(By Kenneth Lasson and Lawrence Korb)With momentum building for clemency on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, those involved in his conviction are again coming out of the woodwork with fabrications of fact and misleading statements.The White House is reviewing a formal request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exercise clemency on behalf of the former Navy intelligence analyst, who is serving a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel.In the short time since Mr. Netanyahu made his public plea, past several weeks, Joseph DiGenova, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, was quoted in the Washington Times as alleging that Pollard''s actions had cost the Defense Department between 3 and 5 billion dollars to fix the damage Pollard had cost. Haviland Smith, a retired CIA station chief, charged in a Baltimore Sun op-ed that Pollard attempted to sell information to South Africa and Pakistan.Both may be entitled to their opinions, but not to their own facts.
There is no credible evidence Pollard ever passed information to a third country. In fact he kept his part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors under which he agreed to cooperate fully with its investigation in return for a less-than-maximum sentence; by all indications the government did not. Mr. DiGenova himself said that he hoped Pollard would never see the light of day. (Three federal appeals judges later accused him of prosecutorial misconduct.)The government''s own official Victim Impact Statement (designed to state the harshest provable case against the defendant) portrays, at worst, short-term friction between the U.S. and unnamed Arab countries, and a temporary reduction in bargaining leverage by the U.S. over Israel. In fact no permanent, irreversible, and overwhelming damage to U.S. national security is even alleged, much less proven.Mr. DiGenova''s numbers are likewise fanciful, if not fictitious. According to the indictment, Pollard received around $50,000 from Israel. There is nothing in the public record to lend any credence to the multi-billion dollar damage assessment DiGenova alleges. Moreover, Pollard was never fined - as is usually the case when such large sums of money are involved.
In fact it is now widely acknowledged by intelligence professionals that the vague, secret charges initially leveled against Pollard for somehow causing the then-unexplained loss of U.S. agents working in the Soviet Union were for crimes actually committed by two others: Aldrich Ames, who had been in charge of CIA counterintelligence for East Europe but was actually a Russian mole, and Robert Hanssen, an FBI Special Agent who confessed to having betrayed American agents. (Ames was finally caught and convicted in 1994, Hanssen in 2001.)The intelligence community had been chasing along a false trail. Moreover, their failure to realize that Pollard lacked the Blue Stripe clearance necessary if he were to betray our spy networks seriously impaired the subsequent search for the real traitors.The reason that some members of intelligence community persist in their loud anti-Pollard whispers is most likely a reflection of their lingering defensiveness about U.S. policy in the 1970s and ''80s - in particular their disastrously failed support of Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia. The security establishment was outraged when Israel destroyed Iraq''s nuclear reactor in 1981, after which they cut the Israelis off from the normal interchange of intelligence.Pollard wrongly took it upon himself to remedy that failure. But it is now more clear than ever that he is being severely punished for deeds he never did, nor was ever charged with doing. You don''t have to go to law school to understand how much this violates the bedrock principles of American fairness, justice, and compassion.When the system fails, we pride ourselves on relentless self-scrutiny so that truth might ultimately prevail. That noble sentiment was recently endorsed by 39 members of Congress who wrote Mr. Obama in November urging clemency - as well as by Charles Ogletree (the Harvard law professor who is the President''s friend and mentor) or Elie Wiesel (the Nobel Laureate). To date Pollard has served 25 years in prison - much longer than anyone else ever convicted of the same offense. Federal Judge Stephen Williams called the case a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Many other prominent American citizens familiar with the facts - including George Schultz (Secretary of State when Pollard was convicted), James Woolsey (former director of the Central Intelligence Agency), Dennis DeConcini (former chair of the Senate''s Select Intelligence Committee), and Michael Mukasey (former Attorney General under George W. Bush) - have all come out publicly in support of clemency.In addition hundreds of religious leaders of different faiths, including Rev. Theodore Hesburgh and Pastor John Hagee, recently wrote to the President on Pollard''s behalf - all of them declaring in unison their fundamental belief that "Justice, only justice, shall you pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20).May Mr. Obama be blessed with the courage and character to do so.Kenneth Lasson is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore. Lawrence Korb, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, was Assistant Secretary of Defense (1981-85).