He always insisted, "I never intended or agreed to spy against the United States."
As Traitor Week ends tomorrow with, of course, the man of the hour, we must realize that it doesn't matter what your intentions are. Or the entity with which you are colluding. Republicans trying to justify Trump's alleged collaboration with the Russians by saying the Russians aren't so bad are badly missing the point. They could be, not our fiercest enemy—as the Russians certainly are—but one of our closest allies, like Israel. Treason is treason. The crime could be a classified cookie recipe given to Canada.
It's important to understand why: it isn't so much the specifics of what is being revealed to whom, but the structure being revealed and who else might see it. The information Pollard passed along to the Israelis cast a light on American intelligence practices and procedures, and of course once the Israelis knew them, there was no guarantee where else they might go. And indeed, intelligence officials believe that material leaked by Pollard to Israel eventually found its way to the Soviet Union.
It's a shame that the GOP doesn't apply the same "the law's the law" rigidity it directs at every hardworking immigrant who crossed the border illegally decades earlier to the president and his associates. But hypocrisy is the grease on which Trump's America spins.
So even if you just thought you were accepting the help of friendly Russian intelligence agency with a load of embarrassing emails of your rival in the presidential campaign, what matters is that you undercut your nation's vital interests—say, being able to hold free and fair elections—for your own selfish, private interests, whether those are pro-Israel or pro-yourself. Noble motives don't get you off.
They might come close. Bill Clinton was about to release Pollard, but his CIA director, George Tenet, threatened to resign if he did—America's intelligence agencies tend to always take espionage more seriously than does the executive branch, Republican or Democratic.
During the Clinton administration, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was a vocal defender of Pollard—a reminder that having the back of traitors isn't new to Dershowitz, if their politics align with his.
Pollard served 30 years of a life sentence—his wife, implicated in his actions, served three— before Obama commuted his sentence. Thanks Obama. Some Americans felt that Pollard's long sentence was unfair—Chelsea Manning served just seven years after releasing far more damaging documents to Wikileaks. But justice is a crapshoot, and should you get your hand caught in the machinery, the rest of you just might follow that fingertip in. Once you are stuck with an espionage charge, and that jailhouse door clangs behind you, it can be a challenge to get out. The public tends to forget about you. Something for Paul Manafort and Trump's other confederates, abandoned by their boss to twist slowly in the wind, must be thinking about a lot lately.