The Spectacle Blog

No Promises From Romney on the Jonathan Pollard Case

By on 8.6.12 | 11:22AM

A scoop care of Eli Lake and Dan Ephron:

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, a major contributor to Mitt Romney’s election effort, is pressing the Republican nominee to come out for the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, a major Republican donor and associates of Adelson and Romney tell The Daily Beast.

Romney has rejected the request so far, telling Adelson he would have to review the relevant intelligence material accessible to him as president before granting Pollard clemency, said the sources, who are relaying accounts of conversations from both Adelson and Romney. Romney “could not consider the Pollard situation because he doesn’t have access to the classified information,” one source said...

In December, Romney was asked for his view of Pollard at a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. According to Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s CEO, “He did not say what people wanted to hear. Instead he gave a more nuanced response and pointed to the fact that when he was governor of Massachusetts he did not review decisions of the court unless there was judicial misconduct.["]

That Jewish organizations would take up Pollard's cause has always baffled me. Pollard remains in prison because, rather than rigorously adhere to the terms of his plea deal, under which he was not supposed to talk to the press, he (and his wife) embarked on an obnoxious media campaign of defiant interviews, implicitly smearing all Jewish American intelligence operatives as potential security threats with suggestions that leaking secrets to Israel was somehow a religious obligation. This was as disingenuous as it was offensive; Pollard leaked, or reached out with the intention of leaking, to several other countries. No principled champion of Zion, Pollard betrayed his country purely out of recklessness and greed. He lived a lavish lifestyle bankrolled by selling state secrets, and it cost taxpayers millions, possibly billions, to undo the damage he did.

There are legitimate legal questions Pollard's case -- his defense attorney made some terrible errors -- but they'd be moot if he had simply kept his mouth shut until after sentencing. There's no chance he'd have received a life sentence if had. Pollard deserves scorn, not sympathy, and certainly not a spot anywhere near the top of the agenda for pro-Israel Americans like Adelson. In fact, given the way Pollard has been romanticized by his Israeli supporters, his release would damage US-Israeli relations. Imagine the political effect of an American traitor arriving in Israel, greeted by cheering crowds.

A life sentence for spying on behalf of an ally is unusual, but Pollard's is an unusual case. Romney is absolutely right to rebuff the misguided campaign on Pollard's behalf, and if elected, Romney would surely come to the same conclusion as his predecessors: Jonathan Pollard belongs in prison.

For those interested in the details of the Pollard case, this long 2002 piece by Edwin Black is fairly comprehensive (albeit slightly out of date; since it was written, Pollard's case has failed before appellate courts yet again).

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