Washington Whispers - Visiting Hours

March 4, 1996 - U.S. News & World Report

Is the influential chairman of the House International Relations Committee leading a new campaign to seek clemency for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard? That's one explanation why Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York visited Pollard last week at the Butner, N.C., federal prison - the first such visit by a member of Congress since the former U.S. Naval intelligence officer was sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment for passing secrets to the Israeli government.

Pollard, who claims that the U.S. government reneged on a promise to not seek life imprisonment in exchange for his cooperation in the case, recently sent a second appeal for clemency to President Clinton. An earlier plea was turned down after the State Department, CIA, Justice Department and Pentagon all recommended against it.

Sources close to the case say the agencies are again expected to reject a clemency deal. However, the White House could disregard their advice. The sources say the administration is now weighing "other factors" in the case - not the least of them the upcoming Israeli and U.S. elections. Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who like his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin, has appealed to Clinton to commute Pollard's sentence and let him leave Israel, is fighting a tough battle. Many Israelis consider Pollard, who was recently granted Israeli citizenship by the Peres government, a hero - and most think him worthy of compassion.

While Gilman said he did not want to comment on the report at this time, an aide confirmed that such a meeting had been scheduled.