Pollard to go Free

Jonathan Pollard is going to be paroled:

In July 2014, after Jonathan J. Pollard had served 29 years of a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel, his hopes for freedom were thwarted when a federal panel denied his request for parole.

But that hearing set in motion an intense scramble by lawyers for Mr. Pollard to ensure a different result a year later, when he would be eligible for parole after serving 30 years. They wrote letters, cited statistics and introduced evidence that their client met two legal standards for parole: that he had behaved well in prison, and that he posed no threat of returning to a life of espionage.

On Tuesday, the effort finally succeeded, as the United States Parole Commission announced that Mr. Pollard, 60, met the legal standards and would be released just before Thanksgiving.

On the strict letter of the law, they were correct. However, the government have objected to it and apparently has not. The official reason is that Pollard is no longer a threat and is in poor health. The rumored reason is that it is to smooth over relations with Israel after the Iran deal (although this appears very unlikely to work).

My position on Pollard has brought me into conflict with some people, including many fellow Jews. I think his sentence was entirely justified. The excuse that he only sold secrets “to our ally” did not impress me. As I have noted many times, even our allies have different interests from us. We keep secrets from them; they keep secrets from us. We spy on them; they spy on us. There’s nothing shameful about that. Pursuing the interests of one’s country is a leader’s job. There’s nothing wrong with Israel spying on us or paying one of our citizens for secrets. But there is something wrong with that citizens selling them. That’s called treason.

And Doug Mataconis reminds us that Pollard’s spying was far from benign:

When Pollard was first sentenced in 1985, for example, then Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger penned a blistering letter to the Judge, some of which classified, in which he laid forth the manner in which Pollard’s actions had endangered American national security. For example, while it wasn’t widely reported at the time, it became known to the United States that the Israelis had used some of the information Pollard had provided to them to trade with the Soviet Union for the safe release of Jews living in the USSR, thus handing vital American intelligence to our principal adversary at the time. Additionally, over the years other leaders in the U.S. intelligence community made it known that Pollard had also offered to sell classified information to three other nations other than Israel, an accusation which certainly makes him a far less sympathetic figure. The antipathy toward Pollard was so high at one point that in 1998, then CIA Director George Tenant threatened to resign if he was released.

As someone who is against massive prison sentences for all but the worst criminals, I suppose I should be OK with this. Pollard is in failing health and it’s not like he’s going to start spying again. But if we are to release Pollard, it’s not a victory. It’s the end of a sad saga that began when Pollard decided to betray his country.

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  1. Technomad

    I think one reason they came down so hard on Pollard was to scare others who might have done the same thing off.  And among other considerations, the possiblity of a “false flag” recruitment would always be there.  If the Syrians, Iranians or Russians don’t have people in their intel outfits who can pass as Israeli (at least enough to fool a starry-eyed wanna-be like Pollard) they’re incompetent and should be fired immediately.  And the Syrians and Iranians would probably think it was a wonderfully funny joke to con some idealistic young Zionist into turning intel over to them by claiming to be Israeli.

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