US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Saturday that she won't interfere in the possible release of Jonathan Pollard in November, and denied that the move was timed to assuage Israeli concerns over the Iran nuclear deal.
Pollard has been jailed for 30 years – half of his life – after using his role as a US naval intelligence officer to pass intelligence to Israel about regional security threats to the Jewish state. He was handed a life-sentence, unlike spies from other allied or even enemy nations that got off with a tiny fraction of his sentence.
He is up for parole in November after 30 years as part of the legal structure of his imprisonment, and Israeli politicians, such as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), have said the potential release is unrelated to the Iran deal. And yet, another parole hearing was held in July 2014 and rejected on the basis of a now declassified document, that critics say included largely trumped up charges against Pollard.
Lynch echoed Shaked in saying that the Iran deal is unrelated, stating, "it would have been extremely far-thinking of people 30 years ago to sentence Mr. Pollard and set this mandatory release date to coincide with the Iran deal. And if they were able to pull that off I would be quite impressed."
Explaining the latest parole hearing in November, she said, "our sentencing structure has changed in the late '80's and early '90's to where now a life sentence is in fact a life sentence. But under the law in which he was sentenced and the laws of our country which we abide it's not really a recommendation needed from us."
US Intelligence Director James Clapper spoke about the potential release last Friday, and indicated ongoing hostility against Pollard.
"I think that within the (intelligence) community he's viewed very negatively. Even though a lot of the people who were around when all of this happened have left the community. But there's still I think an institutional memory of it and it's quite negative," said Clapper.
The "negative" feeling towards Pollard was most controversially expressed by US Vice President Joe Biden, who in late 2011 said Pollard would only be released "over my dead body."