Source: Clinton agrees to release convicted spy Pollard

October 23, 1998 - CNN

U.S. President Bill Clinton agreed in principle Friday to order the release from prison of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard and allow him to settle in Israel, a senior Israeli source told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

The source said Clinton agreed to the release to help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on the interim peace accord.

The source said it is possible Pollard's release could come in time for him to return to Israel this weekend.

Pollard, a U.S. Naval intelligence analyst, has been serving a life sentence since 1987, when he was convicted on charges of treason and espionage for passing sensitive U.S. information to the Israeli government.

He was denied parole when he first became eligible two years ago. He is being held at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub, told CNN he believes the issue of Pollard's release was raised at the last minute by the Israelis.

Israeli negotiators are asking that Pollard be released immediately, so he can accompany Netanyahu home to Israel, Dub said.

But Dub also expressed skepticism about Clinton's pledge.

"We'll believe it when we see it," Dub told CNN.

The former U.S. Navy intelligence officer was apprehended by U.S. authorities in the mid-1980s, as he pounded on the gates of the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Pollard has since complained that the Israeli government has not done enough to get him freed. Several U.S. presidents have denied requests to pardon him.

After Pollard was apprehended, it emerged that he was recruited to spy for Israel by a shadowy Israeli intelligence-gathering body in the United States. Until recently, Israeli governments disavowed Pollard, and called his espionage a "rogue operation."

However, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu granted Pollard Israeli citizenship and acknowledged him as an Israeli agent.

Many Israeli officials, including Cabinet ministers, have visited Pollard in prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Clinton delayed leaving the Wye River Conference Center, where the Mideast talks are being held, to work out last-minute snags on the Pollard release.

Blitzer reported that newly appointed Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon pressed hard for clemency for Pollard during the nine days of peace talks. Clinton has rebuffed past Israeli appeals.