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entries tagged with: Jonathan Pollard

 

All captives are not alike

 

Pascrell calls for Pollard clemency

As rumors fly that the United States may offer the release of Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel’s extending the settlement freeze, four congressmen wrote to President Obama last week asking for clemency for the man.

Pollard has been serving a life sentence since 1986 for spying for Israel while he was a U.S. Navy analyst.

“When you compare it to other sentences in spying cases, there seems to be a great disparity,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8) told The Jewish Standard earlier this week.

The timing of the letter in the midst of discussions on extending the freeze and a possible incentive deal is merely coincidental, said Pascrell, one of the four who signed the letter, dated Sept. 22. It will circulate for more signatures until the middle of this month, when it will be sent to the president.

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Clemency for Jonathan Pollard “is a fair thing,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.

“If (Pollard’s release is) going to be used as leverage, I don’t believe it’s going to be sufficient leverage,” Pascrell said. “I would hope it would not be used as leverage in that regard.”

The letter’s signers — Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), and Pascrell — are not arguing that Pollard’s conviction should be overturned, Pascrell said. They are, he continued, asking for fair treatment. He pointed to the group of Russian spies exposed this summer who were returned to Russia instead of a federal prison.

The congressmen argue in the letter that the almost 25 years Pollard has thus far served is sufficient as punishment for his crime or as a deterrent to other would-be spies.

“It is a fair thing; it would send out a positive note,” Pascrell said. “Those people who signed the letter are tough Americans and actually believe in dealing with anybody caught spying in a harsh fashion.”

Pascrell first became involved in the Pollard case a dozen years ago when, at the request of some of his constituents, he visited Pollard in federal prison. Since then, Pascrell said, he has made it a personal issue to see that Pollard receives equal justice.

“I’m here to say that his case is worth looking into,” Pascrell said. “I’m not pleading for Mr. Pollard that he was wrongly accused or wrongly found guilty.”

U.S. intelligence officials have said that Pollard’s espionage was too vast to merit clemency, and that he should not be released before 2015, when his life sentence is first subject to review under sentencing guidelines in place at the time of his conviction.

Excerpt from the congressional letter to President Obama on Jonathan Pollard

“We believe there has been a great disparity from the standpoint of justice between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served — or not served at all — by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations adversarial to us, unlike Israel.”

To read the letter in full, visit Congressional letter to President Obama on Jonathan Pollard.

 
 

Inside the beltway

Of spies and sanctions

Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process continue to dominate American foreign policy, subtly influencing other goings-on in Washington. The Obama administration recently received two letters from members of the House of Representatives, one calling for clemency for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and the other questioning a proposed multi-billion-dollar weapons sale to Saudi Arabia.

Questioning Saudi Arabia

Reps. Scott Garrett (R-5), Steve Rothman (D-9), and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-5) have signed on to a letter with more than 190 other members of the House who questioned a proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The letter, sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Nov. 10, asks for clarification on how the sale advances U.S. interests, if any conditions have been placed on the sale, and what threats the sale is intended to address.

“We do that in light of the concerns we raised of the failures by Saudi Arabia to meet the levels of commitments in other areas we hope they would raise before we engage in such arms sales,” Garrett told The Jewish Standard during a phone interview last week.

The letter also raises concerns about Saudi Arabia’s regional policies, in particular with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the letter, members of Congress “have serious concerns about the nature of Saudi involvement in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly since the Saudis have failed to take steps toward normalization of relations with Israel or to augment their financial support of the Palestinian Authority.

“Likewise, Saudi officials have often made clear their anxiety over the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability. But what action, if any, has Saudi Arabia taken to address this threat?”

The letter, Garrett said, is “a strong message that we’re looking for answers in a timely manner.”

Rothman said the letter is meant to ensure Israel’s military advantage in the region.

“My initial conversation with military and intelligence leaders who are most aware of the realities on the ground indicates that Israel’s qualitative military advantages would not be compromised by such a deal,” Rothman said, adding that the letter’s purpose was to get specifics as to how that advantage would be sustained, if not enhanced, by this deal.

Rothman’s office received a letter in response from Clinton and Gates earlier this week. According to that letter, the secretaries “ believe the proposed package promotes U.S. strategic and foreign policy interests, and it is a key component of our overall regional strategy.”

The letter cited the close “political-military relations” of six decades with Saudi Arabia, “a primary security pillar in the region.”

The secretaries also cited the Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia as well as attacks on its border with Yemen. They also concluded, according to the letter, that the sale will not impact Israel’s military advantage in the region.

“I will now be doing my own due diligence with regards to the statements made by Secretaries Gates and Clinton,” Rothman said.

To read both letters in full, visit http://www.jstandard.com.

Only Einhorn can go to China?

As the United States continues to push for tougher sanctions against Iran in the United Nations, China and Russia have consistently fought against harsher measures. Garrett recently met with Robert Einhorn, special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control and the Obama administration’s point-man on sanctions enforcement, for a briefing on a recent meeting with Chinese officials. Einhorn has worked on nuclear proliferation issues in almost every administration since Richard Nixon’s. In September, he went to China with a list of Chinese companies and banks that continue to violate sanctions against Iran.

Garrett raised questions about that list and China’s response. During his conversation with the Standard, Garrett stayed away from specifics about that list, but said it would be a subject of continuing talks with Einhorn.

Sanctions can be effective, the representative said, but they need to lead to something.

“The endgame is not to simply be implementing sanctions, but to bring about a change of behavior by Iran and we have yet to see that,” Garrett said.

Calls increasing for Pollard’s release

Calls for clemency for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard are gaining steam in Washington, with a letter to the White House signed by almost 40 members of the House of Representatives. Pollard is serving a life sentence on charges of espionage on behalf of Israel.

Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sent the letter to President Obama Nov. 18 after collecting signatures from 35 other members of the house, including Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9).

“We are not questioning Mr. Pollard’s guilt, but rather appealing for clemency based on the vast disparity between his sentence and his crime,” said Pascrell in a statement to the Standard. “Israel is one of America’s strongest allies, and I believe that 25 years behind bars is far too many for Mr. Pollard, especially considering the sentences to those convicted of similar crimes on behalf of countries who are not our friends.”

Pascrell, who visited Pollard in federal prison in 1998, has made Pollard’s case one of his main issues.

Pollard’s lawyers submitted a request for clemency to Obama last month after it was revealed that Pollard’s sentence may have been influenced by the anti-Israel attitude of the late U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. The Jerusalem Post also reported Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to ask Obama for Pollard’s release as part of an incentive package for Israel to extend its settlement freeze.

“In the end, the reasons why now is the appropriate time or whether Mr. Pollard’s release on clemency grounds would dovetail with other activities occurring in the Middle East or at home are irrelevant,” Rothman said. “What is most important is that the injustice of Mr. Pollard’s continued incarceration — albeit for an extremely serious act of treason that he committed — be granted immediately.”

Pollard’s sentence, he said, “has so grossly exceeded” the sentences of other Americans tried for similar crimes, Rothman said. The 25 years Pollard has already served meets the needs of punishment and deterrence, he said, adding that Pollard has expressed remorse for his actions.

Garrett did not sign the letter, which he said he had not seen. He declined further comment on the issue of clemency until he reads the letter.

For more on the Pollard issue, see Timing, noodging advance new push for Pollard.

Josh Lipowsky can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 
 

New Pollard clemency campaign

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A new campaign to free Jonathan Pollard, shown with his wife Esther, is being seen as generating more momentum on the issue than any campaign on his behalf in recent years. JonathanPollard.com

NEW YORK – A new campaign for clemency for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has racked up a series of big name politicos in the last few weeks: former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye, a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama.

The recent successes can be traced not to Washington lobbyists or a New York boardroom, but to a small team of four activists whose doggedness, rather than political connections, has yielded results.

The four men, spread across America, have managed to generate more momentum on the Pollard issue — or at least more expressions of support for clemency from public figures — than any public campaign in recent years.

Foremost among the activists is David Nyer, a 25-year-old Orthodox social worker from Monsey, N.Y.

Nyer was the force behind a letter last November to President Obama from 39 congressional Democrats urging the president to grant clemency to Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy analyst who received a life sentence in 1987 for spying for Israel.

Over the past few months, Nyer successfully elicited letters calling for Pollard’s release from Quayle, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, and President Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz. Korb went so far as to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to formally call for Pollard’s release, which Nyer says is a key gain in the effort to free Pollard.

“It’s not really hard,” Nyer said of his ability to get powerful or once-powerful officials on the phone. “I myself was very surprised by all of this. I guess that’s the great thing about living in a democracy. The average citizen can reach a former vice president.”

Along with Nyer, the team includes University of Baltimore law Prof. Kenneth Lasson, Phoenix attorney Farley Weiss, and Rabbi Pesach Lerner, a longtime Pollard advocate and executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel. Weiss is a second vice president of the council and the president of a Young Israel synagogue in Arizona, as well as a national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America.

The four activists say they are in regular contact, bouncing around ideas and names of prominent individuals to solicit for support.

Lasson has a long track record of involvement with Pollard, having written more than a dozen articles in the past two decades calling for his release. Weiss, a trademark attorney, has a history of activism on issues related to Israel. Weiss was instrumental in reversing the views of former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini, who long had opposed Pollard’s release.

Lerner has tended to Pollard’s spiritual needs, acting as his rabbi and paying him visits at the federal prison in Butner, N.C.

It is Nyer, however, who has done much of the legwork in recent months.

His start on the Pollard case came in graduate school, when Carlos Salinas, a former Amnesty International official, presented a lecture at the school and Nyer pushed Salinas to review the case. Salinas went on to join 500 signatories, most of them clergymen, in a separate letter to Obama on Pollard’s behalf.

Among the letter’s signatories were Pastor John Hagee, the Texas minister who founded Christians United for Israel, and Gary Bauer, a former Reagan administration official and now president of the conservative nonprofit American Values.

Nyer and company have been strategic in picking their targets.

They have recruited former officials who, like DeConcini, the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, had access to classified material and can speak authoritatively on the appropriateness of Pollard’s sentence. The biggest score on that front was James Woolsey, the former Central Intelligence Agency director, who called on Obama in January to release Pollard.

DeConcini was a longtime opponent of clemency for Pollard, but he told JTA that he changed his mind at the repeated urging of his finance chairman, the late Earl Katz. He wrote to both Obama and former President George W. Bush on Pollard’s behalf at the behest of Weiss, whose credibility Katz had vouched for.

“He has been on my case for a couple of years,” DeConcini said of Weiss.

The group also has targeted those with particular influence on Obama, such as Harvard law Prof. Charles Ogletree, a mentor to the president, who wrote to the White House in January. Several sources said the group is seeking support from others who are personally close to the president.

The activists hope that all the letter writing will give Obama the political cover he needs to take the potentially controversial step of freeing the spy. The fight for Pollard’s release typically has been spearheaded by the pro-Israel right wing in America, but the congressional letter was signed entirely by Democrats.

Nyer suggested that a pardon could boost Obama’s standing with American Jews and Israelis in advance of the 2012 election.

“The first thing we wanted to do was to create a political climate which would be easy to grant clemency,” Nyer said. “It would be very easy for Obama to do it. He has all the cover.”

Neither Nyer, Weiss, nor Lasson was eager to speak about his efforts on Pollard’s behalf. They each said that the injustice of the case speaks for itself.

Pollard has served 25 years of a life sentence for passing classified materials to Israel — a longer sentence than anyone else convicted of espionage on behalf of a U.S. ally.

While the activists would prefer that their names stay out of the media glare, they say their efforts have raised hopes that Pollard’s life sentence might soon be commuted.

“In 25 years,” Lasson told JTA, “I’ve never seen this degree of momentum or widespread support from both within and outside the Jewish community, both nationally and internationally.”

JTA Wire Service

 
 

A plea for Jonathan Pollard

 

The wrong way to send a message

 
 
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