Sandy Berger and Jonathan Pollard: American Justice?

Jeff Ballabon - - January 29, 2007

The grassroots movement around freeing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard generates lots of heat about purported injustice and anti-Semitism, but little light about what damage Pollard really did to America and why he continues to languish.

I have argued against the political efforts to free Pollard, although I am fully supportive of pursuing any and all legal recourse. The lack of actual information of what damage (if any) Pollard actually caused has always given me pause about the fervor of the "Free Pollard" activists, and it remains hard for me to imagine that it is anti-Semitism at work. However, that it is a relative injustice in a system that prides itself on striving for parity in federal sentencing, can no longer be doubted - in light of the system's treatment of Sandy Berger.

Pollard was a relatively low level civilian intelligence analyst while Berger was our nation's National Security Advisor. Pollard did plead guilty to spying for an ally (which actually is a lesser crime) and his actions have not publicly been linked to any specific damage to America or her citizens. Recently, even former CIA director Jim Woolsey said Pollard has already served enough time. In contrast, Berger's actions or inactions as National Security Advisor may have been linked directly to Al Qaeda's success in executing the horrible tragedy of 9/11 - perhaps even worse, the documents he stole and destroyed may have contained information which would help protect Americans in the future from terrorism. And he is serving no time at all.

What few facts are known about Sandy Berger's perfidy already dwarf the totality of Watergate: using his status and security clearance, Berger repeatedly broke into the National Archives, not a political party's offices; Berger stole documents pertaining to the security of our nation at a time of war and imminent threat to civilians on a wide scale, not political playbooks; etc.

As Ronald Cass sums it up:

"According to reports from the Inspector General of the National Archives and the staff of the House of Representatives' Government Operations Committee, Mr. Berger, while acting as former President Clinton's designated representative to the commission investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001, illegally took confidential documents from the Archives on more than one occasion. He folded documents in his clothes, snuck them out of the Archives building, and stashed them under a construction trailer nearby until he could return, retrieve them, and later cut them up. After he was caught, he lied to the investigators and tried to shift blame to Archive employees.

Cass' article touches on the media's own perfidy in all but yawning about Berger's actions.

The upshot is that Berger remains a free man who is making millions. He paid a fine and has to do community service. It is a travesty.

If Pollard, who has been in maximum security in North Carolina for 22 years and appears to be stuck there for the rest of his natural life, can be said to have been dealt with appropriately, then Berger should be in Gitmo undergoing interrogation (maybe that way we'd git mo information about what he actually stole and destroyed and why he did it).

In any case, if Sandy Berger is a free man, there is no justification for Pollard to be behind bars.

The author is a graduate of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Yeshiva University, and Yale Law School. He practiced law in New York before going to Washington, DC, where he served as Legislative Counsel to Senator John Danforth (R-MO) and Republican Counsel to the Consumer Affairs and Product Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.