Pollard caused no harm Jews must press for parole

By November 1995, my brother Jonathan will have completed 10 years in jail for passing classified information to an ally of the United States — Israel.

In the beginning, we could not understand why he was punished so severely, why he was kept in a ward for the criminally insane for 10 months with "no need for treatment" stamped on his papers, why he was sent to Illinois' Marion Prison, where he was kept in solitary confinement for five years, why the U.S. government hadn't made any specific accusations, and couldn't even tell us exactly what he did.

The smear campaign was ugly and unstoppable. Other agendas were at work here, and we hadn't a clue as to what they were.

Through promises made to Jonathan, in a written plea bargain requested by the Justice Department, Jonathan was persuaded to sign away his right to a trial in exchange for less than a life sentence.

Twenty-two countries were transferring nuclear, chemical and biological weapons technology to Arab states — in particular Iraq. This was six years before the Gulf War, six years before Saddam Hussein became a household name.

Jonathan's hearing, in camera, would ensure that this nasty secret never came to light. Gordon Crovitz, in The Wall Street Journal, called it "government sandbagging." This information did, of course, come to light after the war.

At the time, however, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger's secret memorandum to the sentencing judge, condemning Jonathan's "treasonous acts," sealed his fate. The judge ignored the plea bargain, and Jonathan, never accused of treason, received a life sentence. In similar cases, where individuals had spied for allies, they received sentences of two to four years.

Last year, Jonathan made his first appeal to President Clinton. We were asking for commutation of his sentence to time served. Clinton sought the opinions of the State Department, the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense and the intelligence communities. And he wanted to know one other thing: what Jewish leaders were thinking.

For the most part, they said nothing. Jonathan remains in jail today, in large part, because many of our Jewish leaders were silent. I strongly believe that if Clinton had gotten the go-ahead he was looking for from the Jewish leadership, he would have overridden his own government agencies.

It wasn't until right after the Gulf War, when facts about Jonathan's case started to creep into the public arena, and with the help of a persistent grassroots movement, that Jewish leaders took up the cause.

Two years ago, 1,000 rabbis signed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times urging Clinton to commute Jonathan's sentence.

Meanwhile, what came to be known as the "Pollard Affair" produced an outpouring of Jewish bloodletting in government agencies. Many Jews had their security clearances re-examined, or were not granted higher clearances. Some were told outright that the U.S. government did not need any more "Jew-boys like Pollard" in their midst. Instead of fighting such outrageous collective punishment, many decided to turn their anger on Jonathan.

The arrest and conviction of Aldrich Ames, a high-ranking member of the CIA who spied for Russia for eight years, should have cleared Jonathan's name of many of the most serious accusations heaped upon him through innuendo and slander.

It was Ames who caused the deaths of at least 10 U.S. operatives in Russia and Western Europe and "rolled up" over 55 Allied operations. Yet all the while he was committing treason against the United States, he was blaming Jonathan to cover his own misdeeds.

Ames never spent time in a ward for the criminally insane, and was never sent to a place like Marion Prison to live in solitary confinement. He is serving his life sentence in Allenwood Prison in Pennsylvania, known affectionately as "Club-Fed."

Essentially the only difference between Ames' sentence and Jonathan's sentence is that Jonathan is eligible for parole.

We want this crucial and essential difference in Ames' sentence to count for something: Ames spied for an enemy nation, has expressed no remorse and was responsible for demonstrable harm, including the deaths of many people. Jonathan did none of this.

We must now turn all of our energy, attention and focus toward Jonathan's parole hearing, which will take place some time before November.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin already has asked Clinton twice for Jonathan's release on humanitarian grounds, and I suspect that he will continue to ask for Jonathan's release, through parole or commutation of his sentence, to time served.

The same government agencies, institutions and personalities that objected so strongly last year to Jonathan's commutation can be expected to do so again. They will press the media's buttons and there will be an outpouring of venom and unsubstantiated charges that many will accept as fact.

The question, once again, will be whether support for parole can issue a sufficiently clear and unambiguous call that will outweigh the expected government agencies' recommendations.