Why Hillary Can No Longer Dilly-Dally on Pollard

The Jewish Press (N.Y.) December 10, 1999 - Kenneth Lasson, Esq.

Hillary Clinton's most persistent political instinct, as the New York Times recently suggested, is to keep her head down.

When will she unequivocally declare her candidacy for the U.S. Senate from New York?

She'd rather not say.

When will she distance herself from the outrageous Palestinian propaganda such as that recently spewed by Yasir Arafat's better half, who in the First Lady's presence accused Israel of poisoning Arab children's drinking water.

She'd rather not say.

And when will she publicly disclose her position on the question of clemency for Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy? On that issue, Mrs. Clinton

would rather not ever have to say

- but there are compelling reasons why she must:

Her chief rival for the Senate, Mayor Rudy Giuliani has already come out publicly in favor of clemency for Pollard. So have other various New York Republican VIPs, not to mention the New York City Council and many New York Democrats. Pollard's sentence, said the mayor, is "disproportionate to that of others who served time for precisely the same crime." His would-be democratic counterpart Senator Charles Schumer has long supported Pollard's release. There is not a shred of evidence, says Public Advocate Mark Green, that Pollard would be a danger to society - "charges in the press are not facts in court"- contrary to repeated uncorroborated assertions by the intelligence community.

Mrs. Clinton's recent public advocacy on behalf of a Presidential pardon for sixteen jailed nationalist Puerto Rican terrorists flew in the face of vehement opposition by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Although she ultimately withdrew her support when the convicts declared that they were not sorry for their crimes, her husband went ahead and released them anyway.

No such consideration was given to Pollard, even though (according to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others) the President promised to free him during last year's peace accords - then baldly reneged, ostensibly under pressure from the intelligence community, in favor of a "speedy review" of the case. That was over a year ago. Needless to say, as the Israeli press has pointed out, there has been no speed and no review.

What is the President's position? Mr. Clinton, like the First Lady, would rather not say.

When and if she formally declares her candidacy for the Senate, Mrs. Clinton will find that demands will hardly diminish for her position on Jonathan Pollard. Injustice festers. Thus, not only can't the facts surrounding Pollard's punishment - life in prison with a recommendation from the Justice Department against parole - be easily dismissed, more of them come to light as time passes by.

For example, the current Middle East Quarterly quotes former secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger as claiming that he received a direct request from Pollard's sentencing judge, Aubrey Robinson, for an ex parte memorandum on the extent of the damage caused. Pollard has never been allowed to challenge the memorandum in a court of law, not then or since. If Weinberger's claim is true, the judge's actions were highly prejudicial and improper.

But no more so than those of federal prosecutors who breached all the promises they made to Pollard in order to secure his cooperation. Instead of seeking something less than the maximum penalty, as they had agreed, they did everything they could to secure a life sentence. All three federal judges who considered Pollard's appeal criticized the government's conduct. Although two of them let the sentence stand on technical/procedural grounds, Judge Stephen Williams vigorously dissented - decrying the prosecutors' actions as amounting to a "fundamental miscarriage of justice."

No doubt Mrs. Clinton accepts the idea that the United States is a great and good country and agrees with the notion that we the people must be vigilant for its clear failures of justice. If for no other reason than for political expediency, the First Lady should have something to say about that.

The sooner she joins in the vigilance, the more viable her candidacy will be for New York, and the rest of us.

Kenneth Lasson is a law professor at the University of Baltimore.

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