First, before reading the rest of this post, I recommend reading the following article which I believe is the most comprehensive and objective essay about Jonathan Pollard's situation to date:http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=6349
It is now five years old, but little has changed since its publication.
Now, for the meat of this post:
Periodically, Jewish organizations make some noise about getting Jonathan Pollard released from prison. Here is a recent example:http://www.youngisrael.org/articles/pollardcall.htm
I've alread posted as to why that won't happen without Pollard himself taking some action:http://charliehall.blogspot.com/2007/01/jewish-press-jonathan-pollard-and.html
(UPDATE: The above post is based on my inaccurate understanding. See my next post for a correction.)
What I want to discuss is the alleged unfairness of Pollard's treatment. The fact is, he is indeed being treated unfairly in that the fact that his attorney made a serious screwup that has cost Pollard any chance for a review of his original conviction, ever. That is indeed unjust.
But in that, Pollard is being treated no better and no worse than anyone else in the American criminal justice system. Overworked public defenders can easily make the same kind of mistake that cost Pollard his right to appeal -- and there is utterly no interest from any part of the political spectrum to change that. The conservatives want to prove how tough they are on criminals, and the liberals are so terrified about being called soft on crime they are cowed into submission. As a result, people receive poor legal representation, and thanks to an almost 40 year packing of courts at all levels with law and order judges, the American legal system is now better at producing order than justice.
President Bush has continued this trend, which brings me to the latest outrage which has been getting shockingly little press: The Bush adminstration wants to try former AIPAC lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman IN SECRET! The problem with that is that it directly violates the sixth amendment to the US Constitution, which reads:
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. "
It doesn't say, "public trial unless the government doesn't want to". It is pretty absolute, as it should be.
This is even worse than the miscarraige of justice in Jonathan Pollard's case. At least he had a chance for a public trial, which he waived at the (bad?) advise of his attorney in his plea bargain. Where is the National Council of Young Israel in the Rosen/Weissman case? Only one Jewish organization, Rabbi Avi Weiss's Amcha-Coalition for Jewish Concerns, is concerned enough about the case to take any action:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?itemNo=848162http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=13945
You don't have to agree with the somewhat inflammatory accusations of anti-Semitism to believe that it is absolutely outrageous that the United States government is attempting to deny two United States citizens their basic constitutional rights.
I support parole or clemency for Jonathan Pollard, and I also urge all Jews to support the right of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman to a fair trial. It is important for the public to know the evidence against them (if there is any).
And it is important that we finally start to turn around the curtailment of civil liberties in the United States. It will be an uphill struggle, as voters have valued "law and order" far more than justice over the past four decades. But it is precisely that lack of justice that keeps people like Jonathan Pollard from having any ability to appeal their convictions. And I don't want to have to see a National Council of Young Israel campaign to free Rosen and Weissman a decade or two from now.