Let Pollard Stay In Jail

Jonathan Pollard was given another day in court and his supporters tried once again to make the case that even if he was a traitor, he doesn’t deserve to be incarcerated any longer because there were worse spies who got off with lighter sentences. Few people in the Jewish community felt this way when he was arrested, but a groundswell of support for a pardon has grown over the years. Forgive me for not jumping on the bandwagon, but if it were up to me Pollard would never see the light of day again.

It is not surprising that a parade of lawyers has represented Pollard over the years and, to this day, have failed to present any justification for reconsidering his case. Mostly we hear the same mantra about how he was helping a U.S. ally not an enemy, how his punishment is more severe than that given to Soviet spies, how the U.S. shouldn't be keeping intelligence from Israel, and how the government made a plea bargain promising he wouldn’t get life imprisonment (no one usually mentions that Pollard violated the terms of the agreement by speaking to the press). The “new” wrinkle is the current legal team’s argument that their predecessors were incompetent. Lawyers incompetent? Well, at least that’s something I can believe.

While crocodile tears are being shed for the poor spy, let’s not forget what he did. First, he violated his promise — and the law — not to disclose classified material to anyone. Second, we don't know how much damage he caused to U.S. security by giving Israel sensitive material and compromising important “sources and methods” of U.S. intelligence-gathering. The advocates on Pollard's behalf don't have any idea what he stole or who ultimately saw it.

The only people who know what was taken (or have a good idea of the impact) all oppose his release, and it is notable the list includes some of the most pro-Israel members of Congress, as well as seven former U.S. secretaries of defense (actually one is now serving that role again and another is now the Vice President, which does not bode well to the prospects for a Bush pardon). Despite personal pleas from Israeli prime ministers and other friends of Israel and the president, the very pro-Israel Bill Clinton refused to pardon Pollard.

We do know Pollard did immense damage to the level of trust given to American Jews, particularly in sensitive positions. People in the Navy, where Pollard worked, for example, make no secret of the residual bitterness they feel and the suspicions they harbor toward Jews. Beyond the damage to national security, Pollard also caused U.S. officials to be more suspicious of the Israelis.

Pollard showed contempt for Israel by leading the federal agents he knew were on his trail directly to the Israeli Embassy. The name of the game in espionage is deniability, and Pollard may be the only Israeli agent, and one of the few of any country, who deliberately implicated his sponsors before being caught. Do Pollard's friends really believe this episode helped Israel, that the U.S. became more willing to share sensitive material as a result?

Those who labor under the illusion that Pollard’s impact on the Jewish community was benign might recall a 1997 Washington Post headline screaming that a top U.S. official was spying for Israel. Once again, Israel and American Jewry were thrown on the defensive. The Post referred to the Pollard case, implying an American Jew could be spying out of “love for Israel.” The fact that there was a Pollard gave the allegation greater credibility. This was another example of the grave damage that man caused and that his apologists continue to ignore.

In my book, Pollard is worse than other spies he is compared to who received more lenient sentences. He was not only a traitor to his country, he betrayed Israel, and the American Jewish community. Publicizing his case only compounds the damage. Rather than reopen his case and crusade for a pardon, it is time to throw away the key to Pollard’s cell and focus on repairing the damage he caused.