Sunday, December 28, 2008

Free Jonathan Pollard!

Jonathan Pollard is one of many individuals caught spying on America. He was motivated by a well founded fear of an attack on Israel by Iraq that would have caused catastrophic civilian casualties. It should be noted that Israel is a close American ally, and that spies often work on behalf of friendly powers who are keeping an eye on each other as well as the enemy.

Jonathan Pollard is sentenced to natural life in prison, which means that he will only be freed when he assumes room temperature.

It is worthwhile to look at the sentences of others who have spied not on behalf of friends but for avowed enemies of our country. What sentences did they receive?

I reviewed a list of convicted spies, a list of their offenses and the sentences they received.

Here are excerpts from that list.

1984 — Richard William Miller

Miller was a Los Angeles-based FBI agent who was arrested for passing classified documents to two pro-Soviet immigrants, who also were arrested and pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Miller pleaded innocent, saying he was trying to infiltrate the KGB. His first trial ended in a mistrial, but he was found guilty in second trial in 1986. That verdict was overturned in 1989 on a technicality. In a third trial, he was convicted again and sentenced to 20 years in 1991. He was released in 1994 after a federal judge reduced his sentence. (emphasis mine)

1985 — Walker family

John A. Walker Jr. was a retired Navy warrant officer charged with selling information to the Soviets for 18 years, including data on U.S. encryption devices that compromised U.S. communications. Once out of the Navy, Walker recruited his son, Michael Walker, a petty officer aboard the USS Nimitz; his brother, ex-Navy Lt. Cmdr. Arthur James Walker; and Jerry Alfred Whitworth, a retired Navy communications specialist, to procure classified documents that the elder Walker paid for and then sold to the Soviets. John Walker’s ex-wife tipped the FBI to his activities, and he was arrested in May 1985. The three others were apprehended around the same time.

In late 1985, John Walker Jr. pleaded guilty to espionage charges as part of a plea agreement to testify at Whitworth’s trial and provide full details on what he gave to the Soviets in exchange for a lesser sentence for his son. The elder Walker was sentenced to two life terms plus 10 years, and his son, who also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 25 years. Arthur James Walker was convicted of seven counts of espionage in late 1985 and was sentenced to life in prison. Whitworth was convicted of espionage and tax charges in 1986 and sentenced to 365 years.

1994 — Aldrich Ames

Ames was characterized as probably the most damaging turncoat in U.S. history. A career agency official, Ames began selling U.S. secrets to the KGB in 1985, when he was head of the CIA’s Soviet counterintelligence unit. Within a decade he had revealed more than 100 covert operations and betrayed at least 30 agents. Ten of the spies revealed by Ames were later executed by the Soviets, including Dmitri Polyakov, the top CIA informer inside Soviet military intelligence. Ames’ activities also may have allowed the Soviets to dupe the CIA by sending fake intelligence to the agency through the agents whom Ames compromised.

Along with his co-conspirator and wife, Rosario, Ames was paid more than $2.7 million for the information before he was arrested in 1994. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole, while his wife, under the terms of a plea agreement, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for conspiring to commit espionage and evading taxes.

# 1996 — Edwin Earl Pitts

A 13-year veteran of the FBI, Pitts contacted the KGB in 1987 to offer his services and continued selling secrets to the Russians until 1992. He supposedly received $224,000 from the Russians for his services. Tipped off by a Russian double agent, the FBI launched a sting operation of Pitts in 1995 in which agents posing as his Russian handlers paid Pitts $65,000 in exchange for classified FBI information. Arrested in December 1996, the 43-year-old Pitts pleaded guilty to espionage charges in 1997 and was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

# 1996 — Harold Nicholson

Nicholson, the highest-ranking CIA officer ever to face espionage charges, was arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington in late 1996 as he was attempting to board a flight for Switzerland. Federal prosecutors said he was carrying 10 rolls of film of classified documents and still-uncracked coded messages on a computer disk and was planning to meet his Russian handlers, who paid him more than $180,000. He was charged with espionage, attempted espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage and pleaded guilty in 1997. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison after cooperating with prosecutors.

# 1996 — Robert Kim

Kim, a former Navy computer specialist, was arrested in September 1996 at a diplomatic reception at Fort Myer, Virginia, and charged with passing classified information to a South Korean navy captain. Originally indicted on three espionage charges, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of conspiracy to commit espionage. The government agreed to the plea bargain to avoid a trial that would involve making public what it said were highly sensitive government secrets. He was sentenced to nine years in jail on July 11, 1997.

It is interesting to view the list above with the intent of measuring the proportional gravity of the offenses of the spies listed above. With one exception, they were spying for avowed enemies of our country. Jonathan Pollard, spying on behalf of a friendly power, was put in jail as long as some of the most injurious perpetrators of espionage, such as Aldrich Ames, who has the blood of ten Soviets who spied for America on his hands.

The most persuasive argument against Pollard is that his information might have fallen into enemy hands once in Israel. The same argument could have been used against Robert Kim, who passed classified information to a South Korean navy captain. Does South Korea have no spies from communist North Korea? And what can be said about Harold Nicholson, who got 23 years for handing secrets over to the Soviets?

It is important for there to be powerful deterrents against spying on America. There are more than a few people willing to risk life and liberty for personal gain. The price of perfidy must remain high. Jonathan Pollard has paid with the best years of his life for spying on this country. He remains a living example of the perils of the path he chose, but he was also spying for a friendly power, and much of what he handed over should have been shared officially and legally according to treaties of friendship between Israel and America.

The law is geared to distinctions of gravity in espionage offenses, despite the misleading pronouncements of misguided individuals such as Ed Koch. There is a specific criminal offense of “passing information to an ally.” The median sentence for such an offense, according to federal guidelines, is two to four years. Pollard has served 24 years. Why such a harsh sentence?

The information that was withheld from Israel included Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and capabilities that were being developed for use against Israel. It also included information on missiles being developed by these countries with offensive capabilities and intelligence concerning planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets

Israel was legally entitled to this critical information according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel.

Pollard discovered this suppression of information and spoke to his superiors about it Instead of the information being passed on according to treaty obligation, he was told to “mind his own business”, and that “Jews get nervous talking about poison gas; they don’t need to know.”

Pollard was not a mercenary but an ideologue. He was never accused of harming the US by passing on war plans or information about American military capabilities. He was charged with spying for an ally.

Pollard waived his right to a trial in exchange for leniency. Instead of leniency, he got an unimaginably harsh sentence and a violation of his rights that is shocking.

Just before Pollard’s sentencing, Caspar Weinberger, who was then Secretary of Defense, delivered a 46-page classified memorandum to the judge who was passing sentence. Since then, neither Pollard nor any of his attorneys who had security clearance were ever allowed to freely review and rebut the memorandum to contest the spurious charges it contains. This was a blatant abrogation of Pollard’s rights.

The day before Pollard was sentenced, Caspar Weinberger delivered a four-page supplemental memorandum to the judge. In it, he accused Pollard of treason. Also in the supplemental memorandum, Weinberger urged the judge to hand down despite Pollard’s plea agreement. Pollard should have been offered a chance to go to trial after the plea agreement was essentially abrogated The only implication that can be inferred from Pollard being accused of “treason” is that Israel is an enemy state. This makes his sentence a blatant insult to a loyal American ally.

Pollard was shown the supplemental Weinberger memorandum only once, just moments before sentencing. Given the certainty of substantial jail time for Pollard, an adjournment of sentencing to prepare a rebuttal to the Weinberger memorandum would have been well within legal norms.

Pollard has been repeatedly let down in efforts to secure his freedom. When Benjamin Netanyahu went to Washington to participate in the Wye Accords, he pressed Bill Clinton for Pollard’s release. Despite promises to set Pollard free, Clinton slyly yanked the release off the table at the last minute. After a tug of war between Netanyahu and Clinton, Israel released 750 Arab prisoners with blood on their hands and got nothing in return

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Bill Clinton used his powers of clemency to release 16 Puerto Rican FALN terrorists who never expressed regret for their total of 120 bombings. The terrorists repudiated neither their goals nor their means as a precondition for clemency. Even Jimmy Carter joined in the widespread condemnation of this group of pardons. It seems that every scoundrel, terrorist and common criminal seems to be leaving prison before Pollard.

There is no plausible explanation for the harshness of Jonathan Pollard’s treatment. It seems very likely that a full disclosure of the reasons would embarrass the government in front of the citizenry rather than

damage national security. Over twenty four years have passed since Pollard’s arrest in 1985. The Soviet Union, our most formidable enemy (not Israel) in the 1980’s no longer exists. The geopolitical seismic shifts since 1985 have rendered the world in which Pollard was arrested almost unrecognizable. Any information that he might have disclosed that might have been injurious then is now inconsequential.

Pollard has paid a heavy price for the acts for which he was convicted. The large chunk of his life that he has lost for his offenses stands as a looming lesson to any who might want to follow in his footsteps.

No further justice is served by his continued incarceration. The judicial system is unlikely to afford Pollard any relief. George Bush has the legal right to pardon Jonathan Pollard. It would be decent and compassionate to pardon Pollard, who has expressed regret for his crimes repeatedly. It is my hope and my prayer that before he leaves office on January 20, 2009, that President George W. Bush pardon Jonathan Pollard.

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