The Spy Who Would Come In From The Cold

May 22, 1998 - Noach Dear (NYC Councilman) The Jewish Press, New York

It's official. Jonathan Pollard was never part of a "rogue operation". Yet for more than a decade Pollard has been the agent no country would claim, even as he served an unusually severe life sentence for passing classified information to an ally.

All that changed last week when Israel recognized him as an agent. Israel has even said it would welcome him if he were released and chose to live there. However, it will take renewed efforts by the American Jewish community to see that Pollard gets a chance to regain his freedom.

Israeli Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman said recognizing Pollard was a "humanitarian act and it is within Judaism to be humane." It is also within the American legal system to be humane. Yet there was clearly a lack of humanity and justice in the sentence for Pollard, who has already served more than three times the average maximum sentence for his crime.

Many of the facts in the Pollard Case are clear. He committed a crime, confessed and was sentenced, and has since shown remorse for his actions. Specifically Pollard gave Israel classified information concerning the weapons systems of various Arab States, including information that Israel arguably should have had access to under an agreement between allies to share data.

Far less clear are the details of Pollard's case and the government's role in it. For instance there is the question of his plea agreement. Prosecutors had promised Pollard leniency if he agreed to forego a jury trial and enter a guilty plea. The plea agreement was subsequently violated due in part to a highly unusual and possibly improper ex-parte memorandum from former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

Among other things, Weinberger's statement labeled Pollard a traitor and blamed him for the deaths of U.S. agents in the former Soviet Union. The memorandum weighed heavily in the sentencing phase, although it was later revealed that former CIA operative and spy Aldrich Ames was responsible for those deaths. Moreover, Ames passed secrets to the enemy whereas Pollard gave information to an ally.

The announcement last week removes and important obstacle to seeing that justice is served. As long as Israel wasn't inclined to take action on Pollard's behalf, neither was the U.S. Israel's recognition of Pollard could help soften the American position that he should spend the rest of his life in prison without hope of a Presidential pardon for a crime that usually carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Israeli Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman has said that American and Israeli Jewry have not worked hard enough to secure Pollard's release. Last week Israel took an important step toward correcting that failure. The time has come to renew American efforts on Pollard's behalf. It is time for Jonathan Pollard to come in from the cold