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Furthermore …


Traitorous deeds warrant life sentence

The news came out like an old song – one you hated, one that reminded you of some ugly episode in your life.

President Barack Obama is said to be considering the release of Jonathan Pollard from his life sentence in a federal prison in exchange for Israeli concessions in the troubled peace negotiations.

Pollard was a spy. He gave classified documents to Israel, a U.S. ally, while he was working as an American civilian naval analyst. A lot of documents.

Israel has pleaded for Pollard’s release, as have many American supporters of Israel, including the lawyer Alan Dershowitz. The case has been a problem in U.S.-Israel relations ever since Pollard, who grew up in South Bend, pleaded guilty in 1986.

When he was president, Bill Clinton also thought about releasing Pollard, probably by commuting some of his sentence. Again, the president was hoping to advance Mideast peace talks. (Yes, the more things change …)

But Clinton ran into enormous opposition. His spymaster, George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, said he would quit if Pollard were released. At the time, many high-level people in U.S. intelligence began leaking damning information about what damage Pollard had done, for money, in turning top-secret plans and signals over to the Israelis.

Among other things, Pollard is reported to have lifted something called RASIN, short for radio-signal notations. According to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker back in 2001, the 10-volume RASIN manual is classified “top secret umbra” and “lists the physical parameters of every known signal. Pollard took it all.”

There are fears, moreover, that Israel gave some of the Pollard-supplied information to the Soviet Union. Israel evidently wanted the USSR to ease restrictions on Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel.

Who knows whether the Pollard case still weighs as heavily on U.S. intelligence officials? But the evidence is pretty clear: Those intelligence officials have reason to regard Jonathan Pollard as a traitor.

Continuing pall of nuclear cloud

Jonathan Schell, a lonely voice of sanity on a subject few of us even like to think about, died last week at 70.

In the early ’80s, Schell, a staff writer for The New Yorker, produced three articles that were later turned into a book called “The Fate of the Earth.” That began what turned out to be a life’s crusade to get people to think seriously about the awesome danger posed by nuclear weapons.

Written at the height of the Cold War, “The Fate of the Earth” drew a word picture of what could happen in a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. His vivid description of the unfathomable horror such weapons could unleash focused a national discussion and, over the years, helped make nuclear disarmament a respectable position for Americans and their leaders to embrace.

But Schell wasn’t just about scaring his readers. In that work and subsequent books written as the nuclear-weapons equation changed, Schell challenged Americans to think about how the possibility of atomic oblivion warps our lives. His thesis was that our leaders, with a largely unacknowledged dread of ever having to use weapons of mass destruction, made bad choices that led to unnecessary wars abroad and repression at home. To Schell, the solution was obvious: a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

Couple’s plight compounded by marriage ban

The law grinds along at its own pace, pausing to consider those who put up roadblocks on the path to what’s right. This is certainly the case in Indiana, where the governor, the legislature and the attorney general continue their efforts to battle the national tide on gay marriage.

But such political crusades are just one of life’s challenges. Cancer can be another, and it doesn’t have the courtesy to let its victims wait out the last gasps of bigotry and ignorance.

Niki Quasney has Stage IV ovarian cancer and may not live to see the outcome of the challenge to Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban that she and her partner, Amy Sandler, have joined, the Associated Press reported.

The Munster couple were married last August in Massachusetts, but Indiana doesn’t recognize marriages from other states.

“When Niki dies,” their brief in the lawsuit states, “Amy will receive a death certificate from the State that records Niki as unmarried – which will interfere with Amy’s ability to take care of Niki’s affairs after her death, and to access the safety net generally available to a surviving spouse and a decedent’s children.”

What have Quasney and Sandler ever done to merit this kind of casual cruelty from their state?

Those who uphold Indiana’s law often invoke religion. Don’t they ever ask themselves what kind of a God would be down with inflicting further mental anguish on a dying woman and her partner?