by Cal Thomas

pollard still in prison

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 jail 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 Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Schultz, former CIA director James Woolsey (who initially was against Pollard's release), former Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, among others. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb notes that Pollard has been in prison three times longer than anybody who has 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 Confidential: 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, then 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.

The gist of the material Pollard gave to Israel was related to intelligence the United States possessed about Israel's numerous enemies and their intentions. The government's rationale for going after Pollard in such a heavy-handed way appears to have been its desire not to upset America's Arab allies. There seems to have been less concern about upsetting Israel, which is under constant threat of annihilation.

Numerous leaks about the U.S. government's spying, not only on foreign leaders but on its own citizens, along with promises made to Pollard that his supporters say were broken, should raise serious questions about the legitimacy of Pollard's life sentence and the motivation behind it. Several administrations have declined requests for clemency even in light of Pollard‚s failing health and desire to live in Israel. Israel has released murderers from its prisons after U.S. pressure in pursuit of an unobtainable peace with Palestinians, whose antipathy toward Israel never changes.

The U.S. government appears to be covering something up beyond secrets that are unlikely to have much value today. Obama should consider commuting Pollard's sentence — not necessarily as a favor to Israel, but to make good on a promise. It also would seem the right thing to do.


Some of the comments that added information.


What is being covered up is that State was really mad that information they were going to withhold from Israel and use as leverage to squeeze Israel for political purposes was handed to them by Pollard. Note that this information was promised to Israel by the U.S., but never delivered. Also note that this information included details of Arab WMD capabilities that Israel needed for self defense. Pollard is considered a life-saving hero by Israelis, although several leaders, especially Shimon Perez, are complicit in this miscarriage of justice. It is to protect Perz, who lied about Pollard, and State that this man, who is in ill health, is being left to die in jail.


Pollard should have had more friends in high places and donated money to the Clintons like Marc Rich did. Then he could have gotten Eric Holder to recommend a pardon to Bill Clinton and he would have been freed in January 2001, just like Marc Rich, who by the way, is now very dead. But he died a free man and he never served a day in jail, he just ran away like the coward he was. Pollard will die in prison.


There is a lot of nonsense spewed on the Pollard case by commenters who know absolutely noting about it. Pollard seems to attract a lot of hate from those inclined to be anti-Semitic to begin with. Pollard was not accused, charged or convicted of treason. But that is thrown around ignorantly all over the place. To educate yourself on exactly what pollard did, simply read the 1987 CIA Damage Assessment Report, recently declassified this year:

Cal Thomas is a Washington Examiner columnist and co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America." This article appeared November 11, 2013 on the Townhall website and is archived at It is available in Israel Commentary (

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