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. We love the Rule of law, I’m told….

    Zero evidence of this…

  2. Randy, to be clear, I do not think that US soldiers are mere automatons. Far from it, I have spoken to many vets, including my brother in law, a highly decorated vietnam vet., and I know that to act conscientiously is one of the hallmark of the higher moral order of the US, and this in everything.
    Practically however, the whole point of the hierarchy of the military is one of adherence to the orders given and to the general plan, even and especially if one is not privy to the points behind that plan. Practically also, challenging orders, either for moral or tactical reasons is heavily frown upon, and many great men have paid with their freedom, reputation and lives the fact that they , finding no support in their hierarchy, had to go outside of it to force changes. Chelsea Manning is one of those. Leaking info to wikileaks was a last resort move after the chain of command rebuffed her.
    Snowden obviously learned from that.

    Regarding Kerry, Ari, there was no doubt about the validity of his claims of valor until he was swiftboated running for president. He has been always been erected as a highly principled man, and I have yet to see anything that counters that.

    On the other hand, John McCain, whom I was to vote for until he picked Sarah Palin, has a war record that has been challenged continuously throughout the ages. And based on some of his stances since, I am tempted to believe them.

  3. randyjet … no where do I call Kerry a traitor or accuse him of defecting. My viewpoint is not that of a civilian. He used the system and as a PBF commander got to write up the reports. How convenient. He just used the system to bail out as soon as he could, land a job with an Admiral’s staff, and did it again to run for Congress once in CONUS. I am most amused that Kerry initially volunteered for PBF duty when they were coastal patrol boats, (similar to PT Boats of a prior war?) but got the surprise of his life when Admiral Zumwalt ordered them in to the rivers. Kerry wore the uniform and that is all good I can say about him. In my opinion he embarrassed it subsequently.

  4. I read “About Face” virtually the first week it was published in hard cover. Col. Hackworth espoused a military run by the military and not glorified clerks and insisted his unit(s) perform as soldiers not ragamuffins. It’s a long book and deserves at least 2 reads + and written by a soldier with feet on the ground. I will never read any embellished piece of manure by John Kerry. He ferried small groups up and down a river, but imagines he had a role in their roles. He. Was. Never. A. Grunt. That is not to say the PBF sailors were weak or not necessary or uninvolved, but it is notable that Kerry left them at the first opportunity when many others took Evac wounds, recovered, and returned to their units.

    If he had come out against bureaucrats running that war and those since, I’d pay him some attention…but he did not do that, he blamed the Soldiers and Marines who he asserted acted on orders from higher military commands as well as their base instincts. Does he even once mention USMC LTG Victor Krulak, unpopular with MAC-V, who advocated a very different war: one where villages were not destroyed and populations moved, but with units immersed in them to live, live as natives, and teach them to defend themselves in place, against multiple enemies…the Viets disliked the ARVN, the PAVN, the NLF, and sundry others…their favor was demanded at the barrel of a gun just as Mao described….and as predicted, the PAVN won. The knew we’d leave in time so had no real choice. Kerry used the war for his personal gain, period.

    1. I am glad to see that Ari and I agree about Hackworth’s book. It is outstanding, but I have not had time to read it again. I recommend it to all others on this site since I had a hard time putting it down. Of course, Hackworth was “retired” after he commented on TV that in his opinion the US should GET OUT OF VIETNAM NOW! He did return his medals and left to live in Australia.

      The point Kerry was making was not that the war was wrong because of atrocities on the part of GIs, but that the kind of war we were engaged in made such things too common. When you are fighting against the majority of a foreign people, everybody in that population gets viewed as the enemy. This is exemplified by the slogan one sees at Vietnam vet gatherings KILL THEM ALL AND LET GOD SORT THEM OUT. It is also beyond debate that racism towards the Vietnamese was rampant on the part of GIs calling all Vietnamese gooks, slopes, etc.. As for the attitude of most Vietnamese towards the VC, NVA, as an armed American GI, it would be a very rash or stupid Vietnamese to wave a VC flag in your face or say they supported the VC. As one political science prof said, it is hard to get the peasants to fight to give back their land to the landowners. Another disconnect is that why would the peasants fight for the ARVN and that government if they hated them too? By being in villages and fighting against the VC, they become armed combatants on the side of people they hate according to your own statement. What I DO believe is that as most people, they hate war and would much prefer to left in peace unless they have no other choice. The war would never have happened if it were not for US force and power. The Vietnamese themselves would have settled it rather quickly on their own. Of course, the US would not have liked the government, but it is their country not ours.
      As a simple matter of fairness, i try and read about those who I disagree with to get their side of the story. I see that you are not of like mind.

  5. What the military teaches and requires of its soldiers and marines is steadfast adherence to whatever the plan is, brought down from above. So, Ari, how many wars did we get involved in that required our soldiers to put their conscience on hold and instead fight the wars our warmasters deemed moral?
    How many people lost life, limbs and morality actively implementing a policy of violence they have no say in?
    How many died in Iraq fighting a war of false pretenses?
    How many in Vietnam?

    You just made my point. Bowe Bergdahl saw that what he was being told about the moral war was immoral. When he decided to let his conscience speak, now you are making him out to be a a coward and/or lazy!
    Who is more courageous than he willing to lose himself refusing to harm others?
    Who is a bigger hero than these whistleblowers you demean, whose courage and sense of duty to the nation is greater than the selfish need to protect their hide?

    1. Po, I have to disagree with much of what you wrote. The US military while requiring obedince to orders, does not require you to stop thinking. In FACT, a soldier may indeed disobey orders that are illegal, and take drastic action to stop such orders. The case that illustrates that is My Lai in which a W/O ordered his gunner to take aim and fire at any soldier who shot at him or the civilians. One of the statements that I remember from basic was the instructor telling us that the difference between US troops and other militarys is that the US soldier is supposed to take initiative and think. Blind adherence to orders leads to defeat more often than not and winds up killing a lot of good men.

      I became opposed to the Vietnam War while in the military, and I made my views known too. We had a fair size anti-Vietnam war group on our base, and took part in a number of anti-war demonstrations, in civilian attire of course. The US military has a long history of dissent, of course, if they went beyond certain bounds such folks got hammered for it. Gen. Billy Mitchell, Col, Hackworth, and others come to mind. They paid for their dissent by ending their careers. So to characterize all US military as souless automotons is flat wrong.

      As for Bergdahl, in my view, from knowing his past history, I doubt he is as political as you want to make him. He had a history of simply going out in the wilderness on his own when he felt stressed or uncomfortable. He was either naive or felt he could do that without consequence, and was caught by the bad guys. I seriously doubt he wanted to defect since he would have to give up a relatively comfortable spot for being a POW in a very nasty place.

      I see that Ari thinks Kerry is also guilty of defecting or treason, and that only confirms the poor view of the military on the part of some civilians. If I could go out and buy and read McCain’s book Faith of my Fathers, which I rather enjoyed, then I think that he could read Kerry’s story in Tour of Duty. I did not vote for or support McCain, but if he comes to Houston, I would like to shake his hand and get him to autograph my copy. There is another book, About FACE , by Col. David Hackworth that I think that po and Ari might like and get a better view of the US military from a man who had more medals and combat experience than almost any other soldier at the time.

  6. Po … the US military is rather well known for requiring each and every soldier to retain all those attributes you say are “relinquished.” It is fundamental to the proces where a PFC can rise to command a batallion when the leaders are killed or disabled. Where do you get such ideas you harbor? I suggest you try enlisting and serving then come back and tell me about your experience. Try insisting on your purview and you will wash out, I assure you.

  7. Po said …

    The danger to the freedoms they claim to fight for are the ones for whom wearing an uniform means to relinquish one’s mind, heart and conscience to an entity that veils itself with the cloak of patriotism in order to wreck havoc across the globe.

    You, flatly, have no idea of what the US Military teaches or requires of its Soldiers and Marines. I do. As for Bergdahl, he disarmed himself and wandered off to surrender to an enemy who was NOT attacking him. Hardly a POW. He had other options, so yes, he was either lazy or a coward. I owe him no apology. Go talk to John Kerry…he’s more to your liking I am sure.

  8. Aridog says:
    1, July 27, 2015 at 9:36 am
    Po … I’d be one to call for Snowden’s head, as well as those who hired him and administered his position. The same thing for Ms. Manning and his/her administrators. A PFC had the same “roles & permissions” as a 4 star general? How? No excuse for it in the USG or DOD. The literal definition of sloppy. As it is Snowden is a zero now, his cachet is gone, and his info dispersed. Pollard has done his 30, Bergdahl is a dubious POW since he surrended before he was attacked. Does anybody even know who Manning is now? When Bergdahl has done his 30 I’ll be less antagonistic. I wore the uniform, Bergdahl & Manning soiled it. There are other ways to get out of the military, just ask John F Kerry….but Bergdahl chose poorly, either lazy or a coward.

    Based on what happened to Manning (and we care very little who he/she is… the value is in what she did FOR us), and what happened to other whistleblowers before Manning, Snowden did exactly what he was supposed to do.
    Snowden is a zero only to those who are adamant in remaining blind to the abuses of the system upon our freedoms. He has been feted both here and across the world (Germany) for what he did, and has plenty of support and cachet among those who bristle against an increasingly out of control government that knows everything we do and is using it against us for reasons whose objectivity only it can gauge.

    The danger to the freedoms they claim to fight for are the ones for whom wearing an uniform means to relinquish one’s mind, heart and conscience to an entity that veils itself with the cloak of patriotism in order to wreck havoc across the globe. There are great many military people, in and out of uniform who are rebelling against that which they are being misused for.
    And as for Berghdal, unless you can prove he was either lazy of a coward, you owe him an apology.

  9. Po … I’d be one to call for Snowden’s head, as well as those who hired him and administered his position. The same thing for Ms. Manning and his/her administrators. A PFC had the same “roles & permissions” as a 4 star general? How? No excuse for it in the USG or DOD. The literal definition of sloppy. As it is Snowden is a zero now, his cachet is gone, and his info dispersed. Pollard has done his 30, Bergdahl is a dubious POW since he surrended before he was attacked. Does anybody even know who Manning is now? When Bergdahl has done his 30 I’ll be less antagonistic. I wore the uniform, Bergdahl & Manning soiled it. There are other ways to get out of the military, just ask John F Kerry….but Bergdahl chose poorly, either lazy or a coward.

  10. While awaiting trial, po’s hero Bowe Bergdahl was hanging out @ an illegal cannabis operation when it was raided this week. I’m sure his attorney is pleased. What a traitor, idiot, loser. It shows just out of touch w/ reality po is to bring up his buddy, Bergdahl. Even Obama’s closest aids knows he screwed the pooch w/ the traitor Bergdahl swap. Those Taliban 5 should be killing Americans and Jews soon.

  11. Nick, if you can quote me slamming Jews and enabling muslim terrorists, I buy you lunch…and dinner.
    That’s your default stance to accuse me of antisemitism when I merely say what Jews, both here and Israel have been saying for decades.

    You and bam bam ought to frame what fiver just said and read it at morn and before going to bed.

    Ari, the same people speaking in support of Pollard here, are the same who called for Bo Berghdal’s head, benefit of the doubt be damned! One is a convicted spy, the other a prisoner of war.
    And same ones who would certainly call for Snowden’s head on a stake.

  12. Ari, To a certain degree I agree there are different levels of spies. Anyone spying for ISIS would be the most dangerous, spying for a strong ally, the other end of the spectrum. But, you NEVER know for certain w/ whom you’re dealing, @ either end of the spy game. When I get anonymous sources reaching out to me I am always very cautious. When I’m doing pretext undercover work, the people I’m working don’t know my agenda.Spies have many agendas as do the people they are spying for, or think they are spying for. The waters are never clear, just different degrees of murky.

  13. Send Pollar to Isreal, from which he never came. He was and is an Amercian. a spy no doubt, but not ours. They guy never really harmed us, so why not?

  14. The only time po appears here is too slam Jews and enable Muslim terrorists. Often, he does both in the same comment. He cares little about any other topics. He’s sorta like the Patriot troll.

  15. bam bam,

    Thank you.

    I take it bam bam clearly believes that the answer is “Yes, the Muslim who killed the Marines is a terrorist.” His phrasing makes it clear that it is so obvious that he is a terrorist that even thinking about the question is “all-telling.”

    It is an excellent example of the “good guy/bad guy” framework at work. Bam bam is obviously rabidly in favor of escalating our wars in the Middle East against “the bad guys,” yet somehow, when “the bad guys” fight back, they’re not soldiers fighting in a war that bam bam is strongly in favor of, they are “terrorists.”

    What about hellfire missiles fired from a drone that wipe out a wedding party? Terrorism? What about using artillery to attack children playing soccer at the beach? Terrorism?

    The last two examples are attacks on civilians. “The Muslim” attacked Marines. Calling “the Muslim” an obvious terrorist and the others justified or excused is simple nonsense both logically and factually. But it works just fine within a good guy/bad guy framework.

    Israel has worked this framework to the breaking point. In it’s decades of conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has inflicted many, many times the casualties it has suffered. The casualties Israel has suffered have been mostly military while those it has inflicted have been mostly civilian. Yet it’s propaganda machine has the gullible believing that Israel fight’s a justified battle while the Palestinians are terrorists.

    Facts and logic simply don’t reach that conclusion. But for a good guy/bad guy analysis, any excuse will suffice. A popular one is simply ignoring the bodies and instead talking about “intentions.” Israel acts with “good intentions” so it’s massive killing of mostly civilians is justified or excused. Palestinians act with “bad intentions” so the fractional killing of mostly military is the result of terrorism.

    The obvious propaganda and ease of imputing any intention to anyone is lost within this framework. The sheeple follow the White Hat and any excuse will do.

    After all, it’s what we learned as kids… watching TV.

  16. Take a stroll through her, bam and come back to me. Hope this time you won’t just disappear when your seat gets hot…. 🙂
    Currently, there are 784 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others.”

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