Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a close ally of US President Barack
Obama, called upon him to commute the life sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan
Pollard to time served, in a letter on Tuesday.
The president tried
unsuccessfully to appoint Richardson as his commerce secretary after he dropped
out of the 2008 presidential race and endorsed Obama rather than his rival
candidate, Hillary Clinton. Richardson was energy secretary in Bill Clinton’s
cabinet, so his endorsement of Obama gave him a big boost that helped him get
Richardson also served as ambassador to the United Nations and
was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. He maintains a close
relationship with Obama.
“I am aware commutations are being considered at
this time,” Richardson wrote, referring to presidential clemency directives
traditionally issued before Christmas. “Please add Jonathan Pollard to the list
of those to be released.”
In the letter, Richardson noted that nearly all
those with first-hand knowledge of Pollard’s case now support allowing him to
He recalled discussions on Pollard in Bill Clinton’s
cabinet 15 years ago.
“In my view, there is no longer a need for a
discussion today,” Richardson wrote.
“Virtually everyone who was in a
high position of government – and dealt with the ramifications of what Pollard
did at the time – now support his release.”
Richardson pointed out that
many of these major decision makers have issued public calls for Pollard’s
release, including former secretary of state George Shultz, former national
security adviser Robert McFarlane, and William Webster, the head of the FBI at
the time of Pollard’s arrest and the only man in history to head both the FBI
and the CIA.
In his letter, Richardson blamed then-secretary of defense
Caspar Weinberger for Pollard receiving a life sentence despite a plea bargain
in which the government committed to not seek a life sentence.
has already spent 28 years of the life sentence in a federal prison for passing
classified information to an ally.
No one else in the history of the
United States has ever received a life sentence for this offense, whose median
time served is two to four years.