B'nai Brith Letter to President Clinton

December 30, 1998

William Jefferson Clinton
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20500

Dear President Clinton:

As you might recall, we wrote to you by a letter dated December 18 in regard to reports that White House counsel Charles F. C. Ruff had asked senior administration officials to supply by January 11 information bearing on whether Jonathan J. Pollard should be granted clemency. We used that opportunity, as president, immediate past president and past president of B'nai B'rith International, respectively, to urge that you release Jonathan Pollard on humanitarian grounds.

We return to the matter so quickly because of a disturbing news item which appeared subsequently. The December 24 edition of U.S.A. Today carried a story by Richard Willing headlined "U.S. ready to reject spy plea; Pollard wants to review case."

The story implies that the review is to be pro forma, and will not necessarily reflect Mr. Ruff's call for additional or new information, let alone the request of Pollard's attorney to be able to rebut some of the old arguments against his client. In addition, it seems to be part of a campaign to preempt presidential reconsideration of Pollard's continued imprisonment. This is being done, apparently, by leaked stories and planted commentaries reiterating the publicly unsubstantiated original claims against Pollard.

Therefore, we feel we must restate, in abbreviated form, some of the points made in our December 18 letter:

Opponents of Pollard's release continue to label him a traitor. However, he was not charged with or convicted of treason. He did not spy for an enemy of America in either a hot or cold war.

The average time served for people convicted of spying for a friendly nation is two to four years. However, Pollard is now in his fourteenth year of imprisonment.

His life sentence was imposed at the last minute and only after then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger intervened by filing an affidavit, which erroneously accused Pollard of treason. The sentence contravened the post-arrest offer of a "substantial" (approximately 10 year) sentence in exchange for Pollard's cooperation.

Those who still allege that Pollard gravely damaged U.S. security have yet to substantiate such allegations. Intelligence failures -- including the late discovery of Aldrich Ames and the dangerous underestimation of Iraq's pre-1991 progress in nuclear arms development -- prevent us from relying on such sweeping allegations in the Pollard case.

Opponents of Pollard's release have claimed that Israel's use of Pollard violated a "friends don't spy on friends" practice. But as you know, allies often keep surreptitious tabs on each other -- as the United States did by recruiting Israeli Major Yosef Amit to spy on Israel. Amit was released after serving seven years.

Some now claim that for you to free Pollard, after more than 13 years in prison, would demoralize the C.I.A. and F.B.I. Yet Marine Sgt. Clayton Lonetree, sentenced to 25 years (not life), for selling secrets to Moscow, was released after nine years. Earl Pitts, sentenced to 27 years for the same thing, is expected, with good behavior, to serve less time than Pollard already has. Michael Schwartz, a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, who gave American military secrets to Saudi Arabia from 1992 to 1994, pleaded guilty to charges less than espionage and received no sentence at all, only a less-than-honorable discharge. No one claims any of this "demoralizes" the C.I.A. and F.B.I.

Jonathan Pollard has expressed remorse for his crime. In our opinion, he has, by now, paid for it. His continued incarceration seems more vindictive than just.

On behalf of ourselves and B'nai B'rith's 250,000 members and supporters, we reiterate our December 18 call for you to free Jonathan Pollard on humanitarian grounds. Clemency at this time would be worthy of this great country.

Sincerely yours,

Richard D. Heideman

Tommy P. Baer
Immediate Past President

Seymour D. Reich
Past President

See Also:
  • B'nai Brith Media Release