When the Parole Commission announced last July that they would finally be releasing Jonathan Pollard on parole in November, it was hoped by many that, at long last, the travesty of justice that kept him behind bars for three full decades was finally coming to an end. Clearly, nothing the government can do now would make up for the fact that he was unfairly deprived of his freedom for so long; nothing can compensate him for receiving a life sentence for a crime whose median punishment is two to four years. Yet, it was hoped that after serving a full 30 years in prison, during which he developed and struggled with a number of serious physical ailments, he would taste real freedom.
As we stated at the time of the parole announcement, it was clear that much would depend on the conditions attached to his release. After all, by its very definition, parole means that the threat of re-arrest and re-incarceration continues to hang like a dangling sword over the head of the newly released prisoner.
Furthermore, we expressed a real concern that, based on the way Jonathan has been treated up until this point, there was ample reason to suspect that the conditions would be so restrictive as to be almost impossible to fulfill, and that the government might decide to haul him back to jail for any number of unsubstantiated reasons.
More than 10 days have now passed since Jonathan left the physical walls of the North Carolina prison, was reunited with his wife — who has selflessly dedicated her life to leading the fight for his liberty — and settled in the New York area. With each passing day, it is ever more apparent that the conditions of his parole are so restrictive that what he is experiencing now is a far cry from real freedom.
There are times when controversial decisions made by governmental authorities are deemed by critics to be unjust and excessive. In this case, as we reported, the conditions that have been slapped on Jonathan — including house arrest from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., severely limiting his ability to travel during the daytime even within other boroughs of New York City, and wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet 24 hours a day, seven days a week — are so egregious that they totally defy logic.
For one thing, the Justice Department itself informed Pollard’s attorneys days before the July hearing that they do not intend to claim that “there is a reasonable probability that Mr. Pollard will commit a federal, state or local crime if released on parole.”
Secondly, the purpose of parole conditions is to ensure that the parolee doesn’t repeat the offense for which he was sent to jail. In the case of Jonathan Pollard, the crime he committed was passing classified information to an ally, and the notion that he could commit that crime now — after 30 years in prison — is nothing short of preposterous.
Even if Pollard remembers any secret material after 30 years (a remote possibility indeed!), this information wouldn’t be of use to anyone. As Robert C. McFarlane, who served as U.S. National Security Advisor at the time of Mr. Pollard’s arrest, put it in a declaration on Jonathan’s behalf: “From the point of view of intelligence, as in so many other respects, today’s world bears almost no resemblance to the world of 30 years ago. Classified information from 30 years ago is useless.”
With the chances of any American intelligence agency hiring Pollard at this point being nil, and without access to any new material, even if he would want to — and he certainly doesn’t — it is literally impossible for Pollard to pass any secrets to anyone.
Furthermore, as the attorneys for Pollard point out in their law briefs, courts have upheld the imposition of an evening curfew only where justified by the nature of the parolee’s offense or history of parole violations.
Keeping a violent criminal — who is more likely to commit offenses in the dark — off the streets at night make sense. But there is no possible rationale for keeping Pollard, a white-collar offender, locked up in his home every night starting at 7 o’clock.
Neither is there any logical explanation for forcing Jonathan to wear an uncomfortable GPS monitoring device that tracks his movements at all times. This device, which must be charged for at least two hours every day, also conflicts with his ability to properly observe Shabbos.
Compounding this travesty of justice, the conditions make it almost impossible for Pollard to get a job. As reported, any employer who wishes to hire him has to consent to unannounced searches of its computer equipment and the installation of computer monitoring software and hardware on its devices. This doesn’t refer only to the computer that Pollard uses, but to every computer in the company. Needless to say, no firm would agree to sign away its most basic rights.
Pollard’s pro bono attorneys have filed a legal challenge seeking to have these conditions vacated. We can only daven and hope that they will succeed. Meanwhile, however, the travesty of justice continues. When it comes to anything that has to do with Jonathan Pollard, it seems as though the United States government has hung up a “no logic or fairness applies here” sign.
We must continue our tefillos on behalf of Yehonasan ben Malka and assure him that we will continue to support him as the legal process proceeds. May he speedily, finally, merit true freedom and be able to rebuild his life serving Hashem in Eretz Yisrael, as his heart desires.