Today Jonathan Pollard begins his 30th year in prison for a crime for which others typically serve only two to four years. He was hospitalized three days ago and is in poor health.
His parole request, the first since his incarceration, was summarily denied in August of this year on the grounds that the breath and scope of the material he gave to the Israelis was the greatest comprise of US security to date. This allegation is totally false and was based primarily on the document prepared by Casper Weinberger, a former secretary of defense, nearly 22 years ago, which has since been proven to contain many falsehoods. Years later Weinberger himself backtracked and said that the Pollard case was a relatively”minor matter.”
Despite the fact that Pollard is a model prisoner, is no longer a security risk, and scored highly on factors indicating suitability for release, those present at the parole hearing characterized it as a “kangaroo court” and a “lynching.”
Although the parole board said it would conduct another review of the case in February 2015 and another parole hearing five months later, it made clear that the US government would again vigorously oppose Pollard’s parole request.
The letter informing Pollard of the rejection of his parole request was harsh and said in part, “You passed thousands of Top Secret documents to Israeli agents, threatening US relations in the Middle East among the Arab countries.” The letter concluded by stating, “Given all this information, paroling you at this time would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and promote disrespect for the law.”
In response, eight former high level US officials wrote a strongly worded letter to President Obama denouncing the Parole Board’s decision and charging the administration with basing its “unjust denial” on a “patently false” document -the Weinberger Memorandum. The signatories include former CIA director, Amb. R. James Woolsey; Lawrence Kolb, former assistant US Secretary of Defense; and former National Security Advisor Robert MacFarlane.
The letter writers pointed out that the parole board ignored all evidence in Pollard’s favor, including his high score on a test measuring “suitability for release,” his age, his family situation, poor health, and his wife’s cancer. They denounced the “grossly disproportionate” treatment of Pollard, and said his “unconditional release is long overdue.” They criticized the “unjust parole process” and called it “deeply flawed.” Furthermore they said that the Commission had falsely characterized Pollard’s spying as “the greatest compromise of US security to that date,” a charge which they said was wholly unsupported, and the document on which it was based was known to be unreliable.
The writers are familiar with the Pollard file and its classified documents and know of what they write.
So why is Pollard still in jail? There are certainly no security reasons for his continued incarceration. One explanation currently in vogue is that the US government wishes to use him as a bargaining chip to get concessions from Israel. That this has validity is shown by the fact that the US was willing to free Pollard if, during the latest attempt at peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel completed the last round of Palestinian prisoners releases. The talks broke down before this became a reality.
Now that the parole option is useless, Pollard’s attorneys and supporters are going back to the only available option: a pardon by the US president. To achieve this, US Jews will once again be urged to send letters to Congress and the President. Pollard’s lawyers hope the renewed pressure not only from US Jews, but also from civil liberty movements will be successful.
All people of good conscience should actively participate in trying to get President Obama to pardon Pollard. This shows the President that many people favor Pollard’s release and may persuade the President to act.
Hopefully, the Administration will come to its senses and put an end to this mockery of justice. If not, Pollard’s freedom will be in the hands of the next President. I just hope Pollard lives long enough to enjoy it.