A Florida congressman wrote to US President Barack Obama over the weekend asking him to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard – using an argument that has never been used before in dozens of letters from top American and Israeli officials who have pleaded for Pollard’s release.
Republican Rep. Allen West is a well-respected retired US Army lieutenant- colonel with the highest security clearances possible in America, known as Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented information, or TS/SCI. He wrote to Obama that since his administration intervened to bring about the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al- Megrahi in August 2009, a man who was responsible for the deaths of 270 innocent people, surely Pollard should be freed.
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“After serving 26 years behind bars, Pollard’s health is deteriorating as is his wife’s,” West wrote. “If [the US] can consent to the release by the British of the Lockerbie Bomber back to Libya due to health concerns, how can we justify keeping Mr. Pollard behind bars when his crimes were clearly not as serious as a terrorist who murdered hundreds of Americans?”
Megrahi was convicted of murder in 2001 for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew members on board, as well as 11 people in Lockerbie, Scotland, who were hit by sections of the plane that fell in their town and destroyed several houses.
The Sunday Times revealed last July that the US embassy in London had requested that Megrahi be released from prison rather than transferred to a prison in Libya because he had terminal cancer. The Scottish justice secretary who released Megrahi justified it by saying that the bomber had only three months left to live.
But the Sunday Times later revealed that Megrahi’s doctors thought he could live for another decade. Megrahi is still living at his family’s villa in Libya.
West, who reportedly used his security clearance to check Pollard’s file
before authoring the letter to Obama, wrote that the crime of spying
against an ally normally carried a 10-year sentence and that after
spending five years in solitary confinement in one of America’s most
secure prisons, Pollard had learned his lesson. He wrote that while he
did not condone Pollard’s crime, he had been sufficiently punished.
West was elected to represent Florida’s 22nd Congressional District in
2010 and took office in January 2011. A conservative Republican who is
supportive of the ultraconservative Tea Party movement, West was the
keynote speaker at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference and
is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. During the course of
a distinguished military career that spanned over two decades, West
achieved the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He served as a field artillery
officer in several combat zones, including Operation Desert Storm,
Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Afghanistan.
Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have
asked Obama to grant clemency to Pollard but Obama has not responded to