Israelis protest for Jonathan Pollard in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
It’s been more than 15 years since I first publicly advocated for Jonathan
Pollard to be released from prison. I did so less than two years after I had
completed my term as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In
reiterating that plea today, I find that a number of other high-ranking
government officials have come to share my view.
The time is long
In the past 18 months I have been publicly joined in that view
by many noteworthy veterans of government service – including the former head of
the CIA James Woolsey, the former deputy attorney-general Philip Heymann, and
the former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum – all of whom have reviewed the
classified information of the Pollard case.
A good deal of momentum in
the push for clemency has come from people who dealt with the case from the
highest positions of government, from the time Pollard was arrested on November
21, 1985. Then-secretary of state George Shultz has now publicly called for his
release. The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time,
Sen. David Durenberger, recently sent a letter to the president that I
co-signed with 16 other former senators advocating Pollard’s immediate release.
The fact is that the classified information I reviewed nine years after
Pollard’s arrest does not justify his continued confinement.
prosecutors in the Pollard case sent the court a victim-impact statement which
accurately reflected the extent of his crime. In summary, the statement said
that Pollard gave Israel US information on the weaponry of the Arab countries
and this information deprived the US of its bargaining leverage with Israel on
intelligence sharing and assisted Israel in its balance of power with the Arab
countries. The statement concluded that “In short, Mr. Pollard’s
activities have adversely affected US relations with both its Middle East Arab
allies and the government of Israel.” This statement is also consistent with the
fact that Pollard was not charged with intending to harm the US.
encouraged by the recent meeting between Vice President Biden and Jewish leaders
to discuss Pollard’s plight. This was the highest-level meeting ever held with
an administration official concerning Pollard. It is obvious that across the
Jewish community there is widespread support for Pollard’s release and this view
is shared by major American figures from both sides of the political
The gross disparity between Pollard’s sentence and that given to
others who passed classified information to allies is striking: the average
sentence for the offense is two to four years. Pollard has just begun his 27th
year in prison. Further, Pollard himself wrote a moving open letter to President
Obama expressing remorse for his actions and requesting his release. President
Shimon Peres handed the letter to the president.
Washington, political considerations always come into play. There have been
reports of opposition to clemency for Pollard from the intelligence and defense
community. I have heard no rational basis for their opposition, nor has any been
With a presidential election coming up in less than a
year it is interesting to note that the Republican candidate for president three
years ago and one of his main Republican rivals for the nomination –
Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mike Huckabee – have both publicly called for
clemency. But I do not believe this is, or should be, a political decision.
Simply put, Pollard broke the law – no matter how you slice it or dice it, he
was convicted. Period. However, 27 years is far more than a sufficient sentence
for the offense he committed. The president should grant him clemency.
January, 2011, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu read a public letter of apology
in the Knesset to President Obama concerning Jonathan Pollard. In the letter,
Netanyahu indicated that not only have Israel and Pollard expressed remorse but
that Israel has not and will not engage in any similar action, and they have
not. Prime Minister Netanyahu asked for Pollard’s release from prison. So
far this request, that is supported by the Opposition in Israel as well, has
gone unanswered. Former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky has publicly stated
that 26 years is more than enough for Pollard.The writer is a former US
senator from Arizona and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.