Pollard Update - The Mikva Debacle

The Forward [NY] - Editorial - October 7, 1994

One off-key note in the National Jewish Democratic Council's banquet honoring Hyman Bookbinder came during the remarks - of all people - the new counsel to President Clinton, Abner Mikva. Talking about liberalism's future, the former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit said: "How do we start thinking about the criminal justice system, not in terms of whether Jonathan Pollard's sentence should be commuted, but in terms of the consequences of an overcrowded prison system, which performs almost none of its intended functions properly." Discouraging words from the counselor who sits at the right hand of the president. There's no reason why the concerns about the consequences of our overcrowded prison system, which so rightly preoccupy Judge Mikva, need preclude an intelligent, dispassionate review of the Pollard case. Both are important.

The larger issue in the Pollard case has to do with the fact that President Reagan's defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, used the word "treason" to describe Pollard's dealings with Israel, even though the Constitution insists that "treason" may only be defined as levying war adhering to an enemy. The whole point of Pollard is that Israel is no enemy. Hence we were encouraged to hear that Rep. Charles Schumer, another liberal, has been pressing the Pentagon to back up the charges made against Pollard by Secretary Aspin just as Pollard's case was coming up for review in the White House. Recall that Mr. Aspin suggested that even from prison Pollard had been sending out letters containing secret information. Some believe this contributed to Mr. Clinton's decision to keep the repentant spy in jail. The Pollard case crosses political lines, for individuals as disparate as Pat Robertson and Benjamin Hooks have come out for commutation. So we hope Mr. Schumer will keep pushing, even while we all work on the larger problems of the justice system.