- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2000

Jonathan Pollard, the spy who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to spying for Israel, has, as expected, become an important issue in New York' Senate race featuring first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Predictably, Mrs. Clinton has addressed this issue in her typically disingenuous style.

The political background is rather straightforward. The Jewish vote in New York will be critical. Mrs. Clinton needs to consolidate this important part of the Democratic base. One way to do so would be for President Clinton, responding to the pleas of many American Jewish leaders, to grant clemency to Pollard. They, of course, are not alone. Indeed, after denying for years that Pollard ever spied for Israel, in recent years both right-wing and left-wing Israeli governments have embraced Pollard, who was awarded Israeli citizenship in 1995, as a national hero.

Pollard's prospective release even became an explosive issue at the 1998 Wye Plantation Israeli-Palestinian peace talks moderated by Mr. Clinton. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister at the time, insisted that Mr. Clinton had promised clemency for Pollard during the Wye negotiations. Once word of such a promise reached the CIA, however, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet reportedly threatened to resign if Pollard were released. Mr. Clinton had to back away from his commitment, and the Wye accords nearly collapsed.

Mr. Clinton, who had denied clemency on three previous occasions in response to unanimous recommendations against clemency from law-enforcement and national security agencies, then announced that he would review the case once more. Nearly two years later, he still has not revealed his decision. Hence, there is legitimate concern that the White House will spring an "October surprise" by announcing the president's decision to spring Pollard.

Apart from the consideration of craven political calculations involving an issue of profound national security importance, clemency for Pollard would be a grave mistake. On this there appears to be unanimity among all government agencies concerned except the politicos in the White House. Indeed, as Seymour Hersh reported in a 1999 New Yorker essay, then-CIA Director William Casey told a station chief that Pollard, at the height of the Cold War, had sold yes, sold Israel "our attack plan against the USSR all of it." Pollard also provided Israel with U.S. techniques to track Soviet nuclear submarines information that would only be of practical importance to the Soviet Union. Whether Israel subsequently traded this information to the USSR in exchange for increased Jewish emigration, as some speculate, or whether the KGB acquired this information by infiltrating Israeli intelligence, the U.S. government nonetheless assembled enough evidence for then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to inform the sentencing judge in a secret affidavit that Pollard's actions may have resulted in the most sensitive U.S. intelligence information being acquired by the USSR. Hence, the life sentence.

The question of clemency for Pollard surfaced during the debate between Mrs. Clinton and Republican nominee Rick Lazio. Mrs. Clinton, who had conducted her 1993-94 health care deliberations in secrecy in violation of U.S. law and whose husband took a two-by-four to the American justice system by claiming one pseudo privilege after another during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, had the chutzpah to express concern for "due process issues" involving Pollard.

"There was secret evidence put in before the court that has never been revealed," Mrs. Clinton said, referring to the top-secret damage-assessment report Mr. Weinberger prepared for the sentencing judge. "It does bother me that there was evidence presented that no one has seen," said Mrs. Clinton, who, as a junior attorney for the House Judiciary Committee's investigation of the Watergate scandal, sought to deny President Nixon legal counsel. In fact, obviously, U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. saw the highly classified evidence. And when Pollard's defense attorney argued the damage caused in the case was exaggerated, Judge Robinson summoned the attorney to his bench, pointed to a passage in the Pentagon's top-secret damage assessment and asked, "You don't consider that damage?" As it happens, moreover, in response to an appeal by Pollard, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his life sentence in 1992.

None of this matters to Mrs. Clinton. Pretending during the debate that her concerns merely related to "due process issues," Mrs. Clinton nonetheless directly interjected herself days earlier into another Pollard matter devoid of due process concerns. On Aug. 23, New York Jewish leaders brought to Mrs. Clinton's attention the fact that Pollard was to be transferred to a less comfortable unit at the North Carolina federal prison where he was serving his sentence. Mrs. Clinton immediately contacted White House officials. She informed the New York Jewish leaders days later that she had taken care of the problem. Indeed, she had. "She did it," her campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said, presumably with a straight face, "because the issue was brought to her attention and she was concerned on humanitarian grounds." Difficult though it may be to believe, Mrs. Clinton has as little credibility as her husband.

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