A Federal Judge on Monday ruled that the US government can hand in a classified ex parte submission to the court, not allowing Jonathan Pollard's lawyers to see the state's evidence in arguing for his strict parole limitations.
The case relates to the harsh parole conditions imposed on Pollard, who was released last November after spending half his life – 30 years – in jail on charges of spying by passing information on regional threats to Israel when he served as an intelligence officer.
Those conditions include a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., as well as complete monitoring and inspection of his computers and those of any employer who might hire him. In addition, Pollard is obligated to wear an electronic bracelet at all times for GPS tracking of his location – and it must be recharged on the Sabbath, when he is forbidden by Jewish Law to activate electricity. He is banned from approaching certain embassies and airports, and must remain in a limited area of New York City in the vicinity of his residence.
In response to the ex parte submission ruling, Pollard's attorneys who were given security clearances by the Department of Justice in order to represent him sharply objected to the secret filing that they would not be allowed to see, reports Hamodia.
New York Southern District Court Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that the government would be able to submit "an ex parte filing addressing the types of classified information at issue alongside their public, unclassified filing."
At the same time, she stipulated that the government must "disclose to Pollard’s attorneys the 'gist or substance' of its submission…at a high level of generality that will not disclose classified information. This disclosure may either be contained in the publicly filed opposition to the renewed petition or filed separately under seal in a brief submission to which Pollard’s counsel will have access."
Forrest responded to the government's claim that there is "no need" for Pollard's attorneys to have access to the ex parte filing, and said the court would review this claim.
She said the court "will not be a rubber stamp for an agency decision. …The government must justify the necessity of any ex parte filing by including an ex parte declaration or affidavit from an intelligence community official describing why Pollard’s counsel does not need to know the information contained in the filing.”
"Something out of communist Russia"
A legal observer who has tracked Pollard's case for years told Hamodia on condition of anonymity that the most "alarming and disconcerting" facet of the new development was a footnote on page six of the 20 page ruling.
That footnote reads: "Although the parties and the Court have at times suggested that the relevant inquiry is what information Pollard 'carries in his head'…the inquiry is more accurately stated as what information he was able to access and therefore may carry in his head."
According to the legal observer the footnote is cause for concern.
"In essence, midway through this legal battle, the judge has now dramatically backtracked from the very logical parameters she originally had laid out in order to accommodate the government. This is a very troublesome development for the Pollard legal team," he said.
The observer added that the claim that Pollard's lawyers don't "need to know" the filings of the government's arguments defending the parole conditions is simply "incredulous."
"It sound is like something out of communist Russia. What the government is saying you have no need to know why we are in effect keeping you under house arrest, and therefore no possibility to try to refute it. Just take our word for it."
Forrest previously gave the government until June 10 to file a response to a request by Pollard's legal team to explain the need for the parole conditions, and she gave Pollard's lawyers until June 30 to submit a rebuttal.
In her new ruling, she said if the government asked for it, she "would likely grant a brief, one-week extension of the briefing schedule."
Pollard's treatment, and in particular his sentence that was exponentially longer than those given to spies of enemy states, has raised outrage, particularly after it was revealed in January that the US infiltrated Israeli intelligence for the past 18 years, hacking into the video broadcasts of Israeli drones conducting sensitive missions in the region.