Letter: August 12, 2002, Rep. Barney Frank to Attorney General John Ashcroft
RE: Secret Documents

Posted to Web: September 8, 2003

J4JP Prefacing Note:

This is the first of a series of three letters. Congressman Barney Frank originally wrote this letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft on August 12, 2002 requesting that he grant Jonathan Pollard's security-cleared attorneys access to the secret portions of Jonathan's sentencing docket. Nearly a year would go by before he received a response from Ashcroft's office, completely side-stepping the issue. Frank issued a reply indicating his dissatisfaction with the response. There has been no further reply to date. Frank's original letter follows. Links to the replies are below.


August 12, 2002

The Honorable John Ashcroft
Attorney General
Department Of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:

I understand that Jonathan Pollard, who agreed to a plea bargain but is nonetheless serving the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for his crimes, is filing a motion for re-sentencing in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia based on ineffective assistance of counsel. It has been reported to me that the Government prosecutors opposed to Mr. Pollard's motion have repeatedly been afforded access to certain classified materials in the court's sentencing docket for Mr. Pollard that these same prosecutors refuse to allow Mr. Pollard's counsel to see even though Mr. Pollard's counsel has withstood thorough background investigations.

Under basic standards of constitutional due process, incriminating evidence is generally shown to a defendant in order to allow him to adequately defend himself. And while I see the need, in the rare case involving national security, to withhold such information from a defendant, I see no purpose in keeping such information from a defendant's counsel when his counsel has been granted a "Top Secret" security clearance. Indeed, it has been reported to me that Mr. Pollard's counsel have been determined eligible for the even higher "SCI clearance upon a showing of "Need to know." I do not think this "need to know" should be unilaterally determined by the same U.S. Attorney whose office is opposing Mr. Pollard's motion.

The question of Mr. Pollard's guilt or innocence is not the issue here. Fairness means that both sides arguing the motion (and the court) should have access to all relevant materials. And the Government should respond to Mr. Pollard's petition on the merits, rather than make procedural arguments that he should have somehow discovered the ineffective assistance of his counsel sooner, given our constitutional duty to deal fairly with citizens.

Barney Frank

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