Hillary Clinton is holding top-level discussions to determine whether to call for the declassification of a damning secret memo that led to spy Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence, The Jewish Week has learned.
It was also learned that Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman recently asked President Clinton to consider declassifying secret documents about the Pollard case, days before being chosen as Al Gore’s running mate.
In the case of the first lady, calling for declassification of a memo by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger would mark a significant milestone in her campaign for New York’s U.S. Senate seat against Long Island Republican Rep. Rick Lazio.
Such a declaration could win Clinton crucial votes from the Orthodox Jewish community and provide an edge in a tight race. Or it could be perceived as simply a political move, and backfire.
It would comes as her husband, President Bill Clinton, has been publicly criticizing his own Justice Department for improper conduct in pursuing a spy case against Chinese-American nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee — a development not lost on supporters of Pollard. An American Jew and former Navy intelligence analyst, he is serving a life sentence for spying against America for Israel.
“Hillary has discussed the issue with many people,” confirmed Clinton’s top campaign aide, Ann Lewis.
Lewis would not confirm specific discussions about the Weinberger memo, which for the last 16 years has been cited as evidence of the severity of Pollard’s crime.
But The Jewish Week has learned that since last Friday, Lewis and other Clinton campaign officials have held discussions with Pollard supporters and some of New York’s key Democratic elected officials about the political and judicial ramifications of declassifying the Weinberger memo.
Participants in the talks have included New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner, Brooklyn Democratic State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Public Advocate Mark Green.
Clinton’s potential actions on Pollard also come amid new revelations from Israel.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of Independent Media Review & Analysis (IMRA), claims that a 1987 Israeli government commission report on Pollard reveals that the United States broke an agreement with Israel not to use returned stolen documents against Pollard, and that Israel never informed Pollard of that deal when he appealed his life sentence.
In the U.S., Pollard supporters say the Lee case reignited their arguments that American government officials falsified accusations against Pollard, some of which they charge are contained in the Weinberger memo, withheld from all but Pollard’s first attorney.
President Clinton last week said he is “quite troubled” that Lee, 60, was branded a spy by federal investigators and held in solitary confinement for nine months on allegations he downloaded “the crown jewels” of America’s nuclear weapons program — charges the government misled a federal judge about, and couldn’t prove.
Pollard supporters say Lee’s case also sheds new light on the government’s alleged violation of a plea bargain with Pollard that would have nullified the life sentence.
“The whole issue of Wen Ho Lee shows the Justice Department going amok,” said Brooklyn Democratic State Sen. Seymour Lachman, who last February in a letter to the White House called for President Clinton to release the Weinberger memo.
“I think 16 years after the fact the president has to be equally concerned about what a secretary of defense, who himself was under investigation and pardoned by [President Bush], wrote in his classified memorandum to the federal judges reviewing the Pollard case.”
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz agreed and said Hillary Clinton must move quickly to capitalize on the momentum.
“The Wen Ho Lee case has provided tremendous leverage in showing the need to have checks on those who classify documents,” Dershowitz said. “We’ve now seen another example of the government crying wolf and misleading the court and exaggerating security dangers.”
Hikind, an avid Pollard supporter who has had uncharacteristic praise in recent days for Clinton’s interest in Pollard, said Tuesday, “I hope that she will do the right thing.”
Hikind called Lazio’s failure to show support Pollard “pretty remarkable.”
At a Jewish Week public forum Tuesday, Lazio declined to express an opinion on Pollard other than to call on President Clinton to make a determination in the case. (See story on page 10.)
Advocacy by Hillary Clinton for Pollard is not without risks, political observers said.
“They feel they might be dealing with a time bomb that might have unknown side issues, and that they might be accused of pandering,” Lachman explained. “Any politician in a close race in New York would be very, very nervous about making a mistake.”
In another development, Pollard’s lawyers are expected to file this week a new lawsuit detailing alleged government misconduct and calling for a new hearing.
Dershowitz said the declassification process could be done immediately by the president, the Defense Department, which originally classified it, or the courts.
In fact, Dershowitz contends the 46-page memo is being kept from the public in violation of standard legal procedures.
He refers to a revelation last year by Weinberger that the memo was written at the request of the late Federal Judge Aubrey Robinson, which would be unethical.
Weinberger, in an interview in the September 1999 issue of the Middle East Quarterly, said the judge “made a formal, official request to me to supply” an assessment of the damage caused by Pollard’s espionage.
If that’s the case, Dershowitz said, it would be improper for the judge to have secretly solicited information and then, on the record, imply that the prosecutor introduced it.
Weinberger’s revelation is important because his memo is believed to be a key element in Robinson’s decision to overturn Pollard’s plea bargain agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.
“For the judge to solicit a substantive memorandum and then to use it in this way raises fundamental questions,” said Dershowitz.
But Pollard’s prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Joseph de Genova, said Monday that Weinberger’s contention is wrong. He said it is standard practice for a classified damage assessment to be submitted in espionage cases. He did not, however, address whether the judge had requested it.
De Genova also said that Pollard and his lawyers saw the entire Weinberger memo, and even submitted a classified response to it, refuting Pollard’s contention he only saw the memo for a few minutes.
“Mr. Pollard had access to every single document used against him in the case. His own lawyers submitted a classified response [to Weinberger’s memo] because he was given full access to the damage assessment.”
Nevertheless, de Genova, who calls the Pollard case one of the four worst spy cases against America in the 20th century, wholeheartedly endorses the public release of Pollard’s classified file, believing it will prove to the public once and for all “the quality and quantity of information compromised to a foreign government.
“I am all for more information about his case becoming public — the more, the better,” he said.
Washington attorney Nancy Luque, a former Pollard counsel from 1994-96, disputed de Genova’s contention that the entire Weinberger memo was made available to Pollard lawyers. She said in 1995 she asked for, and was denied, access to much of the memo.
(It appears both de Genova and Luque may be right; Pollard’s first attorney, Dick Hibey, in a brief telephone interview Monday, said he saw the classified memo in 1987.
“I saw the entire Weinberger memo,” and “I filed a detailed response,” Hibey told The Jewish Week. Thus, the memo may have been initially provided, then later denied.)
Luque also supports the memo’s public release. She called de Genova’s contention that it would only prove the government’s claims about Pollard a ploy to keep it secret.
“Let’s put a little sunlight on it so that we can see that it’s nothing more than the kind of hyperbole used by the FBI agent to describe Dr. Lee,” she said.
“How can it possibly hurt Pollard; he’s already serving a life sentence.”
The Pollard issue gained steam during the Clinton-Lazio debate last week. While acknowledging that Pollard committed “a terrible crime” against the U.S., Clinton said she had some questions about “due process issues” concerning his sentencing.
“There was secret evidence put in before the court that has never been revealed,” Clinton said. “It does bother me as an American and as a lawyer that there was evidence presented that no one has seen and I think we should ask questions about that.”
Without access to the material, Clinton said, both she and Lazio “are in a position of not knowing how to form an opinion about this.”
Lazio criticized President Clinton, who in December 1998 said he would conduct a review of the Pollard case.
“Well, 600 days have gone by and still no answer,” Lazio said.
Clinton, meanwhile, noted that two senators, each with security clearance to review the classified material, have formed different opinions: Lieberman, whom she said “believes strongly that no action with respect to clemency should be granted,” and New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who supports clemency.
A Schumer spokesman said he has never reviewed the classified files himself, but received a CIA briefing. He said Schumer supports declassifying documents as long as it does not jeopardize national security. He would not specifically discuss the memo.
A Lieberman spokesman confirmed the senator has seen portions of the classified Pollard material. Lieberman signed a letter with 59 fellow senators last year opposing Pollard’s release as part of the Wye accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
But in a July 26 letter from Lieberman to President Clinton obtained by The Jewish Week, he requests the public disclosure of appropriate classified material after a government review.
A Lieberman spokesman would not say if the request was referring to the Weinberger memo. He declined to say whether the senator read the Weinberger memo.
Asked if Lieberman would support the declassification of the memo, spokesman Dan Gerstein said the senator would not discuss specific parts of the file.
- Defense Secretary
- American government
- Dov Hikind
- Al Gore
- Chuck Schumer
- Alan Dershowitz
- Israeli government
- Anthony Weiner
- Jerrold Nadler
- Seymour Lachman
- Independent Media Review & Analysis
- Rick Lazio
- Caspar Weinberger
- Joseph de Genova
- Wen Ho Lee
- Nancy Luque
- Ann Lewis
- Aaron Lerner
- Secretary of Defense
- first lady
- Mark Green
- Eric J. Greenberg
- Alan Hevesi
- Joseph Lieberman
- the jerusalem post
- Hillary Clinton
- White House
- Jonathan Pollard
- New York
- united states
- Staff Writer
- United States Senate
- Jerusalem Post
- Department of Justice
- Bill Clinton