Last week, a perfect storm of sorts formed over Washington in the long campaign to win Jonathan Pollard’s release from a life sentence for espionage. Both Harvard professor Alan
Dershowitz, a Pollard supporter for decades, and outgoing Israeli President Shimon Peres, who has a tangled relationship with the Pollard case, urged President Barak Obama to grant clemency to the 59-year-old former civilian Navy analyst.
Dershowitz’s request came in the form of a June 22 letter, signed by Dershowitz and nine other North American legal scholars, including Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian justice minister, and former ACLU President Nadine Stroessen. They offered 10 now familiar arguments for Pollard’s immediate release, including that Pollard’s life sentence on one count of espionage is “unprecedented … excessive, grossly disproportionate, unfair and unjust” for a crime that is normally punished by “six to eight years.” And, they argued, the sentence is “a breach of [Pollard’s] plea bargain, wherein the prosecution had agreed not to seek life imprisonment in return for Pollard’s guilty plea.”
The day after the letter was released, Peres visited Obama at the White House and made a personal plea for Pollard’s release. Peres was Israel’s prime minister when Pollard was arrested outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington in 1985 and charged with espionage. Peres’ attempt at moral suasion is a belated effort to win some justice for a botched Israeli spy operation that occurred on his watch and for which Pollard paid the price.
After the presidents met, Peres told reporters that Obama said he will have the U.S. attorney general consider an “offer” Peres made. Whether further effort in support of this “offer” is needed is unknown. But Pollard is eligible for parole in 2015. With that date looming, we wonder whether it is the best and highest use of the time and resources of those seeking Pollard’s release for what might be a very short period of early release.
Over the years, Jonathan Pollard has amassed a large number of very staunch supporters — Dershowitz among them. If those supporters choose to continue their long effort for Pollard, and believe that even a token amount of early release time is worth it, we won’t stand in their way.