Jonathan Pollard's Starr Report

The Jerusalem Post - November 2, 1998 - Alan Dershowitz

As President Bill Clinton considers whether to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard - who has already been imprisoned longer than anyone who pleaded guilty to spying for an ally ever has - he should heed the lessons of his own case. President Clinton has quite properly railed against the Starr Report for its one-sidedness, its unfairness and its inaccuracy. The accusations currently being leveled against Jonathan Pollard suffer from the same defects.

On the basis of rumor innuendo and classified information, Pollard's enemies are providing an entirely false and misleading picture of his crimes. Here are some of the untruths currently being circulated:

  1. Joseph DiGenova - who prosecuted Pollard and who, pursuant to a plea bargain, recommended a sentence of less than life imprisonment - now claims that Pollard "put at risk the lives of seamen, Air Force men, Marines and army personnel all over the world."

    This is flat-out false, and I challenge DiGenova to provide evidence that even a single person died as a result of Pollard.

    DiGenova himself has changed his story at least 3 times. First he said that Soviet citizens who were spying for the US - not American soldiers- had been placed at risk. Then he acknowledged- in a public debate with me- that no one had actually been placed at risk.

    And now, on the basis of no new information, he makes this outrageous claim that US soldiers were put at risk. I have been assured by people at the highest levels of our intelligence community, that no one has died as a result of Pollard. It was originally believed that the names of some of the Soviets who spied for the US were turned over by Pollard, but now it has been proven that these names were actually turned over to the KGB by Aldrich Ames.

  2. Many of Pollard's enemies are saying that he did it for money.

    That too is flat-out false. He provided Israel with classified documents about Iraq, Syria, and other Arab countries, which he believed were essential to Israel's security. His motivation was misguided ideology, not financial greed; he asked for no money when he first provided the material. It was his Israeli handler who insisted on giving him relatively small amounts of money.

    That is what spy handlers do, in order to eliminate any moral responsibility in the event the spy is caught. I don't know anyone who believes that if Syria or Iraq had offered Pollard a million dollars that he would have given them anything.


    Justice for Jonathan Pollard Note

    : On May 12, 1998 Israel acknowledged that Jonathan Pollard was a bona fide Israeli agent. This puts the lie to any claims that his motive was mercenary. An official agent is the polar opposite of a freelancing mercenary.)

  3. Some senators and congressmen have said that Pollard provided information about China and South Africa. That too is false, as a review of the case file will confirm.

  4. Some have said that Pollard continued to disclose classified material while he was in prison. That is impossible since every phone call and visit has been monitored by national security personnel.

  5. DiGenova has claimed that the information Pollard "knows today" is still secret, and that he poses "a continuing security threat to the security of this country." Yet, in a television debate with me, DiGenova agreed that enough time had passed to declassify the records of the case without endangering our security in any way. The truth is that Pollard's information is 13 years old and he knows nothing which would endanger our security.

The last time President Clinton reviewed that case he heard from only one side - the prosecutors, intelligence operatives, and defense people who want to keep Pollard in prison for the rest of his life. Indeed a recommendation more sympathetic to Pollard was written by Phillip Heymann, then the number 2 person at the Department of Justice. As far as I know the President never saw the Heymann memorandum. This time he should listen to both sides. He should obtain the Heymann memorandum from the Justice Department, listen to the arguments of Pollard's advocates, and make an assessment based on all the evidence - not just the analog of the one-sided Starr Report.

President Clinton should also review the unfair tactics employed by the prosecution in this case. They broke their plea bargain - their promise - to Pollard. In the plea bargain, the Government promised not to seek life imprisonment, but the prosecutor then double-crossed Pollard by submitting an affidavit from then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger which demanded the harshest possible penalty.

This and other double-dealing led a judge of the Court of Appeals to characterize "the government's breach of the plea bargain (as) a fundamental miscarriage of justice." The other two judges strongly implied that the sentence was too harsh, but declined to interfere on procedural grounds. Now the President has the opportunity to correct this miscarriage of Justice by commuting Pollard's sentence to the 13 years he has already served.