Repentance, Pardons & Injustice

MetroWest Daily News, Boston - September 23, 1999 - Eugene Narrett

There are unrepentant people of various stripes in the news these days. Their attitude seems to pay off, in the short term, anyway, while the sincere and public remorse of those with lesser faults earns them lashes from the state. I refer to Mr. Clinton's pardon of 16 unrepentant FALN ("Armed Front for a Free Puerto Rico") terrorists and how their release has affected Hillary Rodham-Clinton's campaign for a Senate seat in New York.

As noted in the New York Times last week, Bill Clinton is the least forgiving President in American history, having rejected 3000 pleas for pardon. Pardon requires public statements of contrition by the convicted and a pledge to refrain from similar acts in future. Mr. Clinton ignored the urgings of hundreds of law enforcement officials and victims by releasing FALN terrorists who refused to renounce future meetings and even publicly mocked the conditions of release.

The FALN committed 130 bombings in the United States in the 1950s and '60s. Scores of Americans were maimed and six were killed. Five members of Congress were physically attacked. So this was a curious choice for pardon by this most unforgiving of Presidents.

Furiously campaigning for a Senate seat in New York State, Hillary Clinton at first backed the pardon. When polls showed the issue was costing her more votes than it gained, she reversed herself showing that she is a person of high principle, with self-interest topping her scale of values. She and the President deny discussing the matter, a claim that merits the all but universal scorn it has received.

Typically, Mr. Clinton accused critics of his and his wife's maneuvering as "McCarthyism." William Safire noted how the ludicrous charge helped Clinton spin away from revelations that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had laundered $1.35 million from its campaign fund to subsidize a mortgage for Bill and Hillary. Last year the dual Presidents announced they were "broke." Now they are shopping for $1.6 million estates in Westchester and Long Island.

These examples of graft, pandering, cronyism and injustice spotlight by contrast the President's treatment of former civilian naval intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard. European media rightly are beginning to treat the matter as a modern Dreyfus case (Alfred Dreyfus was a turn of the century French army officer wrongly convicted of treason and whose only real crime was his religion, Judaism.) Pollard was convicted of espionage, but sentenced for a crime he did not commit and was never even charged with - treason.

Given the bizarre matter of the FALN pardons, the Pollard case has become, in the words of activist Beth Galinsky "a litmus test on Hillary Clinton's claims to stand for judicial equity and due process." The punitive injustice heaped on Pollard is so egregious that even strong Clinton allies are demanding redress. Mark Green, Public Advocate for New York, a long-time left-liberal activist and Rabbi Alexander Schindler of the politically liberal Union of American Hebrew Congregations last week wrote Clinton to demand relief. Pollard did not spy on American military programs or bases but transferred American intelligence on chemical and nuclear weapons build up in Libya, Iraq and Syria to Israel, the intended target, information supposed to be shared with Israel per a 1983 Memorandum of understanding.

As previously stated, Pollard was not accused or convicted of treason (though that charge has often been falsely made in the media) but only with one count of espionage - for which he continues to express remorse. He co-operated extensively with Federal prosecutors.

The government reneged in 1987 on the plea bargain they promised him after a last-minute secret memo was submitted to the presiding judge by Caspar Weinberger, himself a convicted felon who was pardoned by George Bush for lying to Congress about the Iran-contra case. Weinberger's memo has been withheld from the defense ever since the it was suddenly introduced at Pollard's sentencing. Pollard has never been permitted to challenge it court - a clear violation of his constitutional right to due process. Weinberger was among many Carter-Reagan-Bush officials (some still at the CIA and State Department) who clandestinely armed Iraq.

Pollard is entering the 15th year of a life sentence. Those who spy for an ally usually receive a minimal sentences, the median sentence is 2-4 years.

The continuing incarceration of Jonathan Pollard is one of the ugliest injustices tainting this Administration. The contrast with the FALN matter highlights the double standard, politicking and high level cover-ups of geo-political treachery at stake.

William and Hillary Clinton who themselves require and often request forgiveness would do well to begin a process of sincere repentance by pardoning and releasing Jonathan Pollard forthwith, apologizing to him and his wife Esther for the excessive harms they have suffered at the hands of three Administrations.

In Israel, Mr. Barak and his predecessors have some apologizing of their own to do, after they have exerted all efforts to secure Mr. Pollard's repatriation to Israel whose people he served so nobly.

Eugene Narrett, PhD, is a columnist & Professor at Boston University.

See also:
  • Facts of the Pollard Case
  • Senate Race page