Jonathan Pollard served a thirty year sentence and was released on parole in 2015. After the Trump administration ended the restrictions, the Israeli agent is free to travel to leave the US.
A 66-year-old man at the centre of one of the most controversial espionage cases in US history will be allowed to leave the country for Israel, after the Trump administration decided to let his parole conditions expire.
Former US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard passed on classified information to Israel during the 80s in a rare known instance of spying between the close allies.
Hundreds of documents including information about Arab and Soviet weapons and satellite imagery were given over to Israeli intelligence operatives.
Pollard was rumbled after a year and a half exposing US secrets to Israel and was caught on while attempting to claim asylum inside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC.
The spy gave a guilty plea before trial and was subsequently served 30 years in prison followed by release on parole in 2015.
Intelligence operatives and Defence Department officials maintained that Pollard had hampered Washington’s intelligence gathering capability and raised objections to any easing of his punishment.
Senior US officials including former CIA Director George Tenet and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both pro-Israel hawks themselves, had objected to any lightening of Pollard’s sentence while they were in power.
Joseph E diGenova, the attorney who prosecuted Pollard, said that the case was one of the “top ten” most serious cases of espionage in US history and that he personally wished that Pollard would have served more than the 30 years he spent behind bars.
Allowing Pollard’s parole to expire, thereby allowing him to move to Israel, is therefore being seen as yet another parting gift by the Trump administration towards Israel.
Quoted in the New York Times, lawyer Alan Dershowitz said that Pollard, who obtained Israeli citizenship in 1995, wants to be buried in Israel.
Trump, ardently pro-Israel even by US standards, has previously moved the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority, and brokered alliances between Israel and a number of Arab states.
An espionage threat
The Pollard case is just one small glimpse into the complicated world of US intelligence and its relationship with allies, such as Israel.
The intelligence agencies of the US and Israel are believed to have worked together on a number of high profile operations, such as the killing of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah in 2008 and the cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, using the Stuxnet virus.
Nevertheless, there is still a level of distrust on the part of the Americans over where Israel’s intelligence reach ends.
Documents made public by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2007 revealed that intelligence officials in the US considered Israel a major threat in terms of its espionage activities.
One document said that Israel was engaged in “espionage/intelligence collection operations and manipulation/influence operations” against US interests.
As Newsweek points out, the term “manipulation/influence operations” refers to Israel’s programme to sway US public opinion in its favour.
Another document designates Israel as the third biggest intelligence threat to the US after Russia and China.
One possible demonstration of how such influence operations may work was demonstrated in the Al Jazeera documentary, ‘The Lobby’. The investigation showed how Israeli diplomat Shai Masot worked closely with pro-Israel interest groups in political parties and universities to promote a pro-Israel agenda and counter activism in support of the Palestinians.
The devices known as ‘stingrays’ work by intercepting mobile phone signals and it is believed the target of their surveillance was President Donald Trump.
Israel’s embassy denied the accusations and Trump said he did not believe the reports.
No further action was taken.