Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Jonathan Jay Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel, appeared in federal court yesterday for the first time in 16 years as his attorneys sought access to a secret report used in a judge’s decision to give him a life prison term.

Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Pollard to appear at the hearing on whether to give his lawyers access to the sentencing report produced by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1985.

Eliot Lauer, one of Pollard’s attorneys, said during the hearing that the government denied 20 pages of the Weinberger memorandum to Pollard because, it claimed, unauthorized disclosure of the secrets there might cause grave damage to U.S. national security.

“I urge you grant us access in the interest of justice,” Mr. Lauer said. “This file is part of the case. … We just want access. Two security-cleared lawyers should be given access to this material at the Department of Justice.”

Judge Hogan said access to the memo was denied on earlier requests in 1990, 2000 and 2001.

Steven Pelak, an assistant U.S. attorney, said at the hearing that earlier rulings denying Pollard access to the memo should stand. “At this time the defense has simply not shown the need to know.”

Pollard, 49, entered the courtroom wearing a dark-green prison suit from the Arlington County jail. Looking grayer and heavier than when he last appeared in court at his 1987 sentencing, the convicted spy sat with his hands folded during about 90 minutes of oral arguments.

Attorneys for Pollard said after the procedural hearing they did not know why Judge Hogan ordered Pollard to appear. He was brought from a federal prison in North Carolina.

Several members of Pollard’s family were in the courtroom, including his father, Morris Pollard. A group of rabbis, including Israel’s former chief rabbi, HaRav Eliayhu, also were present.

Judge Hogan said he will rule later on the two motions. The first motion would grant Pollard’s lawyers access to the secret sentencing memorandum. The second would allow another hearing to reconsider Pollard’s sentence.

Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to espionage after he was arrested while trying to flee to the Israeli Embassy in Northwest Washington on Nov. 21, 1985.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 as part of a plea agreement.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, said he has written to President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft asking that Pollard’s prison term be commuted to time served.

“Jonathan Pollard committed a very serious crime,” Mr. Weiner told reporters after the hearing. “He is also a victim of bad faith on the part of the government. … He should never have served a sentence this long.”

Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Pollard, said in an interview that Pollard “got the sentence he deserved.”

“If Pollard wants to be released from prison, he should do what he was entitled to do in 1996, which is apply for parole. That he has never done,” Mr. DiGenova said.

“Mr. Pollard has purposely never applied for parole because he wants this to remain a political matter.”

In 1998, President Clinton offered to pardon Pollard as part of the Wye River Middle East peace negotiations. But the pardon plans were shelved after CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign in protest if the pardon were granted, U.S. officials have said.

U.S. intelligence officials said Pollard gave thousands of highly classified intelligence documents to two Israeli intelligence officers, who remain unindicted co-conspirators in the case. Both Israelis fled the United States at the time of Pollard’s arrest.

Pollard has said he spied for Israel out of loyalty to the Jewish state. However, he also was paid by Israeli intelligence for the documents. His wife, Anne Henderson Pollard, also was arrested in the case and was sentenced to five years in prison. She served part of that sentence and was released.

U.S. officials have said Israel, despite appeals from the United States, has failed to return all the documents that were sent to Israel by Pollard.

Pollard agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case in exchange for what he hoped would be less than a life sentence. Instead, the judge then sitting where Judge Hogan does now, Chief Judge Aubrey Robinson, sentenced him to life.

The case has been a major issue in Israel, with many Israelis lobbying for Pollard’s release and deportation to Israel.

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