercy that Jonathan Pollard will receive.”

“This is a very emotional issue in the United States,” Jones said. “I know he was helping a friend, but that’s what makes it even more emotional for Americans – if a friend would cooperate in aiding and abetting someone who is committing treason against his own country.”

The ambassador’s statement is not only malicious, as Esther Pollard said, but absurd. If it were especially heinous to spy for a ‘friend’, then the penalty for spying for an ally would be greater than that of spying for a hostile power; and this isn’t the case.

Pollard’s supporters often point out that his sentence was especially severe compared to those given to other spies who had seriously damaged US security (for money as well as for other motives). It’s particularly hard to understand why Pollard received the same sentence as Aldrich Ames, who spied for the Soviet Union and was responsible for the deaths of numerous American agents. Pollard even spent seven years in solitary confinement; this was not the case with Ames.

There’s been lots of speculation about the reason for this. It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that Pollard knows something which would be so embarrassing to the US government — or to particular officials — that they cannot afford to allow him to be in a position to speak. This could relate to policy connected to Iraq or Iran.

The US has always kept information about why Pollard’s crime is considered so serious secret. Much more information is available about other cases, such as that of Ames. The secrecy, the remarkable disparity in sentencing, plus comments like those of Mr. Jones, give rise to all kinds of speculation about what Pollard knows and what motives — including antisemitism and the desire to make an example of a Jew with ‘dual loyalty’ — may be behind his treatment.

It seems to me that if the US cannot release Pollard and allow him to go to Israel (he’s served 22 years at this point), then the least that it can and should do is be more forthcoming about why Pollard’s offense justifies the treatment that he’s received.

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