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