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Op-Ed: If Jonathan Pollard Spied for Iraq

If Pollard wanted to be a free man, he should have spied for Iraq.
Published: Friday, July 11, 2003 1:13 AM

Jonathan Pollard transferred classified information, vital to the national security of Israel, to the government of the Jewish State in 1983. This information was about the weapons of mass destruction programs of rogue states in the Middle East, including Iraq, Syria and Libya, who are likely to target Israel with chemical and/or nuclear weapons should they possess the capabilities to do so. The information was legally entitled to Israel under the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between America and Israel. Pollard has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions, and pled guilty to one count of "Passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States." He was never convicted or indicted on charges of treason or espionage. In complete violation of his plea bargain with the government, he was sentenced to life in prison, with the recommendation of no parole, the heaviest sentence ever handed down for such a case. Today, the maximum penalty for this offense is 10 years, with the median sentence ranging from 2-4 years. Pollard is currently in his 18th year of imprisonment.

If Pollard wanted to be a free man, he should have spied for Iraq. Albert Sombolay, an American soldier, was convicted in 1991 of spying for Jordan during the first Gulf War. He also admitted to giving sensitive materials to Iraqi intelligence officials, and was paid for his actions. The information he revealed included deployment locations of US troops and samples of US chemical weapons defense systems. This information could have led to the deaths of thousands of Americans. Sombolay pled guilty to "espionage and aiding the enemy," yet he was sentenced to only 39 years in prison, and that sentence was commuted to 19 years in 1992. It is suspected that Sombolay has already been released from his incarceration, though the government refuses to publicly comment on the issue. One thing is certain: Jonathan Pollard will serve more time in US prison than Albert Sombolay.

Yesterday, Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi, of a Chicago suburb, was arrested and charged with transferring sensitive information to Iraqi officials that benefitted Saddam Hussein's regime. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald grouped Dumeisi with, "Those who gather information in the United States about people living in America for the purpose of providing the information to hostile governments." He was responsible for secretly gathering information about Iraqi dissident groups based in the United States, and then transferring that information to the Iraqi government. His actions could stifle the democratization of Iraq, and could lead to the deaths of American citizens involved in Iraqi opposition should they return to their homeland. If convicted, Dumeisi will receive a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Jonathan Pollard will serve at least twice the amount of time in US prison than will Khaled Dumeisi.

Then there is the case of Mohammed Alawi, the United Nations correspondent for the Iraqi News Agency. A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that there was enough "evidence" to arrest and convict Alawi for spying for Iraq. "This was espionage," claimed the official. But the American government, fearing negative backlash against American reporters in Iraq, simply expelled Alawi, and allowed him to freely return to Baghdad. Assistant US/UN Ambassador Patrick Kennedy rationalized the deportation, stating in a letter to Alawi that he, "threatened the security of the United States." Keep in mind that Jonathan Pollard was convicted of a crime "without intent to harm the United States." Yet Alawi will avoid prison altogether, while Pollard remains damned to live out his life behind bars.

The Jonathan Pollard case is troubling at best. Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Williams called the case "a fundamental miscarriage of justice," and expressed his desire to completely pardon Pollard. Jonathan Pollard passed along information to Israel that may have saved many lives, and for it he is serving a life sentence. In accordance with the history of similar cases, had he passed illegal information that aided the murderous Iraqi government, he probably would be a free man today.
Richard Dorfman is president of the Michigan Student Zionists, a pro-Israel group at the University of Michigan. He can be reached at dorfmanr@umich.edu.