Jonathan Pollard should be freed

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Jonathan Pollard should be walking the streets of Jerusalem as a free man today. Instead, he sits in a federal prison in North Carolina.

Last week, President Clinton denied Pollard's request for clemency, the third time such a request has been turned down by a U.S. president.

Pollard, a U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst, was arrested in 1985 outside the gates of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, where he was seeking refuge.

In a 1986 plea bargain, Pollard pleaded guilty to passing classified information to Israel. A judge, who rejected the terms of the plea bargain, later sentenced him to life in prison.

Last week the White House offered several reasons why Pollard shouldn't receive clemency.

"The enormity of Mr. Pollard's offenses, his lack of remorse, the damage done to our national security, the need for general deterrence and the continuing threat to national security that he posed made the original life sentence imposed by the court warranted," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

We reject each of those assertions.

Regarding the enormity of Pollard's offense and the threat to national security: Yes, it is reprehensible for an American to betray his country. Yes, Pollard deserved to be punished.

But there was an important mitigating factor. He spied for a close U.S. ally and friend, not for the Russians, Libyans or North Koreans.

By all published accounts, Pollard allegedly revealed only Arab military and nuclear capabilities that the United States had chosen not to share with Israel.

No one has ever accused Pollard of endangering the life of any U.S. agent or citizen.

As far as lack of remorse, it's often been stated that Pollard's personal love and concern for Israel motivated him in the first place. It seems unrealistic to expect him to completely regret risking his well-being for Israel's survival.

If a need for general deterrence exists, it seems as though nearly 11 years of prison time for aiding a U.S. ally is punishment enough.

Finally, regarding a continued threat to U.S. security: We question what possible information from 1984 could still be a threat to America. The world has changed. The Soviet Union has fallen. The Berlin Wall has crumbled. The Gulf War and the peace process has transformed the Middle East.

Pollard has paid for his crime. It is time he go free.