Pollard's Cooperation and Prescience About Iraq

Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman - The New York Sun - February 19, 2003

(Posted to the web March 11, 2003)

Attorneys Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman wrote the following response to the NY Sun which claimed in an editorial that Jonathan Pollard received a life sentence as a result of his failure to cooperate with the Government. In fact, the record shows that Pollard cooperated fully; nevertheless, the Government violated its agreement with him. The attorneys' response was edited by the NY Sun and printed February 19, 2003.

The February 11, 2003 editorial, "Arnaout Pleads," refers incorrectly to our client, Jonathan Pollard. It states that, at Pollard's sentencing, "the government, unhappy with his level of cooperation, failed to back up its agreement. And Pollard drew a life sentence, which he is still serving."

You are correct that the judge imposed a life sentence. However, there was no issue at sentencing regarding Pollard's cooperation, which included hundreds of debriefings by assorted government agencies, as well as numerous polygraph examinations. The government acknowledged to the court in its pre-sentencing memorandum that Pollard's "cooperation has proven to be of considerable value to the government's damage assessment analysis, and the ongoing investigation of the instant case." The government further acknowledged to the court that Pollard "has been candid and informative in describing his wrongdoing," and that the government "has derived benefit from the information defendant has provided."

What happened at Pollard's sentencing was that, in direct breach of an agreement not to ask the judge to impose a life sentence, the government did so anyway. We are currently litigating in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to remedy that injustice. See U.S. v. Pollard, Docket No. 86-0207 (TFH).

In light of current issues concerning Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction, and potential war with America, you may also wish to examine the forgotten but prescient role of Pollard.

Pollard is now in his eighteenth year of incarceration for providing classified information to Israel. As reflected in publicly-available materials, that information included American-gathered information about Iraq's chemical warfare production capabilities, such as satellite pictures and maps showing the location of production factories and storage facilities, some of which were apparently constructed by Bechtel Inc., Caspar Weinberger's former company. Weinberger, as Secretary of Defense in 1985, took the unprecedented step of personally intervening in the Pollard sentencing and effectively urged the court to sentence Pollard to a life term in breach of the government's plea agreement that it would not seek a life term.

Pollard provided Israel with the information concerning Iraq's chemical weapons at a time when America was facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological precursor agents and supplying Iraq with intelligence information as part of its pro-Iraq/anti-Iran policy, a policy spearheaded by Weinberger.

When we took on Pollard's case on a pro bono basis in May 2000, we immediately applied for and obtained Top Secret security clearance so we could examine 40-odd pages in the court docket. These pages were from Pollard's sentencing file, sealed pursuant to the government's request. No one - including Pollard's own lawyers - has seen these pages since the day of his sentencing on March 4, 1987. These documents consist of redacted portions of a declaration by Weinberger and related material. Despite our security clearances, the government has denied us access to these materials, stonewalling our efforts with unyielding and, thus far, successful tactics before the federal court.

We suspect that the government's refusal to allow us access to the documents, cloaked in a purported concern for "national security," is in truth fueled by a desire to prevent its own embarrassment were the contents of the documents to be reviewed.

Our recent papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia precisely and dispositively describe the government's effort to shield itself from scrutiny on this issue.

Eliot Lauer
Jacques Semmelman

[Note: an edited version of the above was published in the New York Sun.]

Justice4JP Comments:

A good example of the government's double standard in sentencing is the case of Steven Lalas. Lalas was a US State Department employee who spied for Greece. He committed a far more serious crime, jeopardizing the lives of American agents operating in the Balkans by exposing their identities. Lalas entered into a plea agreement with the government but did not honor it. The government nevertheless upheld its promises to Lalas according to the agreement. In other words, although Lalas did not cooperate, he still got only a 14 year sentence, as promised. [See the Steven Lalas case.]

Unlike Lalas, even though Jonathan Pollard did cooperate fully, the Government did not honor its plea agreement and Pollard got life.

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