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Friday, October 29, 2010

Former Weinberger assistant goes public: Free Jonathan Pollard!

Lawrence Korb, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense under Caspar Weinberger calls on the Obama administration to free Jonathan Pollard.
After his arrest and indictment by a grand jury, Pollard agreed to plead guilty to one count of giving classified information to a U.S. ally. In return for his guilty plea — which spared the government the embarrassment of conducting a trial involving highly sensitive information — and his cooperation with the U.S. government, the U.S. attorney pledged not to seek a life sentence for Pollard.

This seemed like a reasonable resolution. The average sentence meted out to individuals convicted of giving classified information to an ally is seven years, with average time served about four years.

Despite the terms of the plea bargain, in 1987 Pollard was sentenced to life, a sentence generally reserved for spies such as Aldrich Ames, who pleaded guilty to giving classified information to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, information that led to the loss of many lives.

The question is why Pollard received such a harsh sentence and why he still languishes in prison despite the pleas of hundreds of U.S. legislators, dozens of distinguished attorneys (including a former solicitor general), a former CIA director, one former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and several Israeli leaders to have him released.

There are at least three reasons for this state of affairs.

First is the victim impact statement of my former boss, Caspar Weinberger, the secretary of Defense at the time of Pollard's arrest. The statement, much of which remains classified, implied that some of the information that Pollard had supplied to Israel made its way to the Soviet Union. Weinberger argued that Pollard was no different from spies who provided information to the Soviets and was guilty of treason.

Second, at the time of his arrest, the Israeli government refused to acknowledge that Pollard was one of its agents, claiming that he was part of a rogue operation. Not surprisingly, the Israelis also steadfastly refused to return the reams of documents that Pollard had delivered to them or debrief the U.S. about their contents. This added fuel to the notion that Pollard was working for the Soviets or another U.S. enemy rather than for an American ally.

Third, Pollard was an unsympathetic character. He not only took about $45,000 from the Israelis in exchange for the information he handed over, he gave two highly publicized interviews from jail before his sentencing, one with Wolf Blitzer and another with Mike Wallace. In these interviews, which the government claimed were not authorized, he didn't express remorse but instead attempted to rationalize his behavior.

But none of these conditions exists now. Weinberger's contention has been debunked. Information that Pollard gave to Israel did not make its way to the USSR. Instead, the information that the Soviets received during the 18 months Pollard was spying for Israel most likely came from Ames and Robert Hanssen, a onetime FBI agent who spied for the USSR and Russia from 1979 to 2001.
Read the whole thing.

I hope it has an impact.


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