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Should Pollard go free?

By Joseph E. diGenova

[The New York Daily News, Aug. 18, 1996]

Joseph E. diGenova, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, was lead prosecutor in the Pollard case.


Last month, President Clinton rightly denied for the second time the special constitutional favor of clemency to convicted spy Jonathan Jay Pollard. The reasons were the enormity of his crime, his lack of remorse and the incalculable damage he caused U.S. national security.

Pollard, a U.S. citizen and civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy. sought out the Israelis after he decided unilaterally that the United States was not sharing enough information with the Israelis. In 1984, Pollard agreed to a 10-year plan of espionage against the U.S. for pay. He was to receive $540,000 during the scheme.

He supplied the Israelis with thousands of the highest classified documents, satellite photos, plans, technical information , systems analyses and other information on U.S. and U.S. allies' defense capabilities. He revealed our most sensitive sources and methods data, threatening not only technical intelligence but also our human sources.

Before he was caught, he gave his Israeli handlers material that would have filled a room 10 feet by six feet by six feet. With his credentials, he went from one classified library to another and took literally suitcases full of raw documents from there to his co-conspirators' safe house in Northwest Washington, where they were duplicated with special equipment. It was one of the largest losses of classified information in U.S. history.

Eleven years after his arrest, the damage to U.S. intelligence and national security persists at enormous cost.

Pollard's lack of remorse has never wavered. After his 1985 arrest, Pollard told the FBI he'd "do it again if given the chance." His then-wife, Anne Pollard, told "60 Minutes" shortly before her sentencing that they had "a moral obligation" to do what they did in the spy case. The Pollards had no regrets and were defiant in justifying their espionage.

There has never been any question of guilt. Pollard and his wife pleaded guilty. And his sentence, life with eligibility for parole in 10 years, was consistent with other sentences for equally serious espionage, contrary to his supports' claims.

By rejecting Pollard's plea for clemency, the president sent a strong message to U.S. government employees that they cannot expect leniency if they jeopardize national security by knowingly spying for a foreign power, even an ally. Once information is compromised, all control over its use is gone. The receiving country's agenda determines its ultimate use for bater or whatever purpose. Even allies have goals adverse to ours.

The United States expends enormous resources in acquiring and building intelligence systems and gathering intelligence overseas. People (Americans and foreign nationals acting on our behalf) risk their lives to get that information for our protection. One individual cannot take it unto himself to act independently believing he is better able to decide what is in the U.S.'s best interest.

Pollard's case was not aided by the fact that last year he was made an Israeli citizen. That fueled fear inside the U.S. government that if released now he would go there (as he has said he wants to) and further damage our national security due to his encyclopedic knowledge of intelligence data and photographic memory. The Israelis never returned the to the U.S. the material Pollard sold to them, so he would be free to assist in its use and exploitation. This concern was fed further by Pollard's public statements in January [1996] that Israel, by granting him citizenship publicly, should "enter into serious negotiations for my release."

Clemency requires at minimum an honest, forthright recognition that wrong has been done and an expression of regret for the harm done. Not a word of remorse nor hint of sorrow for what he has done his country can be found in his pronouncements.

He believes what he did was justified and that he responded to a higher duty in spying against his country. So be it. The president also recognized his higher duty and, instead of caving in to political pressure almost always present in clemency cases, denied Pollard's request. He is to be commended.





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