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Jonathan Pollard, Who Sold Cold War Secrets To Israel, Completes Parole

Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, leaves a New York courthouse following his release from prison in 2015. As of Friday, Pollard has completed the terms of his parole and is a free man.
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Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, leaves a New York courthouse following his release from prison in 2015. As of Friday, Pollard has completed the terms of his parole and is a free man.

One of the most prolific spies in modern American history, who delivered hundreds of classified American documents to Israeli intelligence during the waning years of the Cold War, is now a free man.

The Justice Department announced Friday that former Navy intelligence analyst and convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has completed his parole. Pollard's attorneys say the 66-year-old plans move to Israel.

As a young analyst in the mid-'80s, Pollard said he had evidence that the U.S. was withholding information from its close ally, Israel. Recruited by an Israeli intelligence officer, Pollard spent the next year delivering intel to the Israelis, in exchange for gifts and thousands of dollars a month.

About a year-and-a-half into his espionage, Pollard was arrested while trying to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and he later pleaded guilty in order to avoid a trial. But the damage was done; the top-secret leaks included satellite photos and information about Soviet weaponry.

Pollard is the the only American who has ever been sentenced to life in prison for spying on behalf of an ally. The case strained U.S.-Israeli relations for years.

Now, 35 years since Pollard's arrest — and five years to the day since he was released from prison — the U.S. Justice Department has announced that Pollard has completed his parole, and is free to leave the country. After reviewing his case, the department's Parole Commission said Friday there was "no evidence to conclude that he is likely to violate the law," The Associated Press reported.

As conditions of Pollard's parole, he faced a curfew, had to wear a monitor that tracked his location, and had restrictions on which jobs he could take. All restrictions have now been lifted, his lawyers Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman said in a statement. "We are grateful and delighted that our client is finally free of any restrictions, and is now a free man in all respects," the statement said. "We look forward to seeing our client in Israel."

Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, about eight years into his prison sentence. Israel had sought clemency for Pollard, but then-President Bill Clinton denied that request.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "welcomes" the end of Pollard's restrictions. "For many years the Prime Minister has been committed to, and consistently worked towards, securing Pollard's release," the prime minister tweeted.

"The Prime Minister hopes to see Jonathan Pollard in Israel soon, and together with all Israelis, extends his best wishes to him and his wife Esther," he added.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").

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