TEL AVIV – It will be difficult for the U.S. government to justify the draconian, nonsensical parole conditions under which Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is currently living in New York City. The conditions force Pollard to violate Shabbat and impede his ability to be gainfully employed, while doing nothing to advance national security, the supposed goal of the unusual measures.
Last month, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York granted Pollard’s lawyers a request to reopen his appeal against the illogical – and I think spiteful – parole conditions.
Before we get to them, let’s put things in perspective regarding Pollard. Obama administration policies in 2014 alone resulted in the release of more than 3,700 “Threat Level 1” criminal illegal aliens, including murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and drug dealers. The criminals were released on to the streets of the U.S. instead of being deported as they should have been. Criminal illegal aliens released by the Obama administration between 2009 and 2011 went on to be charged with 19 murders, three attempted murders, and 142 sex crimes, a House Judiciary Committee report has documented.
While Pollard is restricted to parole conditions that do not achieve their aims, as I will show, Obama has released without any U.S. supervision numerous dangerous Islamic terrorists from the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, including the infamous Taliban Five, jihadists deemed “high” risk who were recommended for continued detention and yet were freed in exchange for United States Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
As part of the détente with Cuba, Obama released without condition three Cuban spies who were part of the so-called Cuban Five — sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to form a vast espionage ring in South Florida. Another member of the Cuban Five, René González, was given reprieve without supervision from a prison sentence in 2011 to return to Cuba for his father’s funeral on condition that he came back to the U.S. to finish his prison sentence. (By contrast, Pollard was not allowed to leave prison, even under heavy security, to bury his mother or his father despite intense lobbying efforts by Israeli diplomats and members of Congress.) Once in Havana, González renounced his U.S. citizenship, declared, “I am a soldier for the Cuban revolution,” and refused to return to finish out his prison sentence.
In January, following the Iran nuclear accord, the U.S. pardoned or dropped the charges against seven Iranians as part of a prisoner swap for the release of four American citizens held in Iran. Some of these were accused of stealing U.S. technology and helping to launch Iran’s nuclear program as well as put Iran first-ever satellite into space.
Now let’s get back to Pollard. He was paroled on November 20, 2015, after serving 30 years of an unprecedented life sentence in a U.S. prison for espionage on behalf of an ally, Israel. His conditional release came after the signing of the international nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement strongly opposed by the Israeli government. There was so much speculation that Pollard’s release was arranged to soothe Israeli-U.S. relations that had soured over the Iran deal that Secretary of State John Kerry had to deny the reports.
There is much disinformation about the Pollard case, especially regarding what he did and didn’t do. Contrary to false claims by detractors, Pollard was never convicted of treason. He worked as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and was indicted in 1985 on one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel. Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of a plea agreement that was to spare him a life sentence.
From the onset, Pollard’s case was handled differently from that of all other accused spies and the information surrounding his case is replete with unusual government action. He is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for such an offense is two to four years.
As I previously reported:
The unprecedented sentence was largely thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from [then-Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger, in which he accused Pollard of treason – a crime for which he was never indicted – and claimed Pollard harmed America’s national security.
But even Weinberger, before his death in 2006, said the sentence may be about something else.
Weinberger said in a 2004 interview that the Pollard issue was “a very minor matter, but made very important. … It was made far bigger than its actual importance.”
A number of former Reagan Administration officials who worked with Weinberger wrote letters on behalf of Pollard charging that Weinberger was biased against Israel and that his personal opinions affected the handling of the Pollard case.
The U.S. government has never released the full Pollard files to the public and even sentencing judges need to largely rely on general government representations of what is in those documents. Multiple security-cleared lawmakers who have seen the documents have stated there is nothing there to justify Pollard’s unprecedented life sentence.
In February of last year, I first reported on a 29-year-old classified document that was the central justification for Pollard’s harsh sentence, key sections of which were declassified and released Nov. 13, 2014 in response to a petition from Pollard’s attorneys. Nothing in those declassified sections evidence any national security secrets that could harm the U.S.
While only the government knows what is in the full Pollard file, it has always been clear that Pollard was not a security prisoner, but a political bargaining chip for the U.S. to use at any given time.
That much was admitted by Dennis Ross, Middle East adviser to both Obama and Bill Clinton. As I previously reported:
Prior to the signing of the 1998 Wye River Israeli-Palestinian Accords, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister at the time, was told by President Bill Clinton that Pollard would be released as part of a deal that also would free 750 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. Netanyahu signed off on the accords and released the terrorists, later saying the freeing of Pollard was for him the dealmaker. But Clinton reneged and kept Pollard imprisoned.
Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, a key Wye negotiator, later wrote in his book about the negotiations, “The Missing Peace,” that he cautioned Clinton against releasing Pollard, saying the Israeli spy was too important a “political bargaining chip.”
“[Pollard’s release] would be a huge payoff [for Israel]; you don’t have many like it in your pocket. … You will need it later, don’t use it now,” writes Ross.
Pollard’s freedom was floated by U.S. officials on numerous occasions, always to secure Israeli concessions on specific issues.
New York Times political correspondent Mark Landler revealed in his book “Alter Egos,” that while she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton raised the release of Pollard in an attempt to persuade Netanyahu to extend a freeze on Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Onward to Pollard’s strange parole conditions. In December, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest stated the U.S. Parole Commission has yet to justify why Pollard must wear a GPS monitoring device, which forces him to violate Shabbat and other Jewish holidays, and also submit to have his work computer monitored.
If Pollard violates any of these conditions, as the Jerusalem Post noted, he has “the balance of his life sentence – 15 years – hanging like a sword of Damocles over his head.”
Any violation of his parole conditions – which are unusually harsh and restrictive – could send him back to prison for what could well be the rest of his life.
Pollard’s attorneys argue the electronic GPS bracelet is not justified, and that the computer monitoring is preventing him from accepting an investment job opportunity.
The government’s explanation for these measures – that they are meant to ensure he doesn’t disseminate classified materials – makes absolutely no sense.
The Forward reported:
But the U.S. Justice Department argued the strict conditions were “reasonably related” to the circumstances underlying Pollard’s crime to ensure among other things that he does not disseminate classified information.
Rebecca Tinio, a Justice Department lawyer, said the “majority of the information Mr. Pollard had 30 years ago remains classified.”
A little logic here. If Pollard really knows any classified secrets, how exactly does a GPS bracelet prevent him from spilling such information? The bracelet only tracks his movements; it does not stop Pollard from meeting with whomever he wants within the geographical radius to which he is restricted. The monitoring of his work computer is also preposterous. If Pollard so desired, and if he really retained classified information, he could easily go to an Internet café and send emails to anyone or simply use someone else’s computer or smartphone.
Pollard’s attorney explained in a letter the ridiculousness of the notion that Pollard could even remember classified information.
“Even assuming some information is still ‘classified’ as a practical matter, it is extremely unlikely that Mr. Pollard remembers, or could possibly remember, the details of 30-year-old information to an extent that it could be of any value to anyone,” his lawyers wrote.
“There is nothing before the commission to indicate that Mr. Pollard ever memorized the documents he delivered, or that he could possibly remember any usable details 30 years later.”
“The special conditions would not have prevented Mr. Pollard from committing his underlying offense, nor would they have aided law enforcement officials in detecting his criminal activity,” they wrote.
“They would similarly have no impact on Mr. Pollard’s ability to disclose any information he might retain today, even though he has no such information and has no intention of jeopardizing his freedom.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.