A longtime national activist in the fight to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard believes his sentence will be commuted by President Barack Obama.
“I believe it will happen sooner rather than later,” said Farley Weiss, who spoke July 15 at Congregation Ohav Emeth in Highland Park.
Weiss, in a phone interview with NJJN after Shabbat, said he based that assessment on several factors, including support from four prominent political leaders with access to classified information regarding the case. They are former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini, former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee; former CIA director R. James Woolsey; Philip B. Heymann, former deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton; and Clinton White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum.
Moreover, the movement to free the former naval intelligence analyst has picked up the support of hundreds of legislators, legal scholars, and a large segment of the Jewish community, said Weiss. (Earlier last month, Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman from Florida and one of Obama’s closest Jewish confidantes, urged the president to release Pollard.)
Pollard has served 26 years of a life sentence for passing classified materials to Israel, longer than anyone else convicted of espionage on behalf of a U.S. ally.
“The average sentence handed out for an offense like this would be two to four years,” said Weiss, a partner in a Phoenix law firm. “There actually was a plea deal in place but he was sentenced to life.”
Weiss is one of a team of four spearheading a national petition drive and letter-writing campaign in recent months.
“All of [Pollard’s] appeals have been exhausted, so the only way he can get out is through clemency,” said Weiss, a second vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, president of the Young Israel of Phoenix, and national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Weiss suggested that Obama could use a Pollard pardon to shore up his faltering support among Jews who are wary of his policies toward Israel.
“This is an era of political expediency and a lot of people think he will do it because it’s politically beneficial,” said Weiss. “There is no constituency opposing Pollard’s release. So when it’s in their political interest and also the right thing to do, eventually a politician will do it.”
Weiss said New Jersey voters could have particular leverage.
“New Jersey is a swing state so it could go Republican,” said Weiss. “The state could be up for grabs in the next presidential election so the White House would tend to listen more to NJ voters than those from some other states.”
Weiss urged community members to call the White House’s comment line, 202-456-1111, or general switchboard, 202-456-1414, to express support for Pollard’s release.