With all the spying the United States has been doing on foreign leaders, possibly including the pope, why is Jonathan Pollard, a former American civilian intelligence analyst, still in prison nearly three decades after being sentenced to life in prison for taking classified documents he believed contained information important to Israel's self-defense?
Prominent individuals support Pollard's release. They include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, George P. Schultz, former CIA director James Woolsey (who initially was against Pollard's release), former Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL), and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, among others.
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb notes that Pollard has been in prison "three times longer than anybody who's ever provided classified information to a friendly country or a neutral country."
In a letter to President Obama, Wexler says Pollard is "the only American citizen convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 14 years in prison. Currently, the punishment for such a crime is set at a maximum of 10 years."
Pollard supporters are circulating a classified memo written by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which they say instructs the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to "spy" on Israel. The document was released by WikiLeaks and published in the Guardian in 2010 and is included in the book, "The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan," by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman. If the same standard were applied to Rice as has been applied to Pollard, Rice might be in an Israeli prison.
In the June 1997 issue of Middle East Quarterly, David Zwiebel, general counsel of Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, got to the heart of the issue: "First, Pollard did not stand trial for his crime. Rather, he received his life sentence after entering into a plea-bargain agreement in which the government promised not to seek a life sentence. Entering into that agreement, Pollard relinquished his right to a trial, cooperated with government investigators, pleaded guilty -- all, presumably, with the expectation that some leniency would be shown in his sentence. The expectation was reasonable, but it proved illusory.
"Secondly, Pollard was sentenced to life in prison despite the fact that he was never accused of delivering classified information to an enemy of the United States. Rather, he was accused of delivering such information to Israel, a close and staunch American ally. There may be no other case of a life sentence imposed for spying on behalf of a strategic ally."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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