In Pollard Case, U.S. Intelligence Has Not Earned Public's Blind Trust

November 14, 1996

The obsessive and vindictive opposition of the U.S. intelligence community to the release of Jonathan Pollard, as described in Steven Rodan's article "Not Forgiven or Forgotten" (Jerusalem Post International, October 12, 1996) is starting to wear rather thin. The intelligence community can whine endlessly about the purported damage caused by Pollard, but the fact is that when called on to substantiate their allegations, they always refuse to do so. Their arrogant insistence that we simply trust them and accept whatever they tell us in neither logical nor justified.

In every other case of espionage pursued by the U.S. government, we can be told at least some specific examples - not mere unsubstantiated claims - of actual damage which resulted from the espionage. For example, there have been few, if any, other espionage cases as sensitive and as embarrassing to the intelligence community as the Aldrich Ames fiasco. And yet, following Ames's arrest, it could be disclosed that Ames was responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen U.S. operatives in the Soviet Union. Soon after we could be told their code names.

In marked contrast, isn't it at least somewhat suspicious, if not downright scandalous, that eleven years after Pollard's arrest, not a single specific example of actual damage purportedly caused by Pollard can be shared with the American public? All we can be told is that Pollard supposedly compromised "sources and methods." Which "sources" and which "methods"? What proof is there of any such compromise? And the bottom line - what damages resulted from such compromise? Ames also compromised "sources and methods" - human intelligence - and the result of the compromise was known and was disclosed. It is only in Pollard's case that nothing can be revealed and the American public is asked to place its blind faith in Pollard's prosecutors.

But has such blind faith been earned by those who seek to keep Pollard in prison? The U.S. government made three written promises to Pollard as part of its plea agreement with him and then proceeded to violate each and every one of them. They promised not to engage in character assassination at sentencing, but then repeatedly trashed Pollard before the sentencing judge with a series of invectives and vituperatives.

They promised Pollard that they would advise the court of the value of his cooperation in the enforcement of the espionage laws. Pollard's prosecutors not only failed to honor that promise but actually turned that promise completely on its head by arguing that Pollard sabotaged espionage efforts. Most importantly, the government signed an agreement with Pollard promising that it would not ask for a life sentence, but then proceeded to violate that promise as well in its pre-sentencing submissions to the court.

As far as the intelligence community is concerned, their credibility in this case in general, and in particular their assertions that Pollard must be kept in prison, based on the seriousness of the information in the classified damage assessment reports, are extremely suspect.

First, as noted, they have, for eleven years, failed to produced any evidence to support their dramatic, but always unspecified claims. Certainly, the sections of the damage assessment and Caspar Weinberger's eleventh hour memorandum to the sentencing judge that have been made public contain no credible statements to support a life sentence.

Second, it is clear from the unclassified government submissions to the court that the government was not above engaging in rank hyperbole or even making blatantly false statements in order to persuade the court to impose the most severe sentence. Weinberger's outrageous and false assertion to the court in the unclassified portion of his memorandum accusing Pollard of treason - a crime defined in the U.S. Constitution as giving aid to an enemy of the United States during war time - is testament to the fact that the government's assertions in the Pollard case should, to say the very least, be carefully questioned and scrutinized. If we know that portions of the government's submissions that have been declassified contain false and misleading statements, is there any reason we should blindly accept that they were completely truthful in the portion that remains classified?

Third, it is noteworthy that the current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Arlen Specter, and (as noted in Steve Rodan's article) Senator Dennis DeConcini, the immediate past chairman of that committee, both of whom had full access to the classified materials on Jonathan Pollard, are each on record in support of Pollard's release.

Fourth, it is clear that intelligence officials, their denials to the contrary notwithstanding, did, in fact, attempt over the years to blame Pollard for the crimes of Aldrich Ames. For example, I would refer Thomas Brooks, the former director of naval intelligence, interviewed in Steve Rodan's piece, who rejected the contention that a false link was ever made between the Pollard and Ames's crimes, to the "Inside Washington" column in the December 6, 1993 issue of Time magazine and to the chapter on Pollard ("Israel's Nuclear Spy") in Seymour Hersh's book "The Sampson Option."

In each of these widely read sources, unnamed U.S. officials sought to make Pollard the fall guy for crimes we would later learn were committed by Aldrich Ames. Not at all coincidentally, the Time magazine piece came out just days before Prime Minister Rabin's December 1993 meeting in Washington with President Clinton, at which time it was widely anticipated that the late premier would ask for Pollard's release.

So the question is not whether the government and the intelligence community have earned our blind faith in the Pollard case. The better question is whether after all their prevarications and machinations, they have even a shred of credibility left when it comes to the Pollard affair.

Finally, it is outrageous that there are those who still argue that Pollard has not expressed genuine remorse and continue to hold over his head his supposed failure to do so. Over the years, many people have visited with Jonathan in prison. Many have formed relationships with him, and Jonathan always spoke openly and freely to them. (It is not in Jonathan's character to play to an audience or to say things he does not mean.) Over the 11 year period during which these visits took place, Jonathan was consistent in expressing deep and genuine remorse for his actions. These expressions of regret went beyond his deep sorrow over the tragic personal hardships which he and his wife have had to endure for the long years, and, quite clearly, extended to his feelings about the very nature of the actions for which he was prosecuted. Thus, the assertion that Jonathan Pollard is not really remorseful is yet another empty excuse for keeping him in prison.

It is a fundamental tenet of the American judicial system that people who commit similar crimes ought to receive reasonably similar punishments. That is why Senator Rudman is absolutely correct when he argues to Mr. Rodan that "Pollard should not be treated differently than anybody else." But contrary to Senator Rudman's baseless contention, it is not preferential treatment that Pollard seeks, but simply the application of fair and equal justice.

Of the numerous Americans who spied for an ally or even a neutral country, Senator Rudman will not be able to name one who received a sentence even remotely close to life. But beyond that, it is the height of injustice for the U.S. government to continue to pursue the very life sentence it promised Pollard in writing in would not seek.

President Clinton can help restore some of the credibility and integrity the U.S. government lost in the Pollard case by honoring the government's promise to Pollard and commuting his sentence to the eleven years he has already served.

D. Kirshenbaum, Esq.