So Israel will finally send an official letter asking the US to release Jonathan Pollard after 25 years.
I won’t go into the details of why he should be freed — how his sentence was disproportionate, how he was blamed for damage done to the US by spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, how he was offered a plea bargain and then hit with a life sentence, how he was treated in prison. I won’t discuss the speculation that he has been kept locked up because of what he knows about the US relationship with Saddam Hussein when he was our ‘ally’, or about the Iran-contra affair. You can find all of this and much more on the Justice for Jonathan Pollard site.
I’ll say that his release now, if it happens, may only mean that the gravely ill Pollard will die in Israel instead of the Federal Prison in Butner, NC. Wouldn’t that be ironic, considering that the Lockerbie Bomber, granted ‘compassionate release’ as a ‘dying man’ is alive and well in Libya a year and a half later!
This has been a dirty business ever since former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger submitted a secret memo to Judge Aubry E. Robinson Jr. that caused him to abrogate the plea agreement that Pollard would serve no more than 10 years, and to throw him in prison for life.
Several times Pollard’s freedom was mentioned as a bargaining point in various negotiations, including Wye River and Camp David. According to former Israeli diplomat Lenny Ben-David, he could have been released at the end of 2000:
…in my capacity as Israel’s number two diplomat in Washington, I drafted a confidential memo to Israel’s leadership early in 1999 presenting a comprehensive strategy for securing a presidential pardon for Pollard from the lame-duck president, Bill Clinton, during the three months of the American interregnum…
With a great sense of disappointment, I sensed that the strategies presented in my memorandum might have been redirected to securing the pardon of Marc Rich, an American financier who escaped to Switzerland in 1983 after being indicted for tax evasion, money laundering and illegal trading with Iran.
In the period leading up to the presidential interregnum, a major campaign was underway to secure Rich’s pardon. Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, interceded with Clinton on Rich’s behalf, according to congressional testimony by then White House chief of staff John Podesta. Former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova told “Meet the Press” in February 2001: “When the prime minister of Israel, one of our closest allies, communicates with the president of the United States about a pardon, I would say to you that the president has a pretty good idea of how important the case is. The prime minister of Israel became deeply involved in this case, and he recommended a pardon.”
Rich was pardoned; Pollard was not.
One can speculate that at this point the US has no other reason to keep Pollard in prison except as a bargaining chip. If that’s true, then we are no better than Hamas, who hold Gilad Shalit for the same reason.
Let him go.