Next month, convicted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will begin his 27th year in prison, and the Obama administration is displaying stunning insensitivity to what this means for the American Jewish community.
Pollard was arrested in 1985 for transferring classified documents to Israel during his service at US Naval Intelligence. In 1987, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his crime.
Pollard's sentence contradicted his plea bargain agreement. It was based, among other things, on an impact assessment report of his crimes that was authored by CIA officer Aldrich Ames. At the time of Pollard's arrest, Ames had been spying for the Soviet Union for two years.
Ames was arrested for espionage in 1994. He was responsible for the deaths of at least 10 agents working for US intelligence in the USSR.
Ames reportedly blamed Pollard for some of the agent deaths caused by his own espionage.
Pollard's life sentence was grossly disproportionate to the sentences routinely given to offenders who transfer classified information to US-allied governments. The median sentence for such crimes is two years in prison.
Until last year, there was a longstanding consensus in the US political and intelligence communities opposed to granting clemency to Pollard.
This consensus evaporated last year. In late 2010, US President Barack Obama received letters recommending commutation of Pollard's sentence to time served from former CIA director R. James Woolsey, and from retired senator Dennis DeConcini, who served as the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time of Pollard's arrest and sentencing.
Obama received similar letters from former secretaries of state George Schultz and Henry Kissinger. He received requests for commutation from Sen. John McCain and former attorney-general Michael Mukasey.
Lawrence Korb, who served as assistant defense secretary under Caspar Weinberger, has spearheaded the effort to release Pollard. Korb has stated categorically that Pollard's harsh sentence was the result of Weinberger's antipathy for Jews.
Other US luminaries who have called for Obama to grant Pollard clemency include former congressman and presidential adviser Lee Hamilton, former senator and presidential adviser Alan Simpson, Harvard law professor and Obama mentor Charles Ogletree, US Appellate Court Judge Stephen Williams and former deputy attorney- general Phillip Heymann. Scores of congressmen, several senators and more than 500 clergymen have called for Pollard's release from prison.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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