Speaking about releasing prisoners

Jonathan PollardSpeaking about releasing prisoners, what about Jonathan Pollard?

I can’t possibly do justice to the story in a short post, but in a nutshell:

In his job as a naval intelligence analyst, Pollard provided classified information to Israel for several years, culminating in his arrest in 1985. What happened next was a “monumental miscarriage of justice” in the words of professors Angelo Codevilla, Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Lasson:

First, Pollard was never charged with nor convicted of the crime of treason. Nor was there anything in his indictment to suggest he intended harm to America — or that he compromised the nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities or caused injury to any of its agents.

Second, in lieu of a trial, the government entered into a plea agreement under which it promised not to seek life imprisonment in return for Pollard’s cooperation. The Justice Department acknowledged in court that he had cooperated fully. Nevertheless, chief prosecutor Joseph DiGenova said immediately after sentencing he hoped Pollard “never sees the light of day.”

Third, Pollard was sentenced on the basis of private statements to the judge that, for all anyone knows, may be lies. The secretary of defense (then Caspar Weinberger) presented the court with a secret memorandum that has never been subject to cross examination. Later he told the press that Pollard was one of the worst traitors in American history. But where’s the evidence?

Pollard received a life sentence, compared to an average sentence of seven years for others convicted of spying for allies.

There have been allegations that Pollard gave information to other governments, that Pollard was responsible for the exposure of US agents in the Soviet Union or the compromise of undersea cables, that Pollard gave away codes. None of this is true; those responsible were Aldrich Ames, John Walker and others. And certainly, none of this was part of the indictment.

Angelo Codevilla believes (see his bio here) that Pollard, a low-level analyst, primarily gave Israel satellite photos of Middle Eastern locales, intelligence which the US had been providing until it was cut off after Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. One use which Israel made of Pollard’s data was to bomb the PLO headquarters in Tunisia in 1985.

So why a life sentence? And why was he kept in solitary confinement for seven years, at the Federal Prison in Marion, Il., which at that time was a ‘supermax’ prison holding the most dangerous and desperate inmates?

There is only one possible explanation, which is that Pollard possesses embarrassing information. Here is what Codevilla suggested in a 1999 interview:

QUESTION: That leads to the next question, what was Caspar Weinberger’s motive in presenting to the judge a false memorandum?

CODEVILLA: This is the most interesting of questions, and it comes down to this: embarrassment over a dumb, failed policy, and moreover a policy in which he had a personal interest. The policy was building up Iraq, a policy to which Weinberger and much of the rest of the U.S. government sacrificed true American interests during the 1980s. Up until the very eve of the Gulf War the U.S. Government was still incredulous that Saddam Hussein would play anything other than the role which the best and the brightest of the Reagan and Bush administrations had assigned him…

CODEVILLA: … The main thing is we permitted, licensed and financed large American corporations to build plants [in Iraq], and we encouraged large European countries to build plants there. The infrastructure that is being bombed right now in Iraq and which was bombed during the Gulf War, is mostly American-built, financed, or licensed. Now we get to the deeply and personally embarrassing part. One of the companies involved was Bechtel, with whom Caspar Weinberger and George Schultz, Secretaries of Defense and State, had close personal relations.

QUESTION: How was this company involved?

CODEVILLA: They built one of the factories that later on made chemical weapons. Now, what is Jonathan Pollard’s role in all of this? He gave to Israel U.S. satellite pictures of these factories, together with U.S. intelligence assessments of what these factories were doing. These pictures and intelligence assessments contradicted what the U.S. government was officially telling Israel. So the Israelis were coming to America, and in official meetings were calling people like Weinberger liars, which of course these officials did not appreciate.

Weinberger was a director and General Counsel of Bechtel from 1975 until President Reagan chose him as Secretary of Defense in 1981, a post he held until 1987. Weinberger, despite his name, was not Jewish by any but Hitler’s criteria, having a paternal grandfather who abandoned Judaism — a fact about which he was reportedly ‘tense’. He died in 2006.

Israel formally agreed that Pollard was an Israeli agent in 1998. Over the 24 years that Pollard has been imprisoned, there have been several times at which it was thought that he might be released: as part of the Wye River agreement, or by executive clemency by Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II (Clinton did manage to free a Jew, fugitive financier Marc Rich).

Now there is yet another new administration, and it’s time to ask: After 24 years, is it not possible to examine the facts and the handling of this case, and consider letting this man, who has almost certainly been treated unjustly, go free?

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