A Most Chilling Notice of Action

For three decades, the heart-wrenching saga of Jonathan Pollard has been a symbol of injustice. As the latest court filings illustrate, the U.S. government is continuing to do all it can to ensure that this indefensible travesty continues.

In mid-December, a federal judge ruled that the United States Parole Commission must explain why it has placed such broad and severe parole restrictions on Jonathan Pollard, specifically focusing on whether Pollard has, after all these years, retained “in his head” secret information that could endanger the public and thereby justify the severity of the special conditions.

These restrictions include a 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. curfew, the wearing of an electronic bracelet at all times for GPS tracking of his whereabouts which needs to be recharged on Shabbos, as well as the unfettered monitoring and inspection of his computers, in addition to those of any employer who chooses to hire him.

The matter was duly remanded to the U.S. Parole commission, and after a considerable amount of foot dragging, they finally sent Pollard’s attorneys a “Supplemental Notice of Action” that is supposed to explain the reasoning behind these harsh restrictions, but in reality does no such thing.

On Friday, Pollard’s pro-bono attorneys went back to the same judge and filed a well-written and very persuasive brief, stating that the Commission ignored the court ruling and urged that she order that the restrictions be removed.

While the Commission works out of the public eye, the court filing by Pollard’s attorneys is part of the public record, and it includes a copy of the Notice of Action — a chilling and very troubling document. It is difficult to judge which is more telling — that which it contains or that which it omits.

Nowhere in the Notice of Action does it even attempt to answer the question posed by the judge — which was the reason the case was sent back to the Commission in the first place. While it does contain several preposterous claims, the Notice of Action doesn’t even try to argue that after 30 years in prison, Pollard still has any secrets “in his head.”

In fact, there is no indication that Pollard even studied in detail the voluminous amount of documents he gave to Israel, let alone remembers them three decades later.

(It is important to remember that this wasn’t information about the American military; it was information about Israel’s sworn enemies that America was supposed to — but didn’t want to — share with Israel. This included information about how the Pakistanis were attempting to build a nuclear-capable rocket with a range sufficient to reach Tel Aviv; how the Iraqis were secretly manufacturing nerve gas specifically for use against Israeli urban areas and how the Syrians were in the process of receiving covert shipments of new surface-to-surface missiles that were accurate enough to knock out Israeli air bases for the first time.)

Nor does the Notice of Action seek to explain the connection between these restrictions and any supposed risk posed by Pollard. As his attorneys note, if the government truly believed there was any possibility that Mr. Pollard had information that could harm the United States, he would be restricted or monitored in his physical movements and at home, and limited in his ability to use the phone or emails. Monitoring his movements by GPS fails to address these supposed risks in any way. Similarly, there is no rational basis for monitoring his computer use when he is free to speak to anyone at any time at any place, with the exception of a few embassy buildings and airports. The government’s inconsistency is the best evidence of just how arbitrary and unfair these restrictions are.

What is perhaps the most chilling part of the Notice of Action is an argument that is so illogical that it is reminiscent of NKVD practices in communist Russia. It cites a letter sent by Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Elliot Engel, in which the two ask of the attorney general to give “fair consideration” to Pollard’s request that he be given permission to live with his wife in Israel, as “proof” that Pollard is a flight risk. It is a frightening day for America when a government agency can try to use a perfectly appropriate public request to the attorney general by two elected officials that a parolee be legally allowed to leave the country, as evidence that the parolee (who doesn’t even have a passport) would want to try to illegally flee the country.

After serving 30 years of an unprecedented life sentence for passing classified information to an ally — an offense for which the median sentence is two to four years — the very least the American government can do is follow the wise advice given by former CIA Director R. James Woolsey: “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.”

We can only daven and hope that in the upcoming court process justice will finally prevail.