Pollard Has Been Punished Enough
March 8, 1994 - Theodore Olson, Esq. - The Wall St. Journal
It is plain than columnist Al Hunt and the anti-Pollard faction within the Clinton administration for whom he is giving voice do not like Jonathan Pollard ("President Clinton, Don't Free the Traitor Pollard, February 24). But his rationale for opposing clemency is mostly misinformation and ignorance, and his conclusion implicitly concedes the shallowness of his convictions.
As Mr. Pollard's attorney, I offer these counterbalancing facts:
First, the matter of motives and money. Mr. Hunt's carefully chosen litany of phrases such as "big bucks," "well-paid" and "well-heeled" produces a profoundly false impression. As Mr. Hunt knows, Mr. Pollard sought out the Israelis and volunteered to give, not sell, information to Israel about nuclear, chemical and biological weapons under construction by Iraq and others for use against Israel. Six months down the line, Pollard was persuaded to accept paltry sums - pocket change compared with what Washington journalists routinely receive for weekend television appearances. Intelligence services know that it is impossible to control idealists - and it is standard procedure to corrupt them with money. Mr. Pollard was wrong to acquiesce, but everyone who has studied the record objectively knows that he acted as he did because he could not stand the implications of silence in the face of another Holocaust, not for money.
Second, Mr. Hunt repeatedly uses the term "traitor." That word describes one who commits treason, the only crime considered so egregious that is mentioned in our Constitution. It is defined by law as committing war against the U.S. or aiding its enemies. It is punishable by death. Mr. Pollard did not commit, nor was he charged with, treason. Even the government has admitted that is use of the word "treason" and "traitor" to describe Mr. Pollard was wrong and "regrettable." The court that reviewed Mr. Pollard's case, whose opinion Mr. Hunt quotes, said that the "traitor" could justifiably be called "rank hyperbole."
Third, Mr. Hunt's comparison of Mr. Pollard to the Aldrich Ames case is appalling. Mr. Ames allegedly aided the Soviet Union when they were implacable enemies of the U.S.: Mr. Pollard helped one of our closest allies. Mr. Ames is said to have betrayed American agents: Mr. Pollard told Israel about instruments of mass destruction against Jews. Mr. Ames purportedly took millions of dollars and was motivated by greed: Mr. Pollard gave defensive information to save a people that had been nearly exterminated 50 years ago. What can Mr. Hunt be thinking?
Fourth, Mr. Hunt has mischaracterized the court decision regarding the government's violation of the Pollard plea bargain. Mr. Pollard's appeal was rejected as untimely, not because it was lacking in merit. All three judges who considered the appeal expressed considerable skepticism concerning the government's conduct. One of the three went so far as to call Mr. Pollard's treatment "a fundamental miscarriage of justice."
The fact is that the government blatantly betrayed Mr. Pollard and its written contract with him. It made three promises, and broke them all. It agreed to represent to the sentencing judge that Mr. Pollard's cooperation had been of "considerable value" to "enforcement of the espionage laws," but did precisely the opposite, denigrating the value and motivation for that compensation - listing it among factors "compelling a substantial sentence." It promised to limit its sentencing argumentation to the "facts and circumstances" of Mr. Pollard's offense, but instead heaped savage vituperation on his motives on his motives, character and "arrogance." Finally, it agreed not to seek a sentence of life in prison, but obtained exactly such a sentence by, among other things, demanding a sentence commensurate with the crime of treason.
Fifth, Mr. Hunt rejects as "bogus and irrelevant" the assertion that Mr. Pollard's sentence was excessive. He could not be more wrong. Mr. Pollard has served more than eight years, mostly in solitary confinement in the nation's harshest prison. No one who gave defense information to an ally has ever been punished so severely. The government did not even charge him with harming or having reason to know that his actions would harm the U.S. Once again, Mr. Hunt has outpaces Mr. Pollard's prosecutors by pressing to maintain a level of punishment that the prosecutors promised not to seek.
Sixth, it is curious that Mr. Hunt thinks that the information Mr. Pollard gave away "was so sensitive that officials still insist they can't provide specifics." What officials? The Office of Naval Intelligence has said that much of Mr. Pollard's information "was declassified during the Gulf War." Mr. Pollard's chief prosecutor has urged publicly that it all be declassified.
Finally, after all of Mr. Hunt's rhetoric, his main grievance seems to be that Israel has failed to "come clean and acknowledge what a despicable act Pollard performed." If it did so, he concludes, then "clemency [would] be in order." This is an amazing conclusion because Mr. Pollard himself has admitted that what he did was wrong and has expressed great remorse for his actions. And two successive Israeli prime ministers have put in writing formal requests for mercy - not forgiveness - for the Pollard affair. The significance of these extraordinary official requests cannot have been lost on President Clinton - who, incidentally, may not be anxious to acknowledge publicly that the U.S. has spied on Israel. What more does Mr. Hunt want? Some sort of Chinese Communist public act of self-abasement?
There is more, but too little space to say it all. Defense Secretary-nominee Bobby Inman has publicly admitted that he cut off Israel from promised defensive information as retaliation for Israel's destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactors. (Maybe Mr. Hunt can tell us how many America soldiers would have died in the Persian Gulf had Israel not taken that action.) Mr. Pollard stepped into the breach and opened the spigot that Mr. Inman had closed. He had no right to do so, but voices as diverse as Cardinal Law, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Benjamin Hooks, Father Drinan, Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun, Pat Robertson, dozens of Members of Congress, the city councils of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and two Israeli prime ministers have pleaded for an end to his punishment. Apparently many officials at State, Justice and the White House now agree.
The fundamental issue is when we can stop punishing a man who broke the law to expose a massive, malignant and malicious arms buildup so that a beleaguered people could defend themselves from weapons of terror and mass destruction. It might take some courage from President Clinton to do the right thing, but Mr. Pollard has been punished enough.
Theodore B. Olson is the former lead attorney for Jonathan Pollard.