Pressure mounting on Obama to free Pollard

By Wolf Blitzer
Ex BLITZER’S BLOG
Copyright by the Author

June 13, 2012

Israeli President Shimon Peres says he will ask Obama to give clemency to the former U.S. naval intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty to providing Israel with classified documents in 1987.

Peres is in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama.

Two congressmen, Reps. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, and Eliot Engel, D-New York, are circulating a letter on Capitol Hill asking the president to commute Pollard’s sentence to time served.

“What Mr. Pollard did was wrong,” the two lawmakers wrote. “He broke the law and deserved to be punished for his crime.”

But they say 25 years is a long enough sentence.

But there’s also enormous pressure from inside the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence community to keep Pollard in jail.

When asked Wednesday what the administration’s stance on the issue is, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “Our position has not changed and will not change today. I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes.”

This is not the first time this issue has come up.

Under similar pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Former President Bill Clinton was close to freeing Pollard near the end of his second term. Clinton was trying to negotiate an interim Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But then-CIA Director George Tenet said he would resign if Pollard were freed.

As part of his plea agreement in 1987, Pollard pleaded guilty. Because there was no trial, the Reagan administration did not need to release any sensitive or classified information as evidence.

In exchange, Joseph E. diGenova, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, worked out an arrangement with Pollard’s defense attorneys that he would receive a substantial sentence but not the maximum sentence – life.

Yet in an extraordinary move, Judge Aubrey Robinson rejected the plea agreement and sentenced Pollard to life, citing the enormous damage to U.S. national security that then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger outlined in a classified memo to the court.

So the pressure is now once again on Obama. Let’s see what he does.

Editor’s note: Wolf Blitzer interviewed Pollard in a federal prison while he was awaiting his sentence. Blitzer wrote a book on the case, “Territory of Lies,” published by Harper & Row in 1989. The New York Times Book Review cited it as one of the most notable books of that year.

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