Jonathan Pollard Offers to Give Up U.S. Citizenship to Ease Move to Israel
Two lawmakers are asking the Justice Department to let soon-to-be-released spy Jonathan Pollard renounce his U.S. citizenship so he can join his wife in Israel.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Eliot Engel, both New York Democrats, have written to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking that Mr. Pollard, who is due to be released Friday after serving 30 years in prison, be allowed to move to Israel.
Mr. Pollard was a civilian analyst for the Navy when he was arrested in 1985 on charges of spying for Israel and later sentenced to life in prison. Over an 18-month period, officials say he removed large volumes of classified documents from government files and gave them to his Israeli handler.
The Bureau of Prisons is freeing him after a parole commission determination earlier this year he should be released early from his life sentence.
In their letter to the attorney general, the two lawmakers said Mr. Pollard “understands that, as a condition of being permitted to move to Israel, he may need to renounce his American citizenship.” They added: “Despite the serious consequences that may follow such a decision, including being permanently barred from returning to the United States, he is willing to undertake this extraordinary measure.’’
The lawmakers asked Ms. Lynch to give Mr. Pollard’s request “the fair consideration it deserves.’’ Congressional aides said that the letter was prompted by discussions with Mr. Pollard’s wife, who lives in Israel, about his wish to live with her.
“Having him in the U.S. for five years, it would be a circus,’’ said Mr. Engel. “It would be better to let him go—better for him, and better for the country, to put an end to this saga.’’
A lawyer for Mr. Pollard didn’t respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.
It is far from certain the Justice Department will grant the request. A department spokesman declined to comment on the lawmakers’ letter.
Under the terms of his parole, which could last five years or longer, Mr. Pollard must get prior approval for any travel outside the district where he lives.
Mr. Pollard’s lawyers have said he plans to live in the New York area, but would very much like to live in Israel. The White House has already signaled the president wouldn’t intervene to allow Mr. Pollard to leave the country, meaning any decision would come from the Justice Department.
The Pollard case has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel, which has argued a life sentence for spying on behalf of a close U.S. partner is too harsh. For decades, Israel had sought Mr. Pollard’s early release, only to be rejected by the U.S. in part because senior intelligence officials strenuously objected.
When Mr. Pollard had a hearing in July, Justice Department officials raised no objections to Mr. Pollard being granted parole.
U.S. intelligence sources report that the one Israeli who is considered an extreme threat to U.S. national security is former prime minister and current prime minister hopeful Binyamin Netanyahu. Not only has Netanyahu visited convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in his North Carolina prison cell and advocated strenuously for his release, but he was once overheard by an ex-CIA agent as saying to a group of his supporters, "Once we squeeze all we can out of the United States, it can dry up and blow away." Considering the damage the neocons and their Israeli facilitators are causing for U.S. national security, Netanyahu may soon have his wish.