Clinton Confronts Pollard

March 25, 1994

A rejection of Jonathan Pollard's plea for clemency is all but certain, The New York Times reports this week, now that recommendations against clemency have been passed up the line from the Justice Department as well as the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. That assumption strikes us as a misreading of the Constitution as fundamental as the one that landed Pollard a life term for spying for one of America's closest allies.

The secretary of defense at the time, Caspar Weinberger, used the word "treason" to describe Pollard's crime. He did this at a key moment in the sentencing proceedings, despite the fact that Pollard was never accused of treason and the fact that the Constitution specifically asserts that treason may consist only of levying war against the United States or adhering to its enemies. So Pollard drew life term.

Now come those who want the America president to delegate his Constitutional authority to sub-agencies, when in fact the founders specifically lifted the clemency-granting power up to the chief executive precisely because they understood that there are times when these decisions must be made above the fray.

It is being said that the case of Aldrich Ames will make it harder for Mr. Clinton to let Pollard off, but it ought to make it easier. Pollard, though he committed a crime and was convicted of a single act, did not spy for an enemy, and it would be outrageous if Mr. Clinton were to let his bureaucracy railroad him away from granting clemency the Constitutional fathers placed in his hands to give in cases requiring, among other things, a sense of political judgment.

The Forward