Text of Green/Schindler Appeal to Clinton

September 13, 1999

President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to urge you to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard, whom we met with for two hours last week in a North Carolina prison.

Mr. Pollard committed the very serious crime of spying on behalf of an American ally, Israel, for which he was justly convicted and incarcerated. But he has now been in prison for 14 long years, serving a life sentence which far exceeds the punishment imposed on anyone else for a comparable crime. We have each previously written to you on this matter, as part of a growing chorus of voices, including those of religious leaders, national organizations, commentators, scholars, and public officials, all of whom are united in calling for his release.

It was widely reported that you and former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had a private understanding that the Wye Accord would lead to Mr. Pollard's release. Whatever happened at or after Wye, we urge the White House now to complete its review of Mr. Pollard's case and make a decision to grant clemency. Here are the reasons:

  • Jonathan Pollard is the only person ever given a life sentence by the United States for spying for an ally. His sentence is far in excess of that given to other individuals convicted of spying for friends of America.

  • This grossly excessive sentence was the result of the Government turning its back on the plea agreement Pollard signed, in which -- because of his acknowledged cooperation with the prosecutors and because of the punishments meted out in parallel cases -- he expected a severe but reasonable sentence. Instead, at the eleventh hour, the prosecution produced a secret, surprise, and polemical memorandum from then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. This memorandum branded Pollard's offense as "treason." Pollard admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage, but he was never accused of "treason," which the United States Constitution defines as "levying war against the United States" or "giving aid and comfort" to our enemies. (Article III, section 3). In using this loaded word -- and other hyperbole -- Weinberger encouraged the court to mete out the harshest penalty, life in prison. It defies logic to believe that Pollard would have agreed to waive his sixth amendment right to trial had he known that the punishment would be life in prison without parole.

  • In a scene reminiscent of a Kafka novel, the contents of this decisive Weinberger memorandum have never been publically released or subjected to cross-examination. And it is particularly ironic that its author, whose word the trial judge apparently took at face value, himself later received a presidential pardon for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair.

  • The Government's behavior was all the more astonishing because it violated its promise to fully credit Pollard for his extensive cooperation with the prosecution once he had been apprehended.

It is a miscarriage of justice for Jonathan Pollard to be sitting in prison for life because of charges that were never openly aired or scrutinized and to be convicted of one crime (espionage) yet sentenced for another (treason).

After 14 years in prison, including seven in solitary confinement, Pollard has paid his debt to society. And there is no evidence that he would be a danger to society upon his release, contrary to repeated uncorroborated assertions by some in the defense intelligence community. Charges in the press are not facts in court.

During this holiest week of the Jewish calendar -- the week between the High Holy days of Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement -- Jews around the world repent and seek forgiveness for their transgressions. It is beyond dispute that Mr. Pollard has expressed great remorse for his crime.

The Bible admonishes us "Justice, Justice shall you pursue." And Biblical commentators note that the word "Justice" is repeated twice to remind us that when pursuing it we must implement it in an equitable manner. We ask that you act now to right this wrong in the best spirit of the Jewish High Holy Days.


Mark Green,
Public Advocate for City of New York

Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler,
the Immediate Past President,
Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
and Vice-President, World Jewish Congress

  • See also: Public Advocate Green And WJC VP Schindler Appeal to Clinton