U.S. Defense Secretaries Oppose Pollard Release

December 10, 1998 - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven former U.S. defense secretaries urged President Clinton Thursday to reject Israel's appeal to release Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

The appeal, released days before a visit to Israel by Clinton and one week after the president began a review of the case, said giving clemency to Pollard would encourage America's enemies.

"As you know, espionage against the United States in this post-Cold War world continues unabated and is seriously damaging the interests of our country.

"Notwithstanding our strong support for Israel, we believe that granting clemency to Mr. Pollard would encourage those who would harm our country," the letter said.

The letter was signed by Frank Carlucci, Richard Cheney, Melvin Laird, Elliot Richardson, Donald Rumsfeld, James Schlesinger and Caspar Weinberger, who served in different Republican administrations since 1969.

The White House said last Thursday that it had requested advice by mid-January from top national security and law enforcement officials on the case of Pollard, who once worked as a naval intelligence analyst.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a strong pitch for Pollard's release during the marathon Wye Agreement talks on Middle East peace in October.

A spokesman for current Defense Secretary William Cohen said last week he would study the issue but noted the Pentagon had previously opposed any release.

"I have no reason to expect that there will be major changes in the advice he (Clinton) gets from some quarters, but I think we just have to let that play out," spokesman Ken Bacon said.