Former Senator David Durenberger, who served as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time of Jonathan Pollard’s conviction, has written to President Obama and requested that the President release Pollard as quickly as possible.
With his first-hand knowledge of the full file of Pollard’s case and all of the secret documents, Senator Durenberger’s call for clemency is especially significant.
A Republican who represented Minnesota in the United States Senate from 1978-1995, Durenberger cited “the vehemence of the Defense Secretary’s reaction to the revelation” as he referred to then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. The affidavit that Weinberger filed at the time Pollard’s case was being heard is believed to have led to the imposition of a life sentence, in violation of the plea bargain that had been agreed to.
Durenberger is not alone in expressing dismay over then-Secretary Weinberger’s actions relative to the Pollard case. In a letter to President Obama calling for clemency for Pollard, former National Security Advisor Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane, who served under President Ronald Reagan from 1983-1985, called Weinberger’s affidavit in the Pollard case part of the “manifestation” of Weinberger’s “recurrent episodes of strong criticisms and unbalanced reasoning when decisions involving Israel were being made” and stated that “Weinberger’s unduly harsh and unwarranted severity was disgraceful and mean-spirited.” Similar criticism of Weinberger has been made by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, who has stated that Pollard’s life sentence was due to Weinberger’s “visceral hatred of Israel.”
In his letter to the President, Senator Durenberger also noted that from the outset Jonathan Pollard’s disproportionate sentence was inappropriate and “uncalled for.”
“Of course Pollard broke the law and his conviction was deserved,” wrote Senator Durenberger. “But the harshness of his sentence, in light of existing relations between our countries and the nature of our observation of implicit agreements between the countries, was uncalled for.”
In his letter, Durenberger is unequivocal that Pollard’s continued incarceration represents a serious injustice and that there is no excuse for the failure to address and correct it.
“The fact that no President has chosen to take the action which I, and many of my former colleagues and associates in government, request that you take, Mr. President, does not reflect well on the office,” continued Senator Durenberger. “I believe in my heart that you have the capacity to right this wrong. And I respectfully request that you do so at your early convenience.”
Durenberger, an attorney who also served with distinction in the United States Army, is the only Republican United States Senator from Minnesota to be elected to three terms. In addition to his tenure as Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Durenberger also served as Chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee. He is currently a Senior Health Policy Fellow at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota and chairs the National Institute of Health Policy.
In addition to Senator Durenberger, the other major decision makers who were intimately involved in the Pollard case and who were most informed on the impact of Pollard’s actions have also issued public calls for his release. They include former Secretary of State George Shultz, William Webster, the head of the FBI at the time of Pollard’s arrest and the only man in history to head both the FBI and the CIA, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, who served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Pollard’s sentencing, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, and former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, who served under President Ronald Reagan at the time when Pollard was investigated and ultimately charged with disclosing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States.
Pollard has spent 28 years of an unprecedented life sentence in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israel, an ally of the United States. The median time served for this offense is 2 to 4 years. No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for this offense. Pollard and the Government of Israel have both apologized and expressed remorse for their actions.
In addition, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Dennis DeConcini, former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, and former Deputy Attorney General and Harvard Law Professor Philip Heymann, each of whom reviewed the classified intelligence reports about the Pollard case, have publically called for Pollard’s release.
Further, some of the other prominent American leaders who have called for clemency for Pollard include Republican Senator John McCain, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. There have also been numerous bipartisan calls for Pollard’s release that have emanated from Congress and numerous former Senators.
The following is the text of Senator Durenberger’s letter to President Obama:
January 2, 2014
Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20001
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to ask that you commute the prison sentence of Jonathan Pollard. I knew the circumstances surrounding the case as well as anyone. I served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1979-1986 and as its Chair during the 1985-86 session of the Congress. The Pollard arrest on charges of spying for Israel, as well as cases involving the arrest of several other Americans for providing classified secrets to foreign countries, came before the committee in 1985 during a year weekly news magazines called “The Year of the Spy.” Knowing the circumstances behind each of these cases, I can recall my surprise at the sentence given Jonathan Pollard compared to others.
I recall as well the vehemence of the Defense Secretary’s reaction to the revelation, since I was aware as Chair of the Committee of changes that we were told by intelligence agency heads had taken place in traditional agreements between the U.S. and Israel on the subject of spying. Of course Pollard broke the law and his conviction was deserved. But the harshness of his sentence, in light of existing relations between our countries and the nature of our observation of implicit agreements between the countries, was uncalled for. And within the parameters of confidentiality imposed on me as Chair of the Committee, I expressed that opinion at the time.
The fact that no President has chosen to take the action which I, and many of my former colleagues and associates in government, request that you take, Mr. President, does not reflect well on the office. I believe in my heart that you have the capacity to right this wrong. And I respectfully request that you do so at your early convenience.
U.S. Senator (R-MN) 1978-95