Jonathan Pollard Has Paid For His Crime

Editorial - South Bend Tribune - July 30, 1995

After 10 years, most of which he has spend in solitary confinement, it is time to free Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, a South Bend man who was convicted of spying for Israel, is serving a sentence of life imprisonment at a federal penitentiary in Butner, N.C. He has been in prison since his arrest in November 1985, and will be up for parole in November. Parole should be granted.

No one should understate the seriousness of Pollard's crime. What he did was a violation of the trust placed in him as a naval intelligence analyst and a crime against all Americans.

But considering that in cases similar to Pollard's - that of spying for a friendly rather than a hostile nation - the average sentence has been 3 to 4 years imprisonment, it would seem that Pollard has more than paid his debt to society.

There are other aspects of the Pollard case that suggest that Jonathan has not only been prosecuted by the government but is being persecuted by it as well.

The sentence of life imprisonment is unduly harsh, considering that no American has ever been so severely punished for spying for an ally of the United States. Aldrich Ames and John Walker, both convicted of spying for the Soviet Union for much longer periods and for much greater harm, were both sentenced to life imprisonment.

Pollard, who cooperated with authorities following his arrest, pleaded guilty to one count of a conspiracy that prohibits communication to a foreign government information relating to the national defense, either with intent or reason to believe that the information will be used either to the detriment of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign government.

Pollard also appears to have been sandbagged by federal prosecutors. In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors promised not to seek a life sentence. They also threatened harsher treatment of Pollard's wife if he did not agree to plead guilty.

That Pollard was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment was apparently triggered by a secret memo which was submitted to the court by then Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger told the court that he could not "conceive of a greater harm to national security" than what Pollard did.

Just what was in the memo has never been revealed, but it was sufficient to wipe away all prior agreements. Not only was Jonathan sentenced to life imprisonment, but subsequent attempts by Pollard to win the right to stand trial have all been denied. If the government did not want to plea bargain with Pollard it should at least have let him stand trial.

In a letter to the U.S. Parole Commission in support of Pollard being granted parole, Charles E. Rice, a University of Notre Dame law professor, wrote: "It is mind-numbing, in my opinion, that Jonathan Pollard and Aldrich Ames received the same sentence. Aldrich Ames exposed to the Soviets at least 34 American and Allied agents, causing all of them to be killed. To cover himself, he successfully blamed Pollard for the transfer of intelligence to the Soviets which Ames himself had effected.

During the last 10 years, Jonathan Pollard has spent nearly a year in a mental institution and nearly six years in solitary confinement at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill.

His cause has been championed by influential American lawyers and law professors, by Jewish organizations and by high-placed Israeli dignitaries, all to no avail. No one has worked harder for Jonathan's release than his father Morris Pollard, who believes his son has been punished enough.

"I'm 79 years old," Pollard told The Tribune. "I'd like to see him out before I leave this Earth."

So would we, Dr. Pollard, so would we. In the interest of justice, Jonathan Pollard should be given parole. He has served his time and then some.