Last-minute pardon speculation and Jonathan Pollard

Monday, January 19th, 2009

James Besser in Washington

With just hours left in George W. Bush’s presidency, speculation is at flood tide about possible last-minute pardons and commutations.

Yesterday’s Politico took a look at some high-profile cases that could grab Bush’s attention as he packs his bags for Texas (read the story here) .

Despite a call-in campaign by his supporters, convicted spy Jonathan Pollard’s chances of getting a commutation are low, according to the publication.

The likeliest candidates:  I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice and perjury in the Valerie Plame case, and for former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is under investigation in the  matter of the firings of U.S. attorneys.

Also on the list are the military and CIA interrogators who could face eventual prosecution for their use of torture on prisoners in the administration’s war on terror. But writing a pardon for a whole class of recipients who haven’t even been charged with crimes yet could prove difficult. The odds, according to Politico? 4-1 against.

The outgoing president could also pardon former AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, whose trial on charges of possessing government secrets is vying for the title of the most delayed legal action in history.

But the Politico rates a Rosen-Weissman pardon as a 10-1 shot.

And what about Pollard?

According to the Politico, any commutation for the Indiana man whose plea bargain landed him in prison in 1986 on charges of spying for Israel would be “strongly opposed by defense and intelligence communities; Bush has rejected numerous pleas from Israeli officials.”

Odds: 20 to 1 against a Pollard commutation, the Web publication estimates.

One other group that may still be strongly opposed to Pollard’s release: Jews working in high-level defense and intelligence jobs who worry that if the Israeli spy is released and greeted by his supporters in Israel as a hero, it will make their own job situations far more precarious.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.