Alan M. Dershowitz - The Jerusalem Post - January 3, 1994
Jonathan Pollard has now served longer in prison than any American in history convicted of spying for an ally.
Indeed, he has served longer than most Americans convicted of spying for
enemies. This is especially surprising in light of the plea bargain that the
government struck with Pollard. In exchange for pleading guilty and
cooperating with the government, Pollard was promised that the government
would not seek life imprisonment.
But the judge nonetheless imposed a life sentence and the very prosecutors who
made the promise are now breaking it by insisting that President Clinton not
reduce the life sentence. Under current guidelines, Pollard may not be
eligible for parole until 2015.
In light of all this, it is not surprising that the US president is reported
to be considering some form of reduction to bring Pollard's sentence more in
line with those who have pleaded guilty to spying for allies and more in line
with the government's promise. But now, in a calculated way to keep Pollard
in prison, Pentagon officials have made public a letter from outgoing
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin to Clinton alleging that Pollard had slipped
classified information into 14 letters he sent from prison. The implication
is that this information might endanger US security.
If there were any truth to this tall tale, it would show unparalleled
stupidity on the part of the American intelligence officials who monitored all
of Pollard's letters.
If they had spotted any dangerous classified material in the first letter,
they clearly would have stopped it from being sent. To wait until all 14
letters had been sent, would have constituted government complicity in the
publication of dangerous classified information.
AS ONE of Pollard's legal advisers, I have read many of his letters in which
he defends himself against charges that he seriously endangered American
national security. If any of his letters inadvertently included information
which was technically classified, then it was information that had either
already been made public or was of no real importance.
The best proof of this is that Joseph deGenova, the prosecutor in the Pollard
case, has publicly called for all the classified information in that case to
be made public.
Several years ago, the government claimed that 13 of Pollard's letters
contained classified information. On November 23, 1992, the director of naval
intelligence confirmed that the material in those letters had been
declassified "because they no longer possess the potential to damage national
security." Aspin must be aware of this statement, yet in his letter to the
president, he conveyed the false impression that the contents of Pollard's
letters currently have the potential to damage US national security.
What we are seeing here is yet another abuse of the classification system by
the Pentagon to serve political rather than national security interests. The
entire classification system reeks of arbitrariness.
Insiders leak classified information with impunity. I was recently told by a
former intelligence official that he had been shown classified information in
the Pollard case to give him ammunition to oppose Pollard's release. In
another leak, intelligence officials assert that information provided by
Pollard to Israel may have inadvertently found its way to the Soviet Union.
Yet prosecutor deGenova asserted during a public debate that he had no
information to confirm this.
In a democracy it is unfair for the government to argue against the rights of
a citizen by relying on classified information without giving that citizen the
right to defend against its charges. Accordingly, the only appropriate course
for the government to follow now is that suggested by prosecutor deGenova: all
the material on which the government is relying in its efforts to keep Pollard
in jail should now be declassified so that the public can determine for itself
the actual extent of damage done by Pollard.
A full, fair and open review of the facts will show that the information
provided by Pollard to Israel was largely tactical and regional. It related
primarily to Iraq's plans for chemical and gas warfare and to Syrian-inspired
terrorism directed against civilians.
Jonathan Pollard has more than paid his debt to society for engaging in an act
of civil disobedience calculated to save innocent lives.