from the back-to-spy-school dept.
Michele Chabin reports that the possible US decision to free spy Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, has politicians, settlers and activists on all sides in an uproar over whether the price is too high. Israel's news media reported that the Obama administration is weighing the release of Pollard in return for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians on settlement building and freeing of Palestinian prisoners. Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 after the conclusion of an investigation into suspicion he was spying for Israel. He was convicted in 1987 to a life sentence for one count of espionage.
Pollard is the only person in US history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally and the only American citizen convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Pollard is considered by many in Israel and the American Jewish community to be a national hero. Supporters of his release argue that his sentencing was disproportionately harsh and that he was acting out of loyalty to Israel, not mal-intent against the U.S., and that the documents he handed over to Israel were about Arab countries and the Soviet Union, not US intelligence methods. US officials claim the damage done by Pollard's spying is far worse than people realize. In an interview with Foreign Policy, retired Adm. Thomas Brooks, the former director of naval intelligence, said Pollard's actions have been "exceeded only by Edward Snowden," the NSA whistleblower. The last time US officials considered releasing Pollard during the Clinton administration, CIA Director George Tenet told Clinton he would resign if Pollard were released.