Jonathan Pollard, convicted spy, could be released soon
Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard is scheduled for a parole hearing in November and it appears that the Justice Department will not oppose his release.
Pollard was convicted in 1985 of selling secrets to the Israelis. Many at the time, and since, believe the 30 year sentence was too harsh. But to this day, prosecutors and intelligence officials insist that Pollard's actions severely damaged our national security.
Pollard becomes eligible for parole in November, on the 30th anniversary of his arrest on charges of selling classified information to Israel. He will be presumptively eligible for release unless the U.S. Parole Commission determines that he has a record of bad behavior in prison or is likely to commit new crimes.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that some U.S. officials hope the release will improve relations with Israel following the Iran nuclear deal. However, others denied any link between the release and the Iran deal exists.
National Security Council spokesperson Alistair Baskey told Fox News on Friday that Pollard’s prison status ”will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures. There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard's status and foreign policy considerations."
U.S. officials say they’re unlikely to oppose his parole, but the Justice Department says it expects Pollard to serve out his sentence.
"The Department of Justice has always and continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed, which in this case is a 30-year sentence as mandated by statute," said spokesman Marc Raimondi.
His attorney, Eliot Lauer, told The Associated Press on Friday that he hoped his client would be released, but said he had received no commitment from the Obama administration.
Pollard was arrested in November 1985 as he tried unsuccessfully to gain asylum in Israel’s Washington embassy. Supporters have argued that he was punished excessively given that he spied for a country that’s a U.S. ally. Critics – including prosecutors and government officials – call him a traitor who damaged the nation by disclosing a treasure trove of sensitive documents.
The U.S. has previously considered his release, including during Israel-Palestinian talks last year. His release now could be seen as a concession to Israel, which strongly opposed the Iran nuclear deal.
Is the Obama admininstration throwing a bone to the Israeli government, who has been agitating for Pollard's release for more than 20 years? The idea can't be dismissed, and would be typical of this administration's view of Israel. Pollard for the Iran deal? Get real.
Because of the secrecy surrounding his trial, it's difficult to discern exactly what Pollard gave up that necessitated his incarceration for 3 decades. We know that in addition to selling thousands of documents to Israel, for which he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, he also sold classified info to South Africa, and probably Pakistan. His wife used classified info on China to advance her business interests. Pollard is no hero, but is he really a master spy?
Probably not. The Israelis never treated him as such - just another asset for their military. So even if his release is a gesture by the administration to better relations with Israel, it seems to me it is long overdue.