Ex-CIA head Woolsey calls for Pollard clemency


Being an American Jew has kept Jonathan Pollard in prison for longer than other spies for friendly countries, former CIA head R. James Woolsey wrote in a letter to the editor to The Wall Street Journal.

Woolsey, who recommended against clemency for Pollard while director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Clinton, said in the letter that he now supports a release of the convicted spy for Israel, citing the passage of time.

“When I recommended against clemency, Pollard had been in prison less than a decade,” Woolsey wrote. “Today he has been incarcerated for over a quarter of a century under his life sentence.”

He pointed out that of the more than 50 recently convicted Soviet and Chinese spies only two, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, received life sentences and two-thirds were sentenced to less time than Pollard has served so far.

Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, was sentenced to life under a plea bargain in 1987.

“There is absolutely no reason for Pollard to be imprisoned for as long as Ames and Hanssen, and substantially longer than spies from other friendly, allied, and neutral countries. For those hung up for some reason on the fact that he’s an American Jew, pretend he’s a Greek- or Korean- or Filipino-American and free him,” Woolsey’s letter concluded.

The calls to release Pollard, who is said to be in ill health, have intensified in recent months, with pleas from lawmakers and former top officials of both political parties.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, in Washington last month to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, asked President Obama in a private meeting before the ceremony to consider granting clemency to Pollard.

Jewish movements renew Pollard clemency appeal


Representatives of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements renewed their appeals to President Obama to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard.

The calls over the weekend for Pollard’s release came from the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the central coordinating body representing 51 national Jewish organizations, also called on Obama to grant clemency for Pollard.

In their clemency appeals, the Jewish leaders threw their weight behind the official request from Israeli President Shimon Peres to Obama to release Pollard, according to a statement from the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization.

“We join President Shimon Peres and scores of American intellectual, religious, political, and civic leaders in appealing for his prompt release,” wrote Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, the chairman and executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference. “Given his clear expressions of remorse and pledges regarding his activities upon release, we believe the commutation of his unprecedentedly long sentence to the 27 years he has already served is warranted.

“President Peres is a cautious and judicious person and his letter comes only after much deliberation,” they wrote.

Peres’ letter, sent earlier this month, cited Pollard’s reportedly severe health situation in requesting that he be released from Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, where he is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. Peres has not received an official reply to his letter.

Obama announced last month that he would award Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in June; a petition signed by more than 35,000 Israelis has called on Peres to link the awarding of the medal to clemency for Pollard.

Peres sends letter to Obama requesting Pollard clemency


Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a personal letter to President Obama requesting clemency for Jonathan Pollard.

The letter, sent Monday, cited Pollard’s severe health situation in requesting that he be released from Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, where he is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

The letter was delivered to Obama via U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Obama received the letter Monday afternoon, Haaretz reported.

Pollard reportedly was rushed to a hospital outside of the prison on the eve of Passover suffering from an unspecified emergency condition. He has suffered from a variety of illnesses since being imprisoned in 1986.

Obama announced last month that he would award Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in June; a petition signed by more than 35,000 Israelis has called on Peres to link the awarding of the medal to clemency for Pollard. Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit signed the petition last week.

Peres on Monday also received a petition signed by 80 Israeli lawmakers calling on Obama to release Pollard, according to reports.

Peres met Sunday with Pollard’s wife, Esther, who appealed to the president to request her husband’s release “before it is too late.”

“I appeal to you as Jonathan’s wife so that you might use your influence because I do not want to be his widow,” Esther Pollard reportedly told Peres on Sunday. “Jonathan’s strength is slipping away, and I do not know what will happen the next time I receive a telephone call about his health problems.”

Report: Biden prevented Pollard clemency


President Obama was considering clemency for Jonathan Pollard until Vice President Joseph Biden prevented it, The New York Times reported.

“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’ ” Biden said during a meeting with rabbis in Boca Raton, Fla., according to the newspaper. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. He is scheduled for mandatory parole in November 2015.  In recent months, Obama has received a flood of clemency appeals on behalf of Pollard from Congress members and former U.S. government officials.

Pollard recently underwent kidney-related surgery that was deemed successful.

Biden reportedly took a different tack during a 2007 interview with Shalom TV. In a filmed interview currently making the rounds on the internet, Biden, a senator at the time, said that “There is a rationale behind the requests for Pollard’s release…but there’s not a rationale to say: ‘no, what happened did not happen, he should be pardoned.’”

“My worry is that if we were to move to go and pardon Pollard would make a lie out of the notion that there are certain rules, period. You cannot give classified information, period. Even to a friend – if this were Great Britain it would be the same thing,” Biden said.

He stressed that he favors for Pollard a commutation, not a pardon, which would erase the action completely.

Obama is relying on Biden for help in his re-election campaign with Jewish-American voters, The New York Times article said.

“Mr. Biden has taken on the job of fundraising among Jewish Democrats at the same time that he has been seeking to assure the party’s base that the Obama administration remains a loyal friend to Israel,” the article said.

Biden, through his foreign policy work in the U.S. Senate, has built lifelong ties with Israeli politicians—something Obama does not have on his resume, the report pointed out.

Biden prevented Pollard clemency, NYT reports


President Obama was considering clemency for convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard until Vice President Joseph Biden prevented it, the New York Times reported.

“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’ ” Biden said during a meeting with rabbis in Boca Raton, Fla., according to the newspaper. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life,” he reportedly added.

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. He is scheduled for mandatory parole in November 2015.  In recent months, Obama has received a flood of appeals from Congress members and former government officials to grant Pollard clemency.

Pollard recently successfully underwent kidney-related surgery.

Obama is relying on Biden for help in his reelection campaign with American-Jewish voters, the New York Times article said.

“Mr. Biden has taken on the job of fund-raising among Jewish Democrats, at the same time that he has been seeking to assure the party’s base that the Obama administration remains a loyal friend to Israel,” the article said.

Biden, through his foreign policy work in the Senate, has built lifelong ties with Israeli politicians, something Obama does not have on his resume, the report pointed out.

No clemency for Pollard, Rumsfeld says


Former U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld said Jonathan Pollard should not be granted clemency.

Rumsfeld, who served under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, said during an interview on Israel’s Channel 10 that granting Pollard early release would send the wrong message.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) this week became the first Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives to back the latest push for clemency for Jonathan Pollard.  Earlier in March, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) became the first active Republican politician to join the recent calls for Pollard’s release.

Pollard, who has been imprisoned since his 1985 arrest, was sentenced to life in 1987 after being convicted of spying on behalf of Israel. He is said to be ill.

The most recent push for clemency has garnered substantive support among congressional Democrats, and a range of former officials of Republican and Democratic administrations.

In the eyes of American and Torah laws, Williams should die for his heinous crimes.


In the case of the People v. Williams, the facts are quite clear. A jury convicted Stanley Tookie Williams of the execution-style murder of 23-year-old Albert Owens during a robbery of a 7-Eleven store in Whittier. The jury also convicted him of murdering the owners of a Los Angeles motel, Tsai-Shai Yang, 62, and Yen-I Yang, 65, and their 42-year-old daughter, Yee Chen Lin, in the course of a robbery two weeks later.

These innocent victims suffered an unwarranted execution at the hand of Tookie Williams. Now, at long last, it is Williams’ turn to pay for these crimes, after having lived more than 20 years following the deaths of people who committed no crime, who had no lawyer, who had no chance to file an appeal, who benefited from no legal technicalities, who never had an opportunity to seek clemency from a governor.

The American justice system has been patient and thorough, and its verdict is clear: It is legal, proper and high time that Williams should die.

The verdict under Judaism is just as plain: Capital punishment is a rare, but permissible, important and sometime necessary option for the delivery of justice. In this case in particular, the ethical and Jewish case for the death penalty is overwhelming.

But for those who doubt, it is necessary to look no further than the holiest writings of the Jewish faith.

Capital punishment is the second commandment in Genesis, after “Be fruitful and multiply.” Genesis (9:6) proclaims: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in his image did God make humankind.”

So fundamental is capital punishment as the specific response to murder that it, alone among the laws of the Bible, is established in all five books of the Torah: Genesis (9:6), Exodus (21:12, 21:14), Leviticus (24:17), Numbers (35:31), Deuteronomy (19:19-20, 24:7).

For literal believers in biblical liturgy, nothing more need be said. But certainly Jewish tradition and practice has evolved over the centuries, leading to ongoing moral reinterpretation. It is true that Jewish authorities established strict standards of evidence, as they became especially concerned about the rights of defendants during Roman rule and after. But there’s a difference between a high (and laudable) standard of evidence and an outright prohibition. Jewish law and its Judeo-Christian successor, modern American law, have consistently upheld the legal and moral basis for the death penalty.

It remains fair and reasonable to hold that the value of innocent human life is best established by exacting a proportionate and ultimate sanction upon a murderer. Government has a duty to act where God cannot, so as to establish justice on earth, prevent further murder, and organize a system for prosecution, judgment, and punishment on behalf of victims and society.

Williams had his day in court — again and again and again.

Court after court has rejected his appeals. The 9th Circuit Court determined that Williams had competent counsel. Democrat and Republican governors have rejected calls for clemency. His supporters claim he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for his prison writings, but this is ridiculous grandstanding, trying to attach an honor to a person who doesn’t deserve it. Nominating Williams for a Nobel Peace Prize did nothing but cynically cheapen the award itself.

Williams was convicted for specific crimes — and that’s what he will die for — but it’s worth considering for a moment the wider evil he’s brought into the world. Williams co-founded the brutal Crips gang, and in that role, it’s difficult to calculate how many crimes and other murders to which he was an accessory. And once he was imprisoned, he left behind a nefarious legacy, an ongoing wave of mass murder that resulted directly from his original criminal leadership. This information was never mentioned in court and was, in fact, kept from the jury. But it remains part of the real Tookie Williams story.

The Crips super-gang he founded exists throughout the United States and even internationally. Williams’ evil efforts have arguably resulted in more devastation — more murder, torture, rape and crippling of Americans, specifically young black children — than the acts of anyone else now alive.

Williams says, conveniently enough, that he’s changed his mind about gangs, although he’s never taken responsibility for the carnage he caused. At best, he may have tried to return a few evils into the Pandora’s Box that he personally opened and helped unleash upon the world. But that’s a far cry from true repentance and actual justice.

The life that Williams has led in prison and his public writings have generated for him the respect of misguided leftists who are all to eager to be kind to the cruel.

No one denies that murderers can go on to apologize, write books and even arguably make a contribution. Perhaps God will weigh the million intangibles, giving them their proper weight on the scales of evil and good done by any individual in a lifetime. But it is our proper and better role to content ourselves with the mission of justice.

I know honorable people who oppose the death penalty on principle. But the arguments are more persuasive on the other side — especially if we consider the rights of victims to take priority over the rights of those who murder. That’s an easy call for me to make, and it’s a crime that victims have to wait so long for justice.

I defend the death penalty — and the need for a more swift and sure death-penalty process, on other grounds, too. Under the current system the result is abusively long legal appeals and expensive lifetime imprisonment for convicted killers. All the while, victims’ families are often tortured by legal gamesmanship as well as by the suffering of not knowing if or when an execution will finally be allowed to go forward.

There are broader considerations as well. In an age of intense religio-political terrorism, the failure to deter and punish mass murder with capital punishment would deliver a devastating blow to the moral and actual defense of innocent life, not to mention the defense of our nation.

Some death-penalty opponents cite DNA evidence as a reason to end capital punishment. To the contrary, death-penalty proponents abhor just as much the theoretical possibility of an innocent person being executed. DNA evidence puts science on the side of justice — and firmly on the side of capital punishment.

The death penalty is widely approved in our society as our collective means of punishment and moral retribution. It is applied in extremely few cases. As applied to mass murderers like Williams, deep care for innocent life and for deterring future crimes requires the ultimate punishment. American law says so; common decency argues as much, and Jewish law says so, too.

Cry for Williams if you like out of mercy. But we are all more deeply stained by the tears of his victims and their loved ones. This just execution will dry some of their tears — and offer some closure and peace. n

Larry Greenfield is an attorney, victims-rights advocate, and the California director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.