jonathan pollard_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
Jonathan Pollard, who has the dubious distinction of serving the longest prison term in American history for spying for an ally, can now add to his litany of sufferings.
Pollard, whose own health is failing after serving nearly 25 years of a life sentence, mostly in maximum- security prisons, was denied a “compassionate leave” to visit his terminally ill father Morris, 97.
It is now too late for Pollard to see his father alive one last time: Morris, an internationally recognized prostate cancer researcher who received three presidential citations for his research during World War II on exotic viruses, passed away Saturday morning at Memorial Hospital and Health System in South Bend, Indiana. But there is still time for a final act of compassion.
President Barack Obama could grant Pollard furlough from the the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina to attend his father’s funeral on Monday.
Pollard’s request should be granted not because it would aid in the
peace process with the Palestinians (it would not) or because he was
acting out of solely altruistic motives when he spied for Israel (he was
not) or even because it would improve the Obama administration’s
relations with Israel (it might, perhaps more than a little). Rather,
Obama should allow Pollard leave to attend the funeral simply because it
is the right and moral thing to do.
In the US and in other Western countries, it is not unheard of for
murderers to be permitted to attend the funerals of family members.
Preventing Pollard from doing so would seem to exacerbate the already
unfathomable treatment to which he has been subjected.
The severity of Pollard’s crime need not be minimized.
Even from the unclassified information related to the case, it is clear
that Pollard, who removed enough sensitive documents from the Naval
Intelligence Support Center between June 1984 and November 1985 to fill a
walk-in closet, brazenly disregarded American secrecy rules. It is
possible that some of the secret information provided to Israel caused
the US significant damage. Perhaps, as some have conjectured, some of
this secret information ended up in the hands of America’s enemies, even
if this was not Pollard’s intention.
Pollard also attempted to portray himself as a Zionist idealist with
pure motives while playing down the monthly compensation he received
from Israel over the years in exchange for the information he provided.
Yet whatever Pollard’s motives, and despite the potential damage he
might have caused the US – the extent of which we can only guess, since
much of the evidence against him remains classified – his life sentence
seems to be a cruel and unusual punishment, especially considering the
fact that he spied for Israel, a US ally.
In 2005, for instance, Leandro Aragoncillo, an intelligence analyst for
the FBI caught supplying classified US documents that would help
overthrow the government of Philippines president Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, received a 10-year sentence. Spies for other allies,
such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Egypt, have received even shorter
terms. An American convicted of spying for al-Qaida was recently given a
In addition, on September 27, 2010, Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary
of defense at the time of Pollard’s indictment, wrote Obama hinting that
the stringent sentence, handed down after Pollard agreed to a plea
bargain, might have been motivated by anti-Semitism.
“Based on my first-hand knowledge,” Korb wrote, “I can say with
confidence that the severity of Pollard’s sentence is a result of an
almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in
our foreign policy on the part of my boss at the time, Secretary of
Defense Caspar Weinberger.” Could it be that Korb was not privy to all
the relevant evidence used to convict Pollard? Top American and Israeli
officials from across the spectrum have called upon Obama to commute
Pollard’s sentence, without so much as a presidential response.
President Shimon Peres delivered Obama a moving letter on Pollard’s
behalf when he visited two months ago. This is a rare issue that unites
the generally divided Israeli electorate; the sense here is of a
Jonathan Pollard was denied permission to attend his mother’s funeral when she passed away in 2001.
He should be allowed to attend his father’s.