A Plea that Was No Bargain For A Crime of Conscience

Jonathan Pollard's spying warned Israel of Hussein

March 4-10, 1991 - The Washington Post National Weekly Edition - Carol Pollard

Jonathan Pollard is now completing his fourth year of a life sentence for having given to Israel U.S. intelligence data about Iraq and other hostile countries. He is held in isolation in the federal prison at Marion, Ill. The U.S. Court of Appeals here will rule soon on motions to withdraw the guilty plea that led to Jonathan's life sentence.

These four years have changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. My work on my brother's case has led me to ask many questions, and I have received too few answers. I have written countless unanswered letters and have had hundreds of telephone calls unreturned.

I'm aware of press reports that Israel is seeking to have Jonathan released from prison in the United States and to serve his sentence in Israel. I'm hopeful that this will occur, but neither the family nor I can rely safely on such an outcome.

Jonathan broke the law. He and his family know this. He gave Israel secret information that our country had about critical military matters in the Middle East. In a letter to a rabbi, Jonathan has acknowledged that "many of the photos I turned over to the Israelis were of a number of Iraqi chemical weapons manufacturing plants which the Reagan administration did not want to admit existed."

But does this mean Jonathan should have received a life sentence as part of a plea bargain with the government? That he should spend 23 hours of each day locked alone in a basement cell? And that six years alter his arrest, virtually everyone associated with the government's case against Jonathan should still stand behind a veil of secrecy as Jonathan's lawyers, family and friends attempt to get his sentence reduced to a just and fair punishment?

Jonathan had a plea bargain with the government. He was sentenced at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. in Washington on March 4, 1987. A grand jury had studied the case for months and indicted him on one count; giving information to an ally-Israel. He was never accused of or indicted on a treason charge because he did not commit treason.

I understand that my brother pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment because the government promised not to seek a life sentence. But as Jonathan's motion to vacate his pleas now argues; "The government made three promises and broke all three. It promised not to seek a life sentence. But the entire tenor of its written and oral submissions at sentencing was a request for just such a sentence.... It promised (to) limit the statements it made to the court about the sentence to the facts and circumstances of the offenses committed. Despite this promise....the government discussed many other subjects. It promised to inform the court of Pollard's cooperation and of the considerable value of that cooperation." But the government reneged "by claiming that his cooperation came too late to apprehend his Israeli co-conspirators who had fled the country."

Promises or not a life sentence for Jonathan's crimes went way beyond sentences given in similar cases. Thomas Dolce, a former Army weapons analyst. Received a 10 year sentence for giving defense information to South Africa. Rocket scientist Abdel Kader Helmy, who schemed to smuggle missile material to Egypt that was later used to increase the range of Iraq's Scud-B missiles got less than four years. Samuel Morison, a Navy intelligence analyst, sold classified photographs to a magazine. He didn't cooperate with the government and didn't plead guilty. He was sentenced to two years in prison and was released after eight months.

But Jonathan received the same kind of sentence as John Walker, Jerry Whitworth and Ronald Pelton, who all spied for years for the Soviet Union. Why?

In sentencing Jonathan, Judge Robinson relied on classified memoranda submitted by then secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. As Robinson noted in a recent opinion rejecting Jonathan's motions to vacate his guilty plea: "It was difficult for (Weinberger) to conceive of greater harm to the national security than that caused by the defendant."

What was in the still-classified memos? Several years ago Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted Jonathan, told attorney Alan Dershowitz during a debate that Jonathan was prosecuted "so fully because the information he gave the Israelis could have gotten into the hands of the Russians." Dershowitz responded: "So, Jay was prosecuted for a crime which may not have even occurred."

No one connected with Jonathan's appeal has had the opportunity to carefully review and analyze the Weinberger memos. This is critical to the appeal because we believe the tenor of the two memos violated the government's promise not to request a lift sentence. The attorney who handled Jonathan's original defense was given one change to read Weinberger's first memo: the second memo was sent just before sentencing, preventing serious perusal. Yet the government now refuses to allow Jonathan's current attorney to examine the Weinberger document.

I assumed until recently that the memos remained classified because they contained sensitive information. Now, I'm not so sure. In an affidavit in Jonathan's appeal, Dershowitz says he was told by former U.S. Supreme Court justice Arthur Goldberg that Judge Robinson, in a conversation with Goldberg, declared that the government had provided Robinson evidence that my brother had given Israel U.S. satellite photos proving that: Israel had tested a ballistic missile, the Jericho, in South Africa; and Israel had given missile and nuclear technology to South Africa.

Dershowitz says Goldberg told him Robinson was outraged by the Israel-South Africa connection and Pollard's role in giving U.S. evidence of it to Israel.

Dershowitz in his affidavit says, "Goldberg told me that Robinson had told him that the Pollard-South Africa connection had weighed heavily in his (Robinson's) decision to impose a life sentence...."

Goldberg has since died, but the conversation provides great insight into Jonathan's sentence and why Robinson doesn't want the Weinberger memos read by Jonathan's attorney, much less the knowledge gained by Robinson consisted of a highly prejudicial ex parte communication from the government, and that Jonathan and his attorneys never had an opportunity to deny these claims (which Jonathan denies in no uncertain terms) a) the time of sentencing. The Dershowitz affidavit raises the distinct probability that the memos contained no facts to justify Jonathan's life sentence.

The Dershowitz affidavit says Goldberg said that Robinson had sentenced Jonathan on the basis of :false, inflammatory, ex parte information." Although Robinson said in answer to Jonathan's appeal, "the court's recollection of events is in stark contradiction: to the assertions in the Dershowitz affidavit. Robinson did not deny that a conversation with Goldberg took place and didn't explicitly respond to Jonathan's assertion that the judge was influenced by the South African information in meeting out his sentence. Robinson has refused Jonathan's further motion for his attorney to examine the Weinberger memos.

Jonathan's case was of special interest to Weinberger. According to Wolf Blitzer's book, "Territory of Lies," in a conversation with Meir Roseanne, Israel's ambassador to the United States. Weinberger said Jonathan "should be shot." Jonathan did not provide America's adversaries with technology costing us billions of dollars, as did the Toshiba Corp. Yet Weinberger thought what Jonathan did for Israel was more damaging to America than these and other espionage activities that occurred on Weinberger's watch.

Lawrence J. Korb, a top Weinberger defense aide, recently wrote my father and said in part: " I do know that Weinberger had an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy." So I am not alone in questioning Weinberger's motivations. Even Robinson admitted in his ruling that Weinberger "may not have been neutral and detached."

Even as the American public becomes more aware of how the Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear threats were developed throughout the 1980's - threats that Jonathan informed Israel about - Weinberger wrote to me: " My memorandum to the trial judge in the case was and is classified, but essentially I stated the reasons why I felt a major punishment was (required) in his case. Nothing I have seen since has changed any of the facts, or my opinion."

Jonathan is held in the K unit at Marion. David Ward, a University of Minnesota professor of sociology, wrote in Newsweek that K unit's prisoners "are there for symbolic reasons, to show what the federal government can do if it really gets angry." Jonathan is allowed four personal telephone calls each week, to immediate family only. His visitation privileges are highly restricted.

Before arriving at Marion, he spend 10 months in a ward for the criminally insane in Springfield, Mo., even though federal Director of Prisons Michael Quinlan stated in a letter to Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana that Jonathan was not there for treatment. Jonathan would probably still be there if Hamilton hadn't protested his treatment to the Justice Department. Quinlan later wrote Hamilton that Jonathan was the only inmate of the federal prison to receive such treatment.

Why such harshness? Two years ago, in a meeting with the Rev. Frank Eiklor and other clergy concerned about the Pollard case, Quinlan stated; "We have our orders from higher up." Asked what he meant, he responded, "The Justice Department, the Officer of Navy Investigations and Mr. (Then U.S. Attorney General Edwin) Meese."

We believe serious grounds exist to sustain Jonathan's appeal. Many troublesome questions remain about his case. Here are just two: Who signs a plea agreement for life? Why won't the government justify Jonathan's sentence and treatment?

I believe in the Constitution, which guarantees equal justice under the law, Jonathan Pollard broke the law, but his sentence is a challenge to the intent and purpose of our Constitution.

I personally do not know how he continues to survive in isolation, under a sentence that is harsh and disproportionate. I can't understand how we could have fought a war with Iraq while one person who tried to warn Israel about Iraqi threats was sitting in jail.