Attorneys for Jonathan Pollard are trying to win parole for the convicted spy, but say they're hamstrung by the Justice Department's refusal to unseal records they say could show his life sentence was unfairly influenced by anti-Israeli sentiments of a Reagan administration defense secretary.
Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for providing classified information to Israel. His lawyers have applied for him to be paroled, and last week filed documents saying they want to get a look at an unredacted copy of a sentencing statement submitted by Casper Weinberger.
The lawyers say they have good reason to question the credibility of the former secretary, who died in 2006, pointing to the words of former Weinberger aide Lawrence J. Korb. In a statement filed in court by Pollard's lawyers, Mr. Korb said Pollard's life sentence stemmed from "Weinberger's almost visceral dislike of the impact that Israel has had on U.S. foreign policy."
The parole application comes amid reports of a potential clemency deal for Pollard, though his attorney declined to comment on prospects and the White House hasn't indicated publicly that any deal is imminent.
Citing unnamed sources, an Israeli television station last month reported that Secretary of State John F. Kerry was offering to free Pollard if Israel released Israeil-Arab prisoners.
Meanwhile, disclosures from former defense contractor Edward Snowden about U.S. surveillance on former Israeli prime ministers has intensified calls for Pollard's release in Israel.
"We hope that the conditions will be created that will enable us to bring Jonathan home," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported last month. "This is neither conditional on, nor related to, recent events, even though we have given our opinion on these developments."
As his supporters press for President Obama to intervene, Pollard's attorneys — Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman — wrote in newly filed court papers that they've already submitted a parole application in hopes of securing Pollard's release.
But they've been barred from reviewing a portion of their client's parole file known as the Form 792, which invokes the Weinberger statement as grounds for denying parole, according to court records.
"No attorney for Mr. Pollard has seen the sealed portions of the Weinberger declaration since Mr. Pollard was sentenced in 1987," the two lawyers wrote in an emergency petition in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Other sealed portions of the court docket include three sentencing memos and the minutes of Pollard's March 4, 1987, sentencing.
"So long as Mr. Pollard's counsel is denied access to the sealed docket materials, and specifically the Weinberger declaration, Mr. Pollard is being unfairly deprived of the ability to argue effectively in favor of parole," the attorneys wrote.
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