Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was granted parole and is scheduled to be released from his American cell on November 21, his attorney announced on Tuesday. Pollard’s releases come on the 30th anniversary of his arrest. His released is believed to help relieve tensions between the United States and Israel that have grown since the announced Iran nuclear deal.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has blasted the nuclear deal. Pollard, now 60, worked as a Navy intelligence analyst and passed on top-secret U.S. government information to Israel. Israel’s government admitted paying him for the intelligence in 1998. The country granted Pollard citizenship in 1995 and has lobbied for his release for decades.
The Department of Justice and Pollard’s attorney’s confirmed his release date. Prior to Pollard’s last parole hearing several weeks ago, the Justice Department along with intelligence and law enforcement agencies determined the effect his release would have. Officials have not gone into detail how he could possibly commit more crimes.
Several top U.S. officials have fought against releasing Pollard from his life sentence including former Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. According to President Bill Clinton’s memoir, former CIA Director George Tenet threatened to quit when Clinton appeared to be set to release Pollard. He’d previously been denied parole after a July 2014 hearing. He had a second hearing before the U.S. Parole Commission on July 7, 2015.
Critics have accused the Obama administration of seeking an early release for Pollard as a favor to the government of Israel but the White House and Pollard’s lawyers denied that was the case. On July 1, the Justice Department notified the Parole Commission that it would not oppose the scheduled release on Nov. 21. The commission held a hearing July 7 at the North Carolina prison where Pollard is held, and its vote approving release was announced Tuesday.
The board’s decision requires Pollard to remain in the U.S. for five years after his release, and his lawyers said they had found housing and employment for him in New York. But they called on President Obama to allow him to leave prison early and move to Israel immediately.
Pollard was convicted of smuggling classified documents out of the Naval Intelligence Center and giving them to Israel. The material included closely guarded secrets about American intelligence sources in the Middle East, which dried up after Pollard began spying. Pollard attempted to seek asylum prior to being captured by the FBI in 1985.
Pollard’s Lawyer announced that his client wants to be reunited with his wife. Pollard issued a public apology in 1997. His lawyer says his health is failing as he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney stones. Wall Street Journal reports that the decision by the federal parole board was unanimous and that the US government didn’t oppose his release.