- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The White House is reviewing a new pardon request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the case of former Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

The request came in a letter to President Obama from Mr. Netanyahu, who read it aloud during a session of the Israeli parliament on Tuesday, noting that the case “unites us all.”

“We have received the letter and will review it,” White House spokesman Thomas Vietor said, declining further comment.

In the past when Israel requested a pardon for Pollard, a U.S. citizen who was convicted of espionage in 1986, U.S. intelligence community leaders privately opposed several clemency appeals.

Last month, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he was unaware of discussions between the president and Mr. Netanyahu on the issue and noted that he was “not aware that that’s something that the president is looking at doing.”

Joseph DiGenova, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, said Tuesday that Pollard was a spy who was paid and who tried to entice others to join his operation.

Mr. DiGenova said Pollard received about $500,000 a year plus expenses for giving intelligence documents to Israeli agents.

“By the time he was caught, he caused enough damage to U.S. intelligence that, according to the Defense Department, it cost between $3 billion and $5 billion to fix because of what he compromised,” Mr. DiGenova said. “That the country he spied for is seeking clemency is not only unprecedented, it is a joke.”

According to court documents and former intelligence officials close to the case, Pollard was rejected for a post at the CIA in 1977 and two years later went to work as a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy.

He began spying for Israel in May 1984 and was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after he and his wife, Anne, were turned away by guards at the Israeli Embassy in Washington after they sought asylum.

He pleaded guilty to spying in a plea bargain in June 1986 and was given a life prison term in March 1987.

Pollard was able to walk out of his office with thousands of pages of classified intelligence documents because of poor security at the Naval Investigative Service headquarters in Suitland, Md.

Officials said at the time that the documents revealed information about the identities of U.S. and allied agents and electronic eavesdropping programs, as well as data that compromised codes used in secret communications.

President Clinton rejected a pardon appeal from Israel in January 1993 and turned down a direct request from Mr. Netanyahu, during his first term as Israeli prime minister, at a summit at Wye River, Md., in October 1998.

Supporters of Pollard, including Reagan administration Pentagon official Lawrence Korb, said the life sentence was unfair because Pollard agreed to cooperate with authorities in conducting a damage assessment.

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