Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Newly declassified CIA damage assessment a game changer

JPost Editorial..
18 December '12..

The newly declassified 1987 CIA damage assessment bolsters official calls for the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard. While portions of the CIA document remain redacted, the disclosures officially confirm that Pollard spied for Israel, not against the United States.

Moreover, the document puts the lie to American allegations that have been used for over a quarter of a century to justify Pollard’s continued incarceration. For example, Pollard’s full cooperation with the prosecution was one of the welcome admissions in this document, as was the confirmation that the volume of information Pollard transferred to Israel was far less than claimed.

The CIA document also reveals the subterfuge used by the US government to breach its plea agreement with Pollard.

The report brazenly states that Pollard was jailed for life because of an “unauthorized” interview he gave to The Jerusalem Post. This is preposterous. No reporter, much less one carrying a camera and a tape recorder, could possibly gain access to a prisoner in a US federal prison without authorization.

Another canard used to justify Pollard’s life sentence is the claim that he did enormous damage to US national security. While the declassified CIA document does not deal with the damage done by Pollard, this issue is fully addressed in a concurrent damage assessment known as The Victim Impact Statement (VIS), written by the US Department of Justice.

The VIS, now a matter of public record, was submitted to the sentencing judge in 1987 as an aid in determining Pollard’s sentence. After a few introductory sentences about the “scope and breadth” of Pollard’s disclosures to Israel, the VIS describes the actual damage to the US as follows: “Mr. Pollard’s unauthorized disclosures have threatened the US [sic] relations with numerous Middle East Arab allies, many of whom question the extent to which Mr. Pollard’s disclosures of classified information have skewed the balance of power in the Middle East. Moreover, because Mr. Pollard provided the Israelis virtually any classified document requested by Mr. Pollard’s coconspirators, the US has been deprived of the quid pro quo routinely received during authorized and official intelligence exchanges with Israel, and Israel has received information classified at a level far in excess of that ever contemplated by the National Security Council. The obvious result of Mr. Pollard’s largesse is that US bargaining leverage with the Israeli government in any further intelligence exchanges has been undermined. In short, Mr. Pollard’s activities have adversely affected US relations with both its Middle East Arab allies and the Government of Israel.”

The US government’s own words in the VIS, carefully scripted to present the most compelling case for the harshest possible sentence, reflect the damage as being nothing more than short-term friction between the US and unnamed Arab countries and a temporary reduction in bargaining leverage held by the US over Israel. Not the kind of permanent, irreversible, and overwhelming harm to US national security that some have claimed.

Pollard has repeatedly expressed remorse and was not charged with intent to harm the US. He is the only person in American history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. His continued incarceration is jarringly inconsistent with American claims of close friendship and security cooperation with Israel.

The US administration has repeatedly demonstrated remarkable flexibility towards other allies, downgrading charges and dealing leniently with spies from China, the Philippines, Greece and Saudi Arabia, among others. No such consideration has been extended to Israel in Pollard’s case, despite overwhelming evidence that he is being punished far beyond the severity of the offense he committed.

Many senior US officials, including those with firsthand knowledge of the classified file, are openly calling for Pollard’s release. They say his sentence is “grossly disproportionate” and that keeping him in prison is “a travesty of justice.”

Both the prime minister and president of Israel have issued official requests for the Israeli agent’s release on humanitarian grounds because his health is failing. He has served 28 years in prison, seven of them in solitary confinement.

The newly declassified CIA damage assessment has again focused public attention on the injustice of keeping Pollard in prison. Now is the time for President Barack Obama, finally, to respond to all the official requests for Pollard’s release by commuting his sentence to time served. There are no more excuses. It is time to send Pollard home.


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