Time to free Jonathan Pollard...
He just began his 25th year of imprisonment...
Yesterday, Jonathan Pollard began the twenty-fifth year of his life sentence for passing to Israel during the 1980s classified US data concerning various Arab states, including evidence of Saddam Hussein's development of chemical weapons. This distressing anniversary is an appropriate moment to take stock of the bona fides of Jonathan's unprecedented punishment and the continued obsession of many in the US government with insuring, in the words of Jonathan's lead prosecutor, that Jonathan "never see the light of day."
One of the cornerstones of Barack Obama's presidency has been an expressed intent to make a clear break with a purported American policy of acting like a bully to the world. We would do well then to consider just who the United States was bullying and which countries it was coddling when the Pollard affair broke and whether US behavior is any different today under President Obama.
PRIOR TO the Khomeini revolution in 1979, US Middle East policy was anchored in the "Twin Pillars" of Iran and Saudi Arabia. With the overthrow of the Shah, the US sought a replacement for one of its now fallen pillars. It turned to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator of a country that was on America's list of state sponsors of terror.
This US policy shift was the genesis to the Pollard. Throughout the 1980s, continuing until one week before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990, theUS government pursued a policy of craven appeasement of Iraq. America turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, it allowed the transfer of billions of dollars of US taxpayer backed credits to Iraq via the Atlanta branch of an Italian bank to secretly finance Hussein's purchase of both agricultural goods and weaponry, and cooperated in the sale to Iraq by third parties of a wide variety of military equipment, including US military rocket cluster bombs, chemical weapons technology and missile technology.
Every sane government in the world today looks with grave concern at the nuclear weapons capability that Iran is on the threshold of acquiring. And they shudder at the thought of what might have been if Iraq had a nuclear weapon when it invaded Kuwait in 1990. That power was denied Saddam Hussein when Israel destroyed Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor in June 1981. But at the time, Israel was not thanked, but rather was subjected to near-universal condemnation, including from the United States.
In the Reagan White House, there was a consensus among vice president George Bush, defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and chief of staff James Baker that Israel needed to be punished. Weinberger persuaded Reagan to delay delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Israel and the similarly incensed Deputy CIA Director Bobby Ray Inman ordered withholding from Israel all satellite photography and other similar materials involving areas more than 250 miles from Israel's borders. This ban was then formally approved by Weinberger and converted what was until then a routine intelligence transfer into a criminal violation.
Thus, transmittal to Israel of photographs of the eastern sections of Syria and Iraq, including chemical weapons plants in eastern Iraq built and financed by US companies, became the grounds for Pollard's life sentence.
The background behind Jonathan's actions is not presented as grounds for exoneration, but rather as a reason for the mitigation of the severity of his punishment. For it is uncontestable that Jonathan is in a party of one who has been singled out from all other Americans who spied for non US adversaries.
Thus, of the more than 20 Americans caught spying for friendly or neutral countries, both before and after Jonathan's arrest, none received a sentence even remotely close to life, the average sentence being between two and four years. These included cases of spies for supposed US allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who were receiving very generous American foreign aid or military protection at the time they were spying on the United States.
Most recently, Ronald Montaperto, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who admitted passing classified intelligence to the Chinese during a 14-year period, was sentenced to three months in prison.
And of the more than 60 spies for US adversaries over the past quarter-century, many of whom caused massive and demonstrable harm to the US, barely a handful received life terms.
CIA agent David Barnett, who sold the Soviets the names of 30 American agents, was given an 18-year sentence and paroled after 10 years. Michael Walker, for many years a key figure in the Walker family Soviet spy ring, was sentenced to 25 years and released after serving 15. William Kampiles, a CIA officer who sold the Soviets the operating manual to the KH-11 satellite, America's eye in the sky, received a 40-year sentence and was released after 18 years.
Abdul Kedar Helmy, an Egyptian-born American, transmitted classified materials to Egypt that were used in a joint weapons program with Iraq to vastly increase the range of ballistic missiles, including Iraq's Scud missiles, which were later fired on US troops during Desert Storm. Helmy received a prison term of less than four years. John Paul Lindh, an American who joined the Taliban terrorists fighting the United States, received a 21-year sentence.