Let Pollard honor his father

Jonathan Pollard, who has served the longest prison term in American history for spying for an ally, can now add to his litany of sufferings.

jonathan pollard_311 reuters (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
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 10-year term.
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 palpable injustice.
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.