Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The White House yesterday said that convicted spy Jonathan Pollard should remain in jail, rejecting efforts by top Israeli officials to win release of the ex-U.S. Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s.

Asked about the administration’s stance on Pollard, President Bush’s spokesman, Scott McClellan, told The Washington Times: ?No change. He is serving his sentence for spying.?

The spy, sentenced to life in prison in 1987, has reappeared in headlines in the past few weeks. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, seeking to hold onto support among Israeli conservatives split by his plan to withdraw from Gaza this summer, raised the Pollard issue last month with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

And this week, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon met with Pollard in the Butner, N.C., prison where he is serving his sentence.

A spokesman at the National Security Council said Pollard’s ?legal status has not changed,? despite efforts by Israeli officials to secure his release. The spokesman said the former U.S. naval intelligence official ?continues to serve his term.?

Jewish groups in Washington, including the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the issue. But the three pro-Israel groups in the past have taken the stance that Pollard’s penalty exceeded what others have received and that he should be released after serving nearly 20 years.

Earlier this month, Pollard presented a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court to be recognized as a prisoner of Zion. Pollard, a U.S.-born Jew who was granted Israeli citizenship in 1998, said in his petition that he had been the victim of both physical and mental torture during his lengthy imprisonment.

Pollard was displeased after his meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Washington. His wife told Israeli radio that her husband had told Mr. Ayalon that the convicted spy was ?sickened? by the lack of support provided by Israel to his cause.

?I appeal to the Israeli government to cease the lies, to no longer pretend they are worried about my fate and to do as much as they do to free other [Israeli] spies,? Esther Pollard cited her husband as saying.

Pollard sold classified information to Israel between June 1984 and November 1985, but in his trial insisted that he had only provided information he thought the U.S. ally needed for its national security.

Federal officials disagreed, saying Pollard hurt America’s relations with its Arab allies and endangered the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger said at the time that he was could not ?conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by? Pollard.

• Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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