Jonathan Pollard To Be Released November 21st

After 30 years in prison, Jonathan Pollard will be released later this year.

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard, the former Defense Department employee who has been held in prison for nearly thirty years on espionage charges, will be released from prison in November:

WASHINGTON — Jonathan J. Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 for passing classified documents to the Israeli government, will be released on parole in November after 30 years in prison, a government panel decided on Tuesday.

Mr. Pollard’s lawyers announced the decision of the United States Parole Commission on Tuesday afternoon, and officials at the Department of Justice confirmed that Mr. Pollard had been granted parole.

Mr. Pollard, 60, had been scheduled for mandatory parole in November, but could have been kept in prison for years longer if the United States government had objected to his release, citing concerns about an ongoing threat to national security.

Last week, officials for the Department of Justice signaled that they would not object to Mr. Pollard’s release if the United States Parole Commission determined that he should leave the prison in North Carolina where he is being held.

The decision to release Mr. Pollard comes just weeks after President Obama concluded a historic agreement with Iran to limit that country’s nuclear weapons program. The Iran deal has angered the Israeli government, which says it will lead to Iran’s constructing a nuclear weapon.

But White House officials have denied that Mr. Pollard’s imminent release — something that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and others in the country have demanded for years — is an attempt to placate the Israelis in the wake of the Iran deal.

“Mr. Pollard’s status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures,” Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said last week. “There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.”

The lawyers for Mr. Pollard said that he would be released on Nov. 21.

As I noted last week, rumors of Pollard’s release had been circulating in the weeks after the Iran nuclear deal was announced and many observers interpreted it as an effort by the Administration to placate Israel by taking a step that previous Administration’s had refused to do. It is correct that Pollard would have been eligible for release on November 21st as a matter of law, but that could have been stopped if the government had objected to his release as might have been expected. Considering the position that the Federal Government has taken in the past regarding Pollard, refraining from an objection is certainly a change of pace in how the government views Pollard and his crimes. When Pollard was first sentenced in 1985, for example, then Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger penned a blistering letter to the Judge, some of which classified, in which he laid forth the manner in which Pollard’s actions had endangered American national security. For example, while it wasn’t widely reported at the time, it became known to the United States that the Israelis had used some of the information Pollard had provided to them to trade with the Soviet Union for the safe release of Jews living in the USSR, thus handing vital American intelligence to our principal adversary at the time. Additionally, over the years other leaders in the U.S. intelligence community made it known that Pollard had also offered to sell classified information to three other nations other than Israel, an accusation which certainly makes him a far less sympathetic figure. The antipathy toward Pollard was so high at one point that in 1998, then CIA Director George Tenant threatened to resign if he was released. Given this history, the decision to not object to Pollard’s release in November is certainly a change of heart.

Given the passage of time and Pollard’s apparently declining health, I suppose that a release at this point is acceptable. It’s always troubled me that Pollard himself has never seemed to accept responsibility for his crimes, and that his supporters have justified them with the phony excuse that he was “spying for an ally.” As I noted above, we already know that the Israelis used information that Pollard gave them for their own purposes without telling us, and thus put important American intelligence information in the hands of the Soviet Union. The fact that he was also shopping the intelligence he stole to other nations demonstrates that the fact that he was only doing this to help Israel was largely a lie. At the same time, though, he was spent 30 years in prison for his crimes, the Cold War is over, and it’s arguably time to move on. Releasing him now won’t endanger American national security, and he’s never going to have access to classified information again. Additionally, if this move does help the cause of international peace even in some small way then it will be worth it. Jonathan Pollard is not a man to be honored or respected, but it’s time to let him go.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Crime, Intelligence, Law and the Courts, Middle East, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    Anyone know the conditions of his parole? Travel restrictions, reporting requirements, etc?




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  2. Ron Beasley says:

    As a former member of the US intelligence community I don’t have a problem with his release as long as he goes to Israel and lives within the range of Hezbollah rockets from Lebanon. No need to continue to give him room and board.




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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    When Pollard was first sentenced in 1985, for example, then Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger penned a blistering letter to the Judge,

    Would that be the indicted co-conspirator and pardoned before trial Casper Weinberger?

    Back to the rest…




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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    then CIA Director George Tenant threatened to resign if he was released.

    Would that be George “it’s a slam dunk Iraq has WMD” Tenant?




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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As to whether he should get out or not, I have no real opinion except to say that this

    At the same time, though, he was spent 30 years in prison for his crimes, the Cold War is over, and it’s arguably time to move on. Releasing him now won’t endanger American national security, and he’s never going to have access to classified information again.

    seems reasonable.




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  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    I agree. 30 years is more than enough. No future spy is out there thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so dangerous if it only means 30 years inside!”




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  7. Davebo says:

    The question is will he retain his US passport?




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  8. the Q says:

    If his name was Ali bukar Muhamed and was an American born Iranian Muslim spying for the Ayatollah while working at the Pentagon and who gave away our submarine launch codes to bin Laden, I hardly think some here would be so tolerant of his release.

    I heard he is having some health issues and we should release him on humanitarian grounds, but he really should rot in prison.




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  9. the Q says:

    PS, does anyone really think that by releasing Pollard it will stop the shrill criticism by LIkud of Obama’s Iranian deal?

    Another example of Obama’s fairy tale, trying to be the good guy (his numerous misreadings of the GOPs good intentions) in the face of an implacable foe.




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  10. Hal_10000 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Seriously? You’re not going to address their opinions, just talk about their misdeeds?

    I oppose long prison sentences so I suppose I”m OK with this. But it’s not a triumph. It’s the end of sordid tale that started when Pollard decided to betray his country.

    If his name was Ali bukar Muhamed and was an American born Iranian Muslim spying for the Ayatollah while working at the Pentagon and who gave away our submarine launch codes to bin Laden, I hardly think some here would be so tolerant of his release.

    Well, that’s his supporters’ point: he was spying for ally not an enemy. A more apt comparison would be if he were spying for Saudi Arabia.




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  11. dazedandconfused says:

    @Hal_10000:

    That’s a valid point. He gave it to Israel and they gave it to the USSR. A lot of spies get chumped like that. Reading back on his history it seems very likely to me that he was mostly a greedy guy trying to support his life-style and associated grade of tail. Some mention of a coke habit in there as well. Probable, given the time frame.

    However….

    The main reason he should not be released is he never leaked who in the government gave him the information necessary to quickly identify the files his handlers were asking him to pick up. His time in the room was limited as hell. He had to know exactly which files to go for and they are all filed under a code number. They don’t write “Submarine Naval Codes” on the tabs of folders.




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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @the Q:

    I would have no different feeling if he were named Muhammed. The punishments we inflict are not just about the criminal, they’re about us.




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  13. JohnMcC says:

    According to the broadcast media tonight he took up to three suitcases full of TopSecret documents weekly to the Israelis who (while accepting our protection) ran a safe house for the sole purpose of copying it all so that Mr Pollard could replace it. His only motive was money.

    Paraphrasing Ethan Allen to give my opinion of what his fate should be – I regret he only has one life to give to his country.

    Apparently during the Wye River negotiations Bibi demanded his release from Pres Clinton. If only Bill had had the stones to agree to take him to Israel and then had dropped the @ssho@le’s body on the Kneisset building from about 10,000 feet.




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  14. Grewgills says:

    Bibi still wouldn’t bat an eye at spying on us and giving up our secrets to the Russians or Chinese if it gave him any advantage. He and his party are not our allies, we are their dupes.




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  15. Lenoxus says:

    Okay, so from a conservative standpoint the score is:

    1. Pollard’s crime was spying for Israel.

    vs

    1. He spied on the USA.

    2. Obama has something to do with the release.

    I’m going to bet that conservatives will simply conclude that 2 beats 1 and consider this release an act of treason, rather than take the pro-Israel side of the issue (or most self-consistently, to just experience mild head-explosion).




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  16. MarkedMan says:

    OK, this is risking invoking three dimensional chess here, but I have to wonder if this isn’t a really smart move by the Obama administration? The Israeli government really doesn’t get the general American view on this Pollard thing at all (in fact, there’s a good column on that misunderstanding in today’s NY Times.) If the Israelis welcome him home as a hero and a martyr it will not play well in the press. And no matter what, the history of his activities and the repeated Israeli lies about it will be replayed over and over. Maybe there is a way to handle this well, but the current Israeli government has shown themselves completely unable to empathize or understand any viewpoints other than their own. Witness Jeffery Goldberg’s interview with Michael Oren in The Atlantic. Oren, an ambassador for god’s sake, never once mentions or discusses the US point of view. Everything, and I mean everything, in that article is about how things benefit Israel or “the Jews”. He literally cannot realistically perceive any viewpoint other than his own. And this is the guy that American allies of the Netanyahu regime point to as the “reasonable one”. So I am completely skeptical that these bozos will be able to handle this in any positive way.




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  17. JohnMcC says:

    FWIW the USN&WR website is reporting this morning that Mr Pollard’s conditions of parole are not clear at this point regarding travel to Israel. But that the Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Hotovely is making ‘very great efforts’ to get him there. He tried to sell secrets to Pakistan; why not move there in the summer and back to Israel in the winter – a nice snowbird routine. Of course he also tried to interest Australia in our secrets. And snuck a few out that he thought might help some family friends who were investment counselors too. I’m sure he’s the kind of person that Ms Hotolevy thinks is exemplary. Maybe they’ll find a position in the IDF where he can process some of their secrets, eh?

    Something I did not know, the article states that he was awarded Israeli citizenship while in prison.

    I grow more and more frustrated and hostile to the Israeli gov’t as I watch and pay attention.




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  18. dmichaelwells says:

    I can’t quickly find a source for this but my information is that as conditions of his federal parole, Pollard will not be allowed to leave the U.S. for a period of five years after his release. Yes, he was granted Israeli citizenship in the 90’s and there are several Israeli government and non-government officials calling for him to be allowed to go to Israel where presumably, he would be given a hero’s welcome for committing treason against the U.S.




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  19. Mikey says:

    @JohnMcC: You should read about how our investigators were harassed and abused when they went to Israel in the immediate aftermath of Pollard’s arrest. Not to mention how the Israeli government lied for years about its involvement, claiming Pollard was recruited by a “rogue operation” rather than admitting it had given approval at the highest levels. It’s all in Pollard’s Wikipedia entry.

    I guarantee none of it will improve your opinion of the Israeli government.




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