Pollard Lawyers Have Right To See His File

James Patterson - The Indianapolis Star - January 12, 2002

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday became the highest-ranking world leader to visit Jonathan Pollard in prison, where he has been held far too long.

Pollard is serving a life sentence in Butner, N.C., for passing classified intelligence to Israel about nations that support terrorism and annihilation of the Jewish state.

Pollard agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage, with the understanding that the United States would not ask the court for a life sentence. But even after Pollard fully cooperated with federal investigators, the U.S. reneged on its promise.

No other person found guilty of spying for a U.S. ally has received more than a six-year sentence. Not only was Pollard's sentence unconscionable, he has been treated inhumanely since March of 1987. For more than a year after sentencing, Pollard was confined to a mental hospital at the U.S. Medical Center for prisoners in Springfield, Mo. "From March 6, 1987, until June 10, 1988, Pollard was held for all practical purposes incommunicado in the hospital wing of the center set aside for the criminally insane, even though there was no evidence that Pollard possessed any mental deficiencies," wrote Indiana author Mark Shaw in "Miscarriage of Justice: The Jonathan Pollard Story".

"Those sympathetic to Pollard fought to gain his release from the mental ward, where they believed he was being treated like a lunatic," Shaw wrote. "Government resistance persisted until respected Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton intervened. He complained about the deplorable conditions and Pollard was transferred from the mental ward."

But the government's persecution of Pollard didn't end there. He spent more than six years in solitary confinement in some of the harshest maximum-security prisons in America. And the government has inappropriately refused to allow Pollard's current attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, to review 35 to 40 pages of documents related to the case. They want access to the documents to support Pollard's application to President Bush for clemency and commutation of sentence.

The government says allowing them to review those papers would "endanger lives and jeopardize national security." Despite the fact that Pollard's original attorney was given that opportunity, the U.S. gave two reasons why Semmelman and Lauer should not. Neither makes sense.

First, the U.S. argued that Pollard's attorneys didn't have the proper security clearance and were not eligible to acquire it. But indeed they were. Semmelman and Lauer obtained Top Secret security clearance, a process that took about three months, after taking the case in May of 2000.

Then the government raised the bar. It said Pollard's lawyers needed SCI (Secure Compartmented Information) clearance, for which they were ineligible.

Yet at the same time that U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson was siding with the government's position denying access, a government officer in charge of who reviews the Pollard file found the opposite.

Pollard's executive summary explains the chronology: "At the precise time the judge was denying the Motion for Reconsideration (to see the documents), the Court Security Officer -- a Department of Justice official appointed by the Court to administer matters involving classified documents in the Court's docket -- admitted in a letter dated August 3, 2001 (which arrived at counsel's office August 7, 2001, the very day Judge Johnson denied the Motion) that the government's background investigation into Messrs. Lauer and Semmelman 'will support SCI access' upon a showing of a 'need to know.'

"This admission meant that the government's earlier representation to the court -- that allowing counsel access to the documents would pose a risk to national security -- was false." The government also said the attorneys had no "need to know" what is in the Pollard classified file. That's absurd; of course they do. "It's an excuse that to me is ridiculous on its face," said Semmelman. "How can a lawyer function effectively without knowing what's in the court file?" This is an egregious abuse of power by the U.S. government.

Justice4JP Note

: Recirculation of the above op-ed should not be construed as endorsement of "Miscarriage of Justice: The Pollard Story" or any other book on the Pollard case. See J4JP policy on Books and Recommended Reading. For accurate, factual information and source material on the Pollard case, Justice4JP recommends the Justice4JP web site at jonathanpollard.org.

See Also: