Jonathan Pollard is serving a life sentence for stealing massive amounts of highly classified and extremely sensitive U.S. national security information. In terms of sheer volume of sensitive information betrayed, Jonathan Pollard rivals any of the traitors who have plagued this nation in recent times. Nobody is clamoring for the release of traitors like Aldrich Ames, John Walker or Jerry Whitworth, but Pollard, by manipulating his supporters and conducting a clever public relations campaign both here and in Israel, has managed to generate a small but vocal movement advocating that he be released and allowed to emigrate to Israel, where he expects to be something of a national hero.

We, who are painfully familiar with the case, feel obligated to go on record with the facts regarding Pollard in order to dispel the myths that have arisen from this clever public relations campaign aimed at transforming Pollard from greedy, arrogant betrayer of the American national trust into Pollard, committed Israeli patriot.

Pollard pleaded guilty and therefore never was publicly tried. Thus, the American people never came to know that he offered classified information to three other countries before working for the Israelis and that he offered his services to a fourth country while he was spying for Israel. They also never came to understand that he was being very highly paid for his services -- including an impressive nest egg currently in foreign banks -- and was negotiating with his Israeli handlers for a raise as he was caught. So much for Jonathan Pollard, ideologue!

Pollard and his apologists argue that he turned over to the Israelis information that they were being denied and that was critical to their security. The fact is that Pollard had no way of knowing what the Israeli government was receiving by way of official intelligence exchange agreements. He himself does not even know the full extent of his betrayal, since he stole entire files and databases and never took the time to examine the suitcase-loads of material he was turning over. Some of the data he compromised had nothing to do with Israeli security or even with the Middle East. He betrayed worldwide intelligence data, including sources and methods developed at significant cost to the U.S. taxpayer. As a result of his perfidy, some of those sources are lost forever.

Another claim that is heard is that the U.S. government somehow reneged on its bargain not to seek the life sentence. What is not heard is that Pollard's part of this bargain was to cooperate fully in an assessment of the damage he had done and to refrain from talking to the press prior to the completion of the trial. He blatantly and contemptuously refused to live up to either part of the plea agreement, repeatedly lying and attempting to impede the government's damage assessment. It was this, coupled with the magnitude and consequences of his criminal actions, that resulted in the judge imposing a life sentence -- a sentence that was well-deserved, but that, true to its part of the plea bargain, the prosecution had never sought. The life sentence was subsequently upheld by the appellate court.

If, as Pollard and his supporters claim, he has "suffered enough" for his crimes, he is free to apply for parole as the American judicial system provides. In his arrogance, he has refused to do so, but instead insists on being granted clemency or a pardon.

A presidential grant of clemency or pardon in this or any other espionage case -- regardless of the foreign government involved and irrespective of the claimed ideological motivation -- would be totally irresponsible from a national security standpoint. It would send a most damaging message to the loyal U.S. citizens who are entrusted with our national secrets, many of whom have emotional ties to other nations but who, nonetheless, have taken seriously their oath to keep our national security information secret.

It also would say to foreign governments, "Your secrets are not safe with us." In today's multi-polar world, where the threat of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are constant concerns, intelligence and security cooperation with friendly foreign nations is essential. Anything that causes our friends to be reluctant to share intelligence with us could severely damage our national security.

George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is to be commended for courageously interceding to stop the hurried move to release Pollard as part of the Wye negotiations. Too much is at stake to let a man like Pollard go without the thoughtful, fact-based review process our legal system provides. We appeal to the president to listen to his national security community and, above all, to ensure that the facts of the Pollard case are known and that the potential long-term implications of his release are fully considered before any decisions are made. The authors are retired Navy admirals, each of whom served as director of naval intelligence during the period between 1978 and 1991.