- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard will be released in November after being granted parole, his lawyers said Tuesday, sparking outrage in the national security community over the man who stole so many U.S. military secrets that he needed suitcases to deliver them.

Both Pollard’s lawyers and Obama administration officials denied that his planned release from a federal prison in North Carolina on Nov. 21 is connected to the administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, which has infuriated the Israelis. The administration didn’t oppose Pollard’s bid for parole.

“We look forward to seeing our client on the outside in less than four months,” said Pollard’s lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, in a statement.

The decision by the U.S. Parole Commission was unanimous, following a previously undisclosed hearing on July 7. Pollard, who will complete a 30-year sentence on Nov. 21, will be required to remain in the U.S. for five years under the terms of his parole, although his lawyers are petitioning President Obama to allow him to move to Israel immediately.

Critics — including prosecutors and government officials — call Pollard a traitor who damaged the nation by disclosing a trove of sensitive documents.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reacted vehemently against Pollard’s release even before it was announced.

“Releasing spy Jonathan Pollard doesn’t make the #IranDeal any less of a disaster for Israel & the free world,” Mr. Rumsfeld wrote on his Twitter account on Monday.

Mr. Rumsfeld also posted letters online from 1998 and 2001, in which he urged Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush not to release Pollard. Seven former defense secretaries, including Mr. Rumsfeld, signed the Dec. 1998 letter.

But retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, said Pollard “has served his sentence.”

“I suspect there will be little enthusiasm in the intelligence community for this, but I don’t expect much pushback either,” he told The Washington Times.

A court statement from then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said Pollard did “irrevocable” damage to the U.S. and had provided the Israelis with more than 800 U.S. classified publications and more than 1,000 classified messages and cables. Portions of the Weinberger document that have been declassified state in part that Pollard admitted passing to his Israeli contacts “an incredibly large quantity of classified documents” and that U.S. troops could be endangered because of the theft.

“He took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and he failed it,” said M.E. “Spike” Bowman, the director of Naval Intelligence at the time of Pollard’s arrest. “The fact that he gave it to an ally, that makes absolutely no difference to me. I’m glad that it was an ally rather than the Russians, but what he did makes absolutely no difference.”

In the 2001 letter, Mr. Rumsfeld said releasing Pollard would be “enormously damaging to our efforts to keep spies out of our government.”

“Releasing Pollard was a bad idea in 1998 & 2001. It is not a better idea today,” Mr. Rumsfeld wrote on Twitter.

In 1998, then-CIA Director George Tenet threatened to quit when President Clinton appeared ready to release Pollard, Mr. Clinton wrote in an autobiography.

Pollard, 60, was a civilian Navy analyst when he was arrested in 1985. He was charged with passing U.S. military secrets to his Israeli handlers. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison in 1987.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Tuesday with Pollard’s wife, Esther, following the announcement of his parole.

“After decades of effort, Jonathan Pollard will finally be released,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Throughout his time in prison, I consistently raised the issue of his release in my meetings and conversations with the leadership of successive U.S. administrations. We are looking forward to his release.”

The Obama administration says the U.S. is following the law with his release.

“The Department of Justice has always maintained 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, ending Nov. 21, 2015,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Pollard’s lawyers said they have petitioned Mr. Obama to use his clemency power to release Pollard before the Nov. 21 parole date, allow him to leave the U.S. and move to Israel.

“We respectfully urge the president to exercise his clemency power in this manner,” the lawyers said.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that U.S. officials were preparing to release Pollard, with some Obama administration officials hoping his release would appease Israelis infuriated by the Iran deal.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Pollard’s pending release was not related to the Iranian agreement.

“I haven’t even had a conversation about it. No, not at all,” Mr. Kerry told reporters as he left a House hearing on the nuclear accord.

Through his lawyers, Pollard thanked supporters who have fought for his release.

Mr. Pollard would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the U.S., in Israel and throughout the world, who provided grass-roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials and saying prayers for his welfare. He is deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small,” the lawyers said.

The CIA’s 1987 damage assessment of the Pollard case, published in 2012, said Pollard delivered documents in suitcases on subjects such as Syrian drones, Egyptian missile programs and Soviet air defenses. The Israelis specifically asked for a signals intelligence manual that they needed to listen in on Soviet advisers in Syria.

The assessment said Pollard volunteered delivery of three U.S. daily intelligence summaries that had not been requested by his Israeli handlers, but which proved useful to them. He ultimately handed over about 1,500 of these messages.
Pollard reportedly was paid $50,000 in cash for his efforts.

In 2006, Pollard’s handler, Israeli spy Rafi Eitan, told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Pollard provided “information of such high quality and accuracy, so good and so important to the country’s security” that “my desire, my appetite to get more and more material overcame me.”

Pollard apologized publicly in 1997. His lawyers said his health is failing as he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney stones.

His first parole hearing was held a year ago. At the time, his lawyers said, the parole commission indicated it would reconsider the matter at the two-thirds mark of his full sentence, which they considered to be 45 years.

The lawyers spent the next year trying to convince the Justice Department that Pollard was no longer a threat to commit crimes. The Justice Department notified them on July 1 that the administration wouldn’t oppose Pollard’s release.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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