Concession or Coincidence? Pollard Reportedly To Be Released In Aftermath Of Iran Deal

200px-Jonathan_PollardThe Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama Administration is preparing to release one of this country’s most notorious spies in an effort to placate Israel in the aftermath of Iranian agreement. Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy, betrayed his country and was arrested as he attempted to flee to the Israeli embassy in 1985. He was not only convicted of espionage but the Justice Department and intelligence agencies have long maintained that he did untold harm to the national security. The question of the release of Pollard has always raised interesting political, social, and legal questions. Thirty years is certainly not an insignificant amount of time and Pollard reportedly has health issues.  My greatest concern is one of special treatment, particularly on sentencing policy for other national security cases. (For full disclosure, I have handled and continued to serve as lead counsel in national security cases).

For some the release comes at a time of tension over Israeli spying operations against the United States. Israel has long been accused of being one of the greatest sponsors of espionage against the United States, including recent reports ranking it among the top most active countries targeting the United States. The alleged concession will not sit well with some people who will argue that we should not trade away spies to appease other nations upset with our foreign policy. This would not be a spy swap with Russia but what the Wall Street Journal is suggesting is a concession prize to help political relations both inside and outside the United States. Particularly given the opposition to the Iran deal itself, the release would be viewed by many as too high a price for political relations. After all, the United States still gives Israel billions each year in aid, including massive military support. However, the Administration is framing the issue as a routine release after serving 30 years for the espionage. 220px-Pollard_videoframeOn its face, the Pollard case file contains elements that have always worked against leniency, particularly in the relations with Israel after his arrest. Pollard reportedly stole tens of thousands of documents for Israel and allegedly sought to broker arms deal with the governments of South Africa, Argentina, and Taiwan. He eventually agreed to cooperation in exchange for a deal for his wife and a reduction of charges. In the meantime, Israel insisted that they did not run Pollard as a spy and that he was part of an unauthorized operation — a suggestion that has been widely questioned. However, the case has also been colored by bad blood between Israeli and American intelligence officials over the case.  When asked to return the material, U.S. officials accused Israel of giving back a small amount of low classified documents and then abusing a U.S. team sent to retrieve more documents. There were even allegations that Israeli intelligence stole material from the U.S. team sent to Israel. It has also refused to release the name of his handler. This record contributed to a long and fervent opposition by intelligence officials to the release of Pollard. There has been a long effort to release Pollard both by the Israeli government and Jewish organizations in the United States. Many of his advocates have insisted that he gave intelligence to an ally and the harm was not as severe for that reason for the United States. Others have argued that, given his cooperation, 30 years is more than enough time.

The question of his release date raises an interesting question. It is also worth noting that, while Pollard was given a life sentence, in June 1987, the laws in effect at the time of Pollard’s sentencing set parole after 30 years for federal life-sentence inmates. That would put his release date at November 21, 2015. However, he is still subject to the discretion of the Commission and is only subject to release in the absence of significant prison regulation violations or a “reasonable probability” of recidivism.

This is a palpable mistrust of the statement made by the Administration over the discussions with Israel. National Security Council spokesperson Alistair Baskey insisted that Pollard’s prison status “will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures. There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.” Zero linkage? If Pollard is released on the heels of the Iran deal, it would be viewed by many as an amazing coincidence. Moreover, Baskey’s statement raises yet another question of whether the Administration is too cavalier with the truth of statements to the American people. Is the Administration denying that the release has been discussed with Israel? The Administration is clearly gearing up to treat the November date as a release date to suggest that it has done nothing special for Pollard. The Justice Department released a tough sounding statement by spokesman Marc Raimondi statement that, if you read it closely, suggests that it will no longer oppose release: “The Department of Justice has always and continues to maintain 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.” The question is whether the Justice Department will take the same position in other cases in national security cases. The Justice Department often challenges such constructive release dates and arguing that changed policies or practices can extend sentences. If there is any discretionary decision, it is notorious for opposing any release in major criminal cases.

116 thoughts on “Concession or Coincidence? Pollard Reportedly To Be Released In Aftermath Of Iran Deal”

  1. Traditionally, spies were hung or shot, so Pollard got off easy. And while I support the existence of Israel, I would like to have seen the money shut off until this issue had been cleared up. If they can afford to spy on us, they don’t need US taxpayer money.

    1. selfhelplegal – in this case we need Israel as an ally, so we just jail the spy.

  2. Ari, let me make this clear…if I am addressing Paul, don’t take my comments too seriously because more likely than not, I am being facetious.
    Truthful, logical and right, but still facetious.

  3. Paul, perhaps you ought to look up the meaning of coward!
    Muhamad Ali stated a very valid reason for not going to Vietnam, namely that he had no quarrel with them vietcong!
    He lost years off his career, and the income that should have come from it, and risked prison, along with the demonizing and persecution that came from defying the system. He paid a high price for his moral stand! Very noble in my book…unlike those of us who asked…how high when told to jump!
    As to whether he was a much better fighter as an amateur…. he was still a fighter…unlike some of us, keyboard fighters.

    1. po – oddly enough Muhammed Ali had nothing against the men he fought in the ring. His logic was severely flawed.

  4. Some of you are missing my point, vis a vis Paul and his service. If they advocate war but refuse service, civilian or soldier, then they are not productive in the essential sense. Not everyone serves in uniform, but if they are productive, they contribute valuable service. It is not about heroism, heaven I served and was no hero either. If you lack the understanding of civilian service in a war you just do not understand war. Even General Patton understood the concept & purportedly said so … without logistics his tanks would have been parked.

  5. At the end of the day, Paul, neither you nor him served for your country. Which was a good thing, I say.
    Muhamad Ali was no chicken, nor was he a chicken hawk, but just like you or Clinton, he did not serve. And he is a better man for it.

    1. po – Muhammad Ali was a coward, but got away with it. He was a much better fighter as an amateur.

  6. Paul, I’d take a moral chicken over a chicken hawk any day!
    One refuses to fight, the other make others fight, and die for his immorality.

    1. po – I want people with a moral compass, not a chicken hawk or a chicken. Clinton was happy to have others die for their country, just too chicken to die for it himself.

  7. Sorry! I don’t agree that Paul served his country!
    He did not serve it then, nor is he serving it now!
    Paul ain’t no hero in my book!
    Heck, I am more of an American hero even though I wasn’t here yet!

    1. Rush Limbaugh got out of the draft because of a correctable cyst. Ted Nugent faked being mentally unfit, though some of his statements may support that finding, but he BRAGGED about being found 4F by faking it.. Rudy Guliani got out by having a judge tell his draft board to not take him. Donald Trump used his wealth to stay in school and get out of being drafted. John Wayne did all of his fighting in WWII with his draft board and won. I cannot consider them patriots at all. In fact, Gen Colin Powell had a FAR different take on such folks in his book when he noted that during Vietnam the well born and well connected got out of serving and had nothing but contempt for them. The list of chickenhawks is far greater than i have time or space for.

      1. randyjet – we can never forget the chicken-hawk in chief, Bill Clinton.

        1. Clinton does NOT qualify as a chickenhawk since he was vocal in opposition to the war. The name chickenhawk only applies to those who are FOR a war, but will not go themselves.

    2. po – I agree with you 100% that I am not a hero. Never said I was.

  8. forgotwhoiam … I’d add to your remark about the CIB that has the critic every earned the Combat Action Ribbon (medal) as issued by the USMC, Navy & Coast Guard. Both stand as testimony to valor of some sort. I see a CIB pin or CAR pin today on a lapel, I almost want to salute it. It has a similar value and importance. You are also correct that far more young Marines & Soldiers died without copious medals or awards. That is the tragic reality of warfare.

    Paul S. … I have spoken several times on line that [paraphrased] “everyone has to be / had to be / somewhere and that was where they needed to be.” I got that idea from a highly decorated CIB earner, and one CMH earner after that,…he/they knew that infantry alone didn’t win the fights, that re-supply was a necessity and that is done by both military and civilian people…tongue in cheek called “REMF’s”. If your bandoleer was near empty you turned to the REMF’s for re-supply. The effort is a machine, not a single valiant cog. He had no doubt of who fought the fights, but he just allowed for others who didn’t wind up there….and in the end enabled his efforts. I thought that concept admirable. Still do.

    In short, Paul…you served your country, even if you feel it wasn’t as important, I assure you that it was very important. I’d say that to anyone from the 60’s-70’s who faced the options and dealt with them as they best could. Period. I was able to enlist when I did only because the losses were so great and the Army figured if you had both arms and both legs, you’re good to go…more than one “2” in your profile no longer mattered. Few draftees or enlistees in the late 60’s had “picket fence” profiles (all 1’s). Heck, it took the Army 60 days to issue me a “moral waiver” due to a police record, amazing as that sounds. Or maybe not. I don’t know. They decided I was not a “moral” risk to the US Army…I was never told why. Same “moral” thing happened when I needed clearances, but I always got them. Attrition alone got me Sgt E-5 rank inside 13 months…it wasn’t anything special that I did to earn it. It sort of bothered me then, and still does, since it was founded on the deaths of other men. I did the best I could is all I can say…and almost everyone around me in uniform did the same.

    1. Aridog – I am not sure if you have seen the documentary “Inside the Killbox” about the Iraq War. There is an interesting interview with a tank commander, talking about casualties, when he says “I was introduced to the man who would take my place when I died.” Estimates of casualties were as high as 50 percent.

  9. randyjet … understand something: I detested Kerry long before the “Swiftboater” dust up. His portrayal of GI’s was a lie.

    1. I guess that I may have missed something in his testimony then. If so maybe you can tell me where or when he stated that all or even most GIs were engaged in atrocities. Then you may have a point.

  10. “…they were handing out medals during Vietnam like candy. I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in any of them, especially if they came later in the war.”


    They were handing out death like candy.

    I agree with some of Trumps positions but McCain is a hero. McCain was shot down due to a lack of his own proficiency or superiority of enemy equipment or proficiency. That issue is not clear. I would never want to be put through what John McCain went through. McCain is a hero for suffering in service of his nation even if his situation was self-generated. He served his country and he suffered for his country. Trump had no experience or perspective and was wrong to question the hero status of someone who served.

    Do you know what combat is – its effect on men?

    Is courage or cowardice demonstrated only in large historic engagements or also in small firefights?

    Have you ever been compelled to fight and consider your death on a minute-to-minute basis?

    Have you served your country in combat, not in war, in combat?

    Have you been awarded a medal for courage or being wounded in combat?

    Have you been awarded a Combat Infantryman’s Badge?

    Are you aware that many Americans were killed having received fewer medals than soldiers who lived?

    Please feel free to speak to all the 19-year old souls who received no medals and have missed the past 45 years because of a draft number.

    Beyond the pale.

    Beyond the pale.

    1. forgotwhoiam – I was drafted and enlisted before that. Both times I failed the physical. I would have been proud to serve my country, but was not allowed to.

      None of that has anything to do with the policy of handing out medals like candy. Which they were doing.

  11. randyjet … you are right, vis a vis my choice in books…I prefer non-fiction to fiction, which is all Kerry had to write.

    1. Ari, I have the same taste for non-fiction as you, but Kerry never wrote a word. The book Tour of Duty was written by another person who Kerry gave access to all his correspondence and documents. Now if you read Unfit for Command, THAT qualifies as fiction, and as I recall was written by a draft dodging coward. So I have to question your preference for such a person over a decorated combat vet.

      I had to laugh at his detractors since they were all proven to be liars. A couple of examples will suffice to make the point. The guy O’Neil who was selected by Nixon to counter Kerry said that Kerry lied about ever being in Cambodia since they had orders to stay out. Then a journalist did a terrible thing. He went to the Nixon library and listened to the tape of O’Neil talking to Nixon in the Oval office in which he bragged to Nixon that HE had gone into Cambodia a number of times. So we now know that O’Neil is a PROVEN liar, but since he is now an attorney in Texas that comes as no surprise.

      The other guy who was on the river at the time Kerry got the Bronze Star, said that there was no enemy fire. His ex-wife dug out his own Bronze Star citation, and gave it to the press. On his citation it cited intense enemy fire. Then things got worse for the guy, since he was working as an Assistent DA in Portland,OR, a person in the office dropped a dime on him since he was working his secretary over at a motel frequently during business hours. He was suspended. I guess you can associate with or honor such folks if you choose, but my taste is for honorable folks. It is also rather interesting that they are BOTH lawyers too. So much for ethics and veracity in their profession. Those are the kinds of people that give the legal profession such a bad name.

      1. randyjet – they were handing out medals during Vietnam like candy. I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in any of them, especially if they came later in the war.

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