Friday, January 14, 2011

Jonathan Pollard Clemency Appeals Continue Unabated

Clemency appeals for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard continue unabated and have been ongoing virtually non-stop since March 11, 1988. That was the day members of the Israeli parliament asked President Ronald Reagan to pardon him—a mere 1 year after Pollard was sentenced for his crimes on March 4, 1987!

Recently Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to President Obama requesting yet again his release from prison. Democratic members of Congress piled on the pressure and sent a letter to Obama urging clemency as well. Rep. Barney Frank admitted he was behind the initiative. Republicans refused to sign it.

Frank has a longstanding, well-earned reputation as someone antithetical to the intelligence community, going back to the early 1990s when he consistently sought extremely deep cuts in its budget. His role as the initiator of this letter could not possibly help in gaining bipartisan support; on the contrary, Frank’s activism could only hurt the cause of freeing Pollard.

Should we be surprised no one mentions that the 23rd anniversary of clemency appeals will arrive within 2 months? Pollard apologists like to claim that the standard sentence for someone who spies for a friendly nation is 7 years (which doesn’t apply in Pollard’s case due to the enormity of his crimes). But Israel thought just 1 year was plenty enough!

There is nothing special about the “25th anniversary” of Pollard’s incarceration. Somehow, that number is posited as a convenient termination date for his jail sentence.

Obama is unlikely to give Pollard a get-out-of-jail pass. If he did so, he would be seen in Israel (and everywhere else) as a weak sucker, whereas his predecessors—Clinton and George W. Bush—weren’t. Obama’s growing international reputation as an easy mark in over his head would only be enhanced, and he surely must know it.

If I were the POTUS and Netanyahu asked me to free Pollard in exchange for extending a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as he did Obama, I would be insulted, because I would know he was playing me for a fool.

Pollard advocates say his has spent more time than others who committed similar crimes. The problem with this logic is that there are very few (if any!) who committed espionage on the scale of Pollard’s treachery. His “peers” in that regard would be the likes of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, who spied for the Soviet Union.

What Pollard gave, and Israel freely and happily asked for and accepted, went far beyond what one would expect from a friendly country spying on another. The magnitude of the security breach is what one would expect only from an enemy. What other spy gave a friendly country highly classified material similar to the incredible number of documents Pollard handed Israel?

We don’t know if third countries—such as the Soviet Union—benefitted from Pollard’s thefts. Lawrence Korb keeps repeating that the Soviets never received information stolen by Pollard, but he is in no position to know that and neither is R. James Woolsey. Korb says the information the Soviet Union received “most likely” came from Ames and Hanssen. That is nothing more than idle speculation on his part.

Did Israel give some of Pollard’s documents to them in exchange for easing restrictions on Soviet Jews? Did other countries penetrate Israel without their knowledge? What about South Africa? Other countries? What happened to the documents once the US lost control of them? No one can be sure.

Our friend Israel refused to assist the US in recovering material passed on to them by Pollard. They didn’t admit he was working for them until long after his arrest when it was already common knowledge. They have badgered the US since Pollard was jailed for his release. Again, Israel behaved more like an enemy than a friend.

Korb claims Bill Clinton agreed to free Pollard in 1998, but Clinton has said no such deal was ever reached, although he was amenable to the idea. When Pollard had asked for clemency the previous time (yes, the appeals always keep coming), Clinton had noted that he had shown no remorse, his crimes were enormous, and he had caused significant damage to US security.

All reports of his behavior suggest Pollard is nothing but a scoundrel who doesn’t deserve a break. This is the character that is constantly upheld as worthy of our sorrow? Worthy of treatment like others who did a bit of lower-level espionage on behalf of our valued friends abroad? It is laughable to compare Pollard with anyone but the worst spies in our history.

At the time when Clinton was president, a number of former defense secretaries (from both Democratic and Republican administrations) joined the current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in signing a letter to Clinton urging him to keep Pollard behind bars. Recently in 2010, Clinton said he would support whatever decision Obama made on Pollard, and didn’t call for his release.

Korb has taken a special interest in this case for the past 20 years, although it’s not entirely clear why. It is fair to ask if he has received any indication from Israel, either directly or indirectly, of some sort of compensation for his services. If Korb is a leader of the Free Pollard movement, what will Israel give him in return if his work bears fruit? Or is he merely a concerned citizen expecting nothing?

The concept of releasing spies after short sentences because “they worked for friendly countries” is wrong-headed. It doesn’t matter who you spy for—friend or foe. Information is classified and kept from friends and foes alike for good reasons related to the national security of the United States. The policy of early releases in these cases should be completely overthrown. There is no reason to continue a wrong practice because that’s the way it was done before—and it shouldn’t apply in Pollard’s case, anyway.

The idea of Pollard or someone like WikiLeaks' Julian Assange deciding what US classified documents should be given to others is preposterous.

Pleas have been made to release Pollard since shortly after he was jailed. Even back in the early 1990s, his sentence was already considered excessive. That’s part of the problem—the lack of a true admission that what was done by both Pollard and Israel was wrong and never should have happened.

A square in Jerusalem has been named after this so-called “national hero.” The existence of the square seems a slap in the face to the United States. I wonder if the square includes a plaque citing the exact amount of money Israel paid him? Quotes from prosecutors on the damage he inflicted to the US? Is there true remorse here? I’m not seeing that. There is only remorse that he got caught.

Israel’s behavior from the moment Pollard was arrested has been inconsistent with the behavior of a friendly nation. The lesson to be learned is how to be a friendly nation—and why. It is still a lesson to be learned.

Pollard was described by his Israeli handlers as a “one-man intelligence agency” for Israel. "The breadth and volume of the US classified information sold by defendant to Israel was enormous, as great as in any reported case involving espionage on behalf of any foreign nation," federal prosecutors charged.

Ronald Olive, in his book Capturing Jonathan Pollard, assessed the damage: at least 360 cubic feet of classified documents and over one million pages—and probably much more than that. The amount of stolen material staggered investigators. He stole everything he could get his hands on. Was a document useful to Israel? He didn’t spend any time judging anything, he simply pilfered it all!

Treason on an unprecedented scale—that is Pollard’s claim to fame. Who else in the history of espionage could say he stole so much for a friend of the US? Or even for an enemy? And for this, Pollard’s sympathizers think a short 7-year prison term would have been adequate?

The Israeli “patriot” was paid for his treason as well. He didn’t do it out of a loyalist spirit for Israel, he did it for money. What other foreign countries was he willing to “do business with” as well? South Africa? Others?

Netanyahu’s harping on this sore issue can only damage the “special relationship” the US has with Israel, which already took a hit the day Obama was elected president. I’m not sure he’s really worried about that. But Netanyahu knows with Obama he has a chance of success, because anything is possible until Obama leaves.

Funny thing, the unsavory creatures people choose as their heroes.

1 comment:

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