Congressional request for Pollard pardon just another example of putting Israel’s interests first

In one of the United States Congress’ most recent displays of “Israel First” policy, 39 Representatives, all Democrats, have requested that President Obama pardon Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for the State of Israel in 1987. Pollard is currently serving a life sentence for his crimes.

According to American Muslims for Palestine:

Pollard, who was a civilian research analyst with high security clearance for the U.S. Navy, had agreed to spy for Israel for 10 years in exchange for more than $500,000. According to a January 1999 article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, Pollard “betrayed elements of four major American intelligence systems.” Pollard caused extensive damage to U.S. intelligence and U.S. national security because of the nature of the highly sensitive documents he sold to Israel.

In many cases, Israel bartered top-secret U.S. intelligence documents it received from Pollard with the Soviet Union, in exchange for Soviet Jewish colonial emigration to historic Palestine, Hersh wrote.[1]

During sentencing the prosecutor, in compliance with an agreement in which Pollard pled guilty, asked for “only a substantial number of years in prison”; Judge Aubrey Robinson, Jr., not being obligated to follow the recommendation of the prosecutor, and after hearing a “damage-assessment memorandum” from the Secretary of Defense, imposed a life sentence.[2]

In the letter sent to President Obama, the Representatives explain that “such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about [Pollard’s] guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted.”

This seems paradoxical. According these representatives, Pollard is indeed guilty of the charges against him. What’s more, they find nothing to disparage about the proceedings which resulted in his sentence. So why must Obama set him free?

Because, you see, pardoning him would correct the disparity “between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served — or not served at all — by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations that, like Israel, are not adversarial to us.”

It is true that Pollard is the only American serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of a neutral country (only 15% of all convicted spies are attempting to transmit information to a neutral country). However, according to a recent study which examined every espionage conviction in the United States from 1947-2001, at least 13% of all spies convicted were sentenced to life in prison, while another 22% were sentenced to between 20 and 40 years.[3] Could it perhaps be that the damage that resulted from his crimes was severe enough to render the judge’s harsh decision? For the answer, we must look at the methodology judges use to determine sentencing.

The study’s authors reveal:  “Prison sentences for espionage or attempted espionage varied depending on factors such as the importance of information lost, the length of time of the spying, the venue of the trial, the then-current policies of the federal government on espionage prosecution, the context of the time (e.g. wartime or peace, chilly Cold War or detente) and the then-current relationship of the United States with the country that received the information.”

Thus, the relationship between Israel and the United States was only one component determining Pollard’s sentence. With the information at hand, namely the fact that as stated above, Israel was at the time handing Pollard’s stolen documents off to the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, and having just heard the damage assessment memorandum by the Secretary of Defense, Judge Robinson issued his sentence. This sentence was the result of the evidence brought against Pollard as well as his own confession. He was convicted based on the severity of his crime and in the midst of one of the largest resurgences of espionage in American history  (see Keeping the Nation’s Secrets by the Stilwell Commission, published in 1985).

In this way, seeking “clemency for Mr. Pollard as an act of compassion justified by the way others have been treated by our justice system” is ridiculous. While the United States is not at war with Israel, Pollard’s sentencing in relation to the severity of his crime per the Secretary of Defense’s testimony rendered him the same sentence as at least 16 other spies.

Do these Representatives offer any evidence, other than comparisons to (what must be) lesser crimes by other individuals, to justify commuting Pollard’s sentence? Do they take issue with the denials of appeal made by appellate courts in the case or the merits thereof? Do they contend that Pollard was harshly sentenced because of some prejudice harbored by the presiding judge? No. They simply think that his incarceration, which has only strengthened his ties to Israel (he became a citizen while in prison), will somehow serve as a deterrent. Excuse me if I’m not convinced.

Where is the logic in such a stance? In the name of security, the US government will eavesdrop on its own citizens. In the name of security, the US government will torture detained foreigners and bomb Pakistani civilians with drones. In the name of security, the US government will grope and prod passengers as they board airplanes if they refuse to be seen naked through scanners. And yet, in the same breath, elected representatives who quietly reauthorized provisions of the PATRIOT act in February 2010 would argue for the rights of a confessed, convicted spy passing intelligence secrets, and do so in the name of justice and compassion!

Do these Representatives know anything about justice at all? If they did, why do they feel compelled to stand up to perceived injustice in the name of an avowed Israeli spy and yet remain utterly mute when it comes to the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, at least 55% of whom do not have sufficient evidence against them to determine that they have committed any hostile acts against the United States, at least 40% of whom have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda and least 18% of whom have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda or Taliban? [4]

Is it because they only care about Americans? Then why haven’t any of them stepped up to defend Rachel Corrie, murdered by an IDF bulldozer as she non-violently attempted to block it from destroying a Palestinian home? Why haven’t they petitioned Obama to seek justice for Furkan Doğan, a Turkish American who was shot by the IDF at point blank range while lying on his back? Why hasn’t Congress properly investigated the death of 37 American citizens aboard the USS Liberty, which was attacked by Israel in 1967?

Such a request by House Democrats is an insult to our justice system, and one that should not be tolerated.  The truth of the matter is that Pollard, if granted clemency, will be a benefactor of the United States’ “special relationship” with Israel, a relationship that apparently knows no bounds.

Yet this request is altogether unsurprising in light of Israel’s consistent method of portraying itself in a completely sympathetic light. Israelis are not aggressors, but victims of aggression. They are not bigoted, but victims of anti-semitism. They are not lawbreakers, but victims of the justice system.

Americans suffer every day at the hands of abstract, fleeting “threats to national security,” and yet when our national security has been conclusively violated…this is what our congressmen come up with. To buy into such a subversion of moral decency is utterly treacherous.  

Maggie Sager is an American college student and activist. You can find her work at or contact her at resistingoccupation [at] gmail [dot] com

[1] American Muslims for Palestine, 39 Congressmen advocating for release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, AMP Newsletter, November 2010 (Accessed 11/23/10).

[2] Best, Jr., Richard A.; Clyde Mark, Jonathan Pollard: Background and Considerations for Presidential Clemency” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, January 2001 (Accessed 11/23/10).

[3] PERSEREC, Espionage Against the United States by American Citizens 1947-2001, July 2002 (Accessed 11/23/10).

[4] Amnesty International, Guantanamo Bay Fact Sheet, (Accessed 11/23/10).

Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged ,

{ 33 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Les says:

    39 traitors who likely support the IDF’s recruitment of American Jews to help Israel slaughter Palestinians.

  2. MarkF says:

    FYI, the List:

    Barney Frank (D-MA)
    Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY)
    Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ)
    Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
    Robert A. Brady (D-PA)
    Danny Davis (D-IL)
    Theodore E. Deutsch (D-FL)
    Eliot L. Engel (D-NY)
    John J. Hall (D-NY)
    James A. Himes (D-CT)
    Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)
    Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
    Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI)
    John Lewis (D-GA)
    Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)
    Michael E. McMahon (D-NY)
    Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY)
    Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
    Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
    John W. Olver (D-MA)
    Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)
    Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ)
    Donald M. Payne (D-NJ)
    Charles B. Rangel (D-NY)
    Laura Richardson (D-CA)
    Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL)
    Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA)
    Brad Sherman (D-CA)
    Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS)
    Edolphus Towns (D-NY)
    Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
    Henry A. Waxman (D-CA)
    Anthony Weiner (D-NY)

  3. annie says:

    sure, why not pardon him. and while we’re at it why not preemptively pardon any person (american, israeli or otherwise) who spies for israel between now and the end of time. as long as the US has access to the same information i don’t see the problem. like eric cantor i believe the interests of the US and israel are identical. and then while were at it why don’t we give them a big fat key to the DC and open the treasury doors because what’s mine is yours and hell even what isn’t mine is yours israel! the wonderful thing about having friends like israel is you don’t ever have to question whether what they want is in our best interest always is.

    so fun.

    • Chu says:

      Annie, they been working on getting that big fat key with great success for decades. These traitors have no shame and are spineless to the core. I got 500 bucks that says this will make no nightly cable news channels. Cause if it did, Weiner and Sherman would have to explain their augmented sense of dual loyalty to us. Gutless indeed…

  4. Evildoer says:

    Why this bloodlust! The US is a punitive gulag, holding the largest jailed population in the world by both percentage and absolute number. In many countries that have much lower crime rates than the US, a first degree murderer who behaves well in jail is paroled after 15-20 years. If Pollard had murdered him mother he should have been let go by now, if nastiness and meanness were not the chief values in which the people of the united states are trained by their masters to uphold like rottweilers, for better not to see what is done to them.

    All this charade about Pollard is unseemly, given how many prisoners rot in US jails for which our elected “representatives” couldn’t care less. But being mean to Pollard will not make the place one iota better. This kind of enjoyment of a person’s misery provides the emotional release that one gets kicking a beer can in anger, except the beer can is a human being.

    I hate to imagine what the crowd who gets so excited about Pollard here would do to people if ever they were given a gun and told to man a checkpoint.

    • Avi says:

      Evildoer November 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      You’re the same commenter who claims that The Lobby does not steer US policy on Israel, right?

      Thanks for confirming beyond a reasonable doubt where your loyalties lie. In other words, they are chiefly tribal loyalties.

    • Chu says:

      Woof, woof says the Rottweiler. Don’t you know that Pollard is the symbolic representation of the corrupt relationship of these two nations?

    • annie says:

      excuse me? i’m sensing a disconnect. you think he is in jail because of bloodlust, because people wish to make him suffer? because someone enjoys his misery? frankly i’m more concerned about sending a signal to others who spy for israel it is taken seriously sometimes. think of it as a deterrence.

    • Colin Murray says:

      But being mean to Pollard will not make the place one iota better.

      Pollard is a traitor who sold critical defense communications methodology and protocol secrets to Israel who in turn traded them to the Soviets at the height of the Cold War for the expedited release of Russian Jews. It is silly to describe his being required to serve his full sentence as mean.

      The Traitor. The case against Jonathan Pollard, by Seymour M. Hersh

      Supplemental Declaration of Caspar W. Weinberger, Secretary of Defense

      Need I remind you that the Soviet Union murdered 10′s of millions of it own citizens and had at one point more than 40,000 nuclear weapons, many aimed at us?

      Our national civil society has plenty of scars and warts. Our people are not saints. Our government does indeed employ some people who can be justifiably classified as monsters. However, that doesn’t mean the communists were ‘good guys’ or that we were wrong to protect ourselves against them.

      Pollard should be on his knees thanking the American people that he wasn’t executed. Anyone calling for his release is either a traitor or a fool. This most recent unseemly whoring by Barney and fellow travelers reinforces my belief that, whatever the degree of contemptible stupidity and inexcusable ignorance increasingly embedded in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is owned by Israel-firsters who simply cannot be trusted to recuse themselves when faced with conflicts of interest between their real home and choice of physical residence, America, and their fantasy dream home of a racially pure and democratic Israel.

      • pjdude says:

        not to mention pollard actions led to the deaths over over a thousand people the man has blood on his hands. he should have been executed or locked up for the rest of his miserable life. that he gets to become a free man is reprehensible.

    • syvanen says:

      Evil writes:

      except the beer can is a human being

      let me fix that except the beer can is a traitorous, piece of scum human being

      But more seriously, Pollard should continue to rot in jail for his crimes. If you think it is too long, than let his time be spent for the crimes of Rosen and Weisbach of AIPAC who got off free through political pressure from the Lobby. These traitors can get away with much, but there has to be a limit and Pollard is the measure of that limit.

    • edwin says:

      Punishment in the US is based on skin colour of the victim. In case of murder, whether or not Pollard would be released or pushing up the daises would depend on money, connections, and skin colour.

      I also find support for a justice system that is compassionate and forgiving as opposed to vindictive and cruel. I don’t believe we should have punitive laws, but would prefer a system based on ideas behind Canada’s Dangerous Offender Legislation.

      In this sense, I would include Pollard, and anyone else in the US prison system no matter how despicable.

      I also worry about favouritism and a multi-stream justice system. If there is one thing worse than the brutality of the US system, it is the brutality of the US system combined with a multi tiered justice system. It is my hope that part of the difference is reactions to different aspects of what is facing Pollard.

      No person should have to endure the US jail system. Such treatment should be illegal. It is disgusting that Pollard is probably suffering under the brutality of the US corrections system. We know where torture comes from in the US. Obama has done nothing that I am aware of to change the source of torture – the US prison system. It is also disgusting that he seems to be receiving favours from politicians that expose the justice system as multi-tiered. Off the top of my head I am not willing to say what I consider worse – torture or multi-tiered justice system. They both leave any notion of justice in tatters. Torture is individualistic oppression, multi-tiered is group oriented oppression.

      There is absolutely nothing just about what is going on. I find myself thinking that letting Pollard rot in jail for purposes of revenge is not the future I want to work towards.

  5. Avi says:

    I wonder how those who called for Julian Assange’s (Wikileaks) assassination feel about their own Congress members asking for the release of a traitor who provided Israel — and indirectly Russia — with highly sensitive information.

    From Veterans Today:

    Current figures of deaths directly attributed to Pollard’s spying are at between 110 and 120 American CIA agents and up to 1600 top American intelligence assets that were foreign nationals.

    From antiwar:

    ‘For your information, the Israelis used Pollard to obtain our attack plan against the U.S.S.R. all of it. The coordinates, the firing locations, the sequences. And for guess who? The Soviets.’ Casey had then explained that the Israelis had traded the Pollard data for Soviet emigres.

  6. marc b. says:

    no, he didn’t kill his mother, he just betrayed those who trusted him for money, risked further destabilzing relations between two trigger happy superpowers, and helped arm meshugenah zionists with nuclear weapons.

    he’s no prisoner of conscience, but if they’d be willing to negotiate a prisoner swap, and have the israelis release 1,000 palestinian teenagers for one jonathan pollard, i’m all for it.

    • Egbert says:

      The Israelis would go for that. Once Pollard was released and back in Israel, they would then round up the 1000 teenagers and another 1000 for good measure.

    • Colin Murray says:

      but if they’d be willing to negotiate a prisoner swap, and have the israelis release 1,000 palestinian teenagers for one jonathan pollard, i’m all for it.

      I’m not. Pollard’s crimes were against the American people. Where do Palestinians figure in? Are we going to set a precedent that every time we catch a Zionist spy the Israelis can spring him by rounding up a thousand Palestinians? Thanks, but no thanks. Your excellent description of his un-indicted crime “destabilizing relations between two trigger happy superpowers” further strengthens my belief that he has already escaped justice by not being judicially executed.

      This is the type of situation to which George Washington was referring when he wrote his Farewell Address.

      “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.”

    • Zorro says:

      he’s no prisoner of conscience, but if they’d be willing to negotiate a prisoner swap, and have the israelis release 1,000 palestinian teenagers for one jonathan pollard, i’m all for it.

      …and only if they throw in the release of Mordechai Vanunu to boot…along with Julian Assange, a man who truly deserves a Nobel Peace Prize

  7. hophmi says:

    Feel free to organize the campaign to keep Pollard in jail, Maggie. He’ll be out by 2015 anyway.

    • Shingo says:

      You sound like quite a fan of Pollard Hophmi.

      • pjdude says:

        of course he is I mean whats a few american lives in favor of something Israel wants. Israel keeps on killing american are starting chains of events thta kill americans and people like him keep saying Israel is rightous for doing so.

    • Chu says:

      No need to organize, he’ll rot away in prison and there’s not a
      single thing Homphi and Co. can do about it, despite his
      continued wailing against this site that stands against
      the corrupt entity, known as Zionism. Cause all the Wieners
      and Waxmans, with their rangled stooges can’t win this battle.

      Work on the Mamilla Cemetary instead Homphi, and please try and convince us of why the world needs a Museum of Tolerance on top of the tombstones of Palestinians.

    • I’m not interested in keeping Pollard in jail any longer than the justice system decides he needs to be. I saw no error in the sentence handed down to him, and if by legitimate legal channels he is paroled, without special favor, I’m not going to argue against it. What I take issue with is the exploitation of justice by Israel-First politicians who make us pay the price for threats to national security every day, yet have no issue releasing this criminal before he has served is full sentence because they feel like it.

  8. homingpigeon says:

    Come to think of it, if Pollard’s crime was to steal secrets from the Washington regime at the behest of the fraud that occupies Palestine which then sold them to the collapsing Soviet regime – at the end of the day should we care? Though if the US gave him up it would be nice to get something in return, maybe the full release of Vanunu and a healthy dose of Palestinian political prisoners.

    The Pollard case and the status of Jerusalem remain for me two mysteries in that they are the only apparent cases in which the Washington regime resists immediate obedience to the Zionist regime.

    • Walid says:

      Pollard is a national hero in Israel in the same category as other killer-heroes like Baruch Goldstein and Ygal Amir and it won’t be long before streets there will be named after him. There is even a settler squatter house already named after him in Jerusalem, Beit Yonatan. We should all light a candle and pray for his release from his American prison, and sit back and watch the action and reaction from the military, the CIA, the FBI and all the other secret service outfits in the US that would join in the celebration in their own special way.

  9. optimax says:

    Israel has never returned the documents Pollard stole from the U.S. This special relationship is dysfunctional: beneficial for Israel and harmfull for the U.S.. As for a preemptive release of an Israeli spy, it has already happened with Rosen. Rosen says he has proof that AIPAC has consistently passed classified information to Israel and the FBI is not investigating. I’m sure many agents would like to look into it but their bosses won’t let them.
    About the airport scanners, Chertov works for Rapiscan, the company profiting from selling their scanners to us.

  10. Ian says:

    These politicians along with Eric Cantor, Chuck Schumer and friends are breaking their sworn Oath of Office and should be removed from Congress.

  11. MRW says:

    From Veterans Today:

    The American public has never been told the truth about Pollard. Current figures of deaths directly attributed to Pollard’s spying are at between 110 and 120 American CIA agents and up to 1600 top American intelligence assets that were foreign nationals. Minimally, Pollard should have faced 110 murder counts for American victims alone.

    Caspar Weinberger, wrote in a 46-page memorandum detailing the damage done by Pollard’s treason:

    “It is difficult for me, even in the so-called ‘year of the spy,’ to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in the view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel.”

    Further: Allan C. Brownfeld, editor of the journal for the American Council for Judaism, reported “So damaging to U.S. security was Pollard’s role that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger told Israeli Ambassador Meir Rosenne in 1987 that Pollard should be executed.”

  12. Les says:

    The signers should give credit to such “intellectual stalwarts” as the New York Review of Books, the New York Observer, and the Nation Magazine for their long term committed non-coverage of Israel’s machinations and thereby their unbridled support for the provincialism of American Jews. There is a reason why New York’s Jews largely boycotted the September 28, 2006 Cooper Union discussion about Mearsheimer with Tony Judt, Jewish but British rather than American, sponsored by the London Review of Books, Jewish but not the New York Review of Books. At the March 2010 Left Forum, Ellen Cantarow who has long written about the plight of the Palestinians for the Village Voice among other publications, pointed out that her writings were unacceptable to the Nation because, never having been a Zionist, she could not come up with the usual admonition that Israel has disappointed or failed us. America’s Jewish coddlers deserve credit for the effort by other Jews who promote the pardon of one of the US’ most serious spies in history, Johnathan Pollard.

  13. It’s amazing to consider the heroes treat Pollard is afforded in many quarters Israeli society, but contrast it to the righteous indidgnation our Zionist/Likudnik playmates manifest reIsraeli whistleblower Mordechai Vannunu [from my favorite guilty pleasure http://www.IsraelNational]:

    link to

    Apparently betraying Israel is not good, but betraying America on behalf of Israel is just peachy keen with our buddies from The Light Unto the Nations.

    So, how does one spell “d-o-u-b-l-e s-t-a-n-d-a-r-d”? Well, just don’t ask a Likudist if you are in search of a reliable answer.

  14. Ismail says:

    One aspect of this disgraceful affair not mentioned in Maggie’s terrific piece: the timing

    At this moment, when Obama is being gelded yet again by Bibi, when he is undoubtedly getting massive pressure from Dems fearful of lost Ziofunds to their party unless their prez continues his capitulations, when he, devoid of spine in the best of times, cannot afford the merest whisper of Israel-unfriendly policy, at precisely this moment do these House Dems decide to push him on Pollard.

    To my mind, this stands right along Cantor’s assurances to Bibi that Congress’ll reign in the prez as an example of US Reps acting with greater loyalty to Israel than to their own constituents (not to mention their party).

    They know the guy’s hamstrung so they figure it’s a good time to bring up Pollard. Astonishing.