Presidential Candidates and Pollard

The Jewish Press - Editorial Board - December 27, 2006

We are now in the very early stages of the 2008 presidential campaign - an opportune time, as we see it, for the Jewish community to do something to alleviate the plight of Jonathan Pollard. We must make it clear to all the potential candidates that the Draconian treatment meted out to Mr. Pollard - and the reaction or non-reaction to that treatment on the part of those who aspire to the nation's highest office - will be taken into account as we cast our ballots.

We should dismiss out of hand any fear that our doing so might be perceived as favoring parochial issues over loyalty to the United States. It is time to act on what we all know. Mr. Pollard has sat in his cell these past two decades not because of the magnitude of the damage he caused to the United States but because his crimes benefited the State of Israel. And here is why we think so: Advertisement

In the past this page has noted that Mr. Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to have received a life sentence, or anything even approaching it, for spying on behalf of an American ally. We have also noted that the circumstances of his sentencing suggested a special agenda. That is, a negotiated sentence had been unilaterally disavowed by the United States government and the sentencing judge, in consigning Mr. Pollard to life imprisonment, relied on a secret memorandum written by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whose antipathy toward Israel was no secret. Mr. Weinberger reportedly was enraged that Mr. Pollard had provided information to Israel on Arab military preparedness - information Mr. Weinberger opposed sharing with Israelis. Further, we discussed the case of one Ronald Montaperto, a former Pentagon analyst sentenced by a United States judge to just three months in prison for passing highly classified information to China. According to U.S. officials, Mr. Montaperto's actions severely hampered U.S. efforts to track China's covert arms sales to nations sponsoring terrorism (such as Iran, Syria and Pakistan) and in fact led to the "drying up" of intelligence sources, as one newspaper euphemistically put it.

Of course, no two cases are exactly the same, but there are several noteworthy points to be made. The sentencing judge in the Pollard case relied on the secret Weinberger memorandum. In the Montaperto case the sentencing judge said that despite the "very serious charge" against him, he had been persuaded to reduce the sentence based on letters of support from current and former intelligence and Pentagon and military officials. This was despite the fact that the prosecutor told the court that Mr. Montaperto met at least sixty times with two Chinese military intelligence officers and provided them with top secret information.

The last time we looked, China could hardly be called an ally of the United States. Indeed, the U.S. continues to spend untold billions of dollars in order to defend itself against, among other things, what it still considers a very real Chinese threat. By contrast, Israel has long been one of America's closest allies.

We would also remind our readers of the 12-year prison sentence meted out this year to Larry Franklin, a former (non-Jewish) Pentagon official convicted of providing classified information about internal Bush administration deliberations over Iran to officials of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. They, in turn, have been accused of passing the information to Israel. Once again, a seemingly apparent disproportionate reaction when Israel is involved.

When The Jewish Press editorial board met with Hillary Rodham Clinton during her first senatorial campaign, we asked her about Jonathan Pollard. She said she was following the lead of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who opposed doing anything on Mr. Pollard's behalf. Now that Sen. Clinton no longer slavishly follows Senator Lieberman and has become a political star in her own right - as well as the early front-runner for her party's presidential nomination - we should insist on her taking a stand on the Pollard matter.

As an influential member of the Senate's new Democratic majority, she should push for a Senate investigation. In fact, she could take the lead from Congressman Peter Hoekstra, outgoing chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who has called for an investigation of the scope of the support for Mr. Montaperto in the intelligence community.

It really is time for action. Mr. Weinberger is dead, but Jonathan Pollard wakes up every morning - as he has day in and day out for more than twenty years - to a life behind bars.