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US considers release of spy Pollard

JERUSALEM (AP) - The United States is talking with Israel about releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard early from his life sentence as an incentive to the Israelis in the troubled Mideast peace negotiations, people familiar with the talks said Monday. Releasing Pollard, a thorn in U.S.-Israeli relations for three decades, would be an extraordinary step underscoring the urgency of U.S. peace efforts.

Two people describing the talks cautioned that such a release - which would be a dramatic turnaround from previous refusals - was far from certain and that discussions with Israel on the matter were continuing. Both spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks on the record.

In return for the release, the people close to the talks said, Israel would have to undertake significant concessions to the Palestinians in Middle East negotiations. Such concessions could include some kind of freeze on Israeli settlements in disputed territory, the release of Palestinian prisoners beyond those Israel has already agreed to free and a guarantee that Israel would stay at the negotiating table beyond an end-of-April deadline.

Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat and another Palestinian official late Monday, then planned an early Tuesday meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials have consistently argued against releasing Pollard.

Pollard, an American Jew, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he gave thousands of classified documents to his Israeli handlers. The Israelis recruited him to pass along U.S. secrets including satellite photos and data on Soviet weaponry in the 1980s. He was arrested by FBI agents in Washington in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents to Israel and received a life sentence. President Barack Obama and his predecessors have refused to release Pollard despite pleas from Israeli leaders.

Apart from any negotiations in the meantime, Pollard could be released from prison on Nov. 21, 2015 - 30 years after his arrest. He has been serving his sentence at a federal facility in Butner, N.C.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday declined to discuss any possible deal.

"He is a person who is convicted of espionage and is serving his sentence. I don't have any updates on his situation," Carney told reporters at the White House.

Ahead of his trip to the Middle East last March, Obama told Israeli television station Channel 2 that Pollard "is an individual who committed a very serious crime here in the United States."

"He's been serving his time," Obama said. "I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately but what I am going to be doing is to make sure that he, like every other American who's been sentenced, is accorded the same kinds of review and the same examination of the equities that any other individual would provide."

The president said at the time that he recognized the emotions involved in the situation. But he added, "As the president, my first obligation is to observe the law here in the United States and to make sure that it's applied consistently."

Various suggestions for deals for Pollard's release have been floated over the years, and they were raised again last week in the Israeli press.

The long-running Middle East peace negotiations are snagged over several issues, including wither Israel will agree to release more than two dozen prisoners. They include 14 Arab Israelis whom Palestinian authorities consider to be heroes and freedom fighters. Israel considers them terrorists.

Israel has already released three other groups of prisoners as part of the peace negotiations that began last July. All had served lengthy terms for involvement in attacks on Israelis, and scenes of them returning to jubilant celebrations have angered the Israeli public. A fourth batch was scheduled to be released on March 29, and the delay has prompted Palestinian authorities to threaten to end the negotiations.

Netanyahu has said he would present any additional release recommendations to his Cabinet - where approval is not guaranteed. Netanyahu's coalition is dominated by hard-liners who have been extremely critical of the previous releases. The final release is especially contentious because it is expected to include convicted murderers and Arab citizens of Israel.

Carney declined to offer details when asked about that prisoner release. "This is a complicated issue that is being worked through with the parties," he said.

Pollard is said to be in poor health. His case has become a rallying cry in Israel, where leaders say his nearly three decades in U.S. prison amounts to excessive punishment. Pollard enjoys widespread sympathy among Israelis, and Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have routinely pressed Obama and other U.S. presidents for his pardon or release.

Stiff opposition from the American military and intelligence community has deterred the White House. Intelligence officials have argued that his release would harm national security and that the U.S. must maintain a strong deterrent to allies by warning them of the consequences of spying on American soil.

But there are signs that that resolve may be softening. In recent years, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, along with prominent figures such as Sen. John McCain and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, have all called for Pollard's release.

Netanyahu has sought to link a Pollard release to peace talks before. During his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu pressed the issue as part of a 1998 interim deal with the Palestinians. President Bill Clinton rejected that request after fierce opposition from U.S. intelligence officials.

Also during Netanyahu's first term, in the late 1990s, Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship. While Netanyahu was out of office, he visited Pollard in prison. In 2011, Netanyahu formally appealed to the U.S. for the release and made a personal plea to allow him to attend his father's funeral. The U.S. denied those requests.

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pboucard50 March 31 2014 at 8:34 PM

Releasing Pollard, a thorn in U.S.-Israeli relations for three decades, would be an extraordinary step underscoring the urgency of U.S. peace efforts. What peace efforts? Peace will never be reached because it's not the end game, the true goal.

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CalSailor March 31 2014 at 8:35 PM

As a former US Military intelligence officer, Jonathan Pollard should not be released until he has served the maximum penalty he was given. He swore an oath to carry out the requirements of the classified materials he had access to. He made up his mind to violate his oath and share materials with a foreign nation which was not authorized to receive such materials. It doesn't matter if it was an ally that received them. What matters is the oath that he and every one of us who received intelligence information swore to observe, he violated. What about the next guy who wants to share something because in HIS judgment the other guy should get it? There needs to be seriousness about the oaths we make and the laws we are required to observe.

In jail he is a role model for what happens when an intelligence officer violates his oath and makes up his own mind as to carrying out laws. I don't always agree with what I was given and what tasking I had, but that was my oath. What if his loyalties are to Syria, Iran, and Libya and some other nations we were not allies with?

Pr Chris

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2 replies
Richard CalSailor March 31 2014 at 9:10 PM

Demonstrates again the utter hypocrisy of our president's personal behavior, a role model for getting away freely with violating his oath and making up his own mind. I thank my Lord for persons such as yourself who do take it seriously. One can honestly wonder where BHO places his loyalty.

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skarbitration CalSailor March 31 2014 at 9:15 PM


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tcan701 March 31 2014 at 7:26 PM

The people he was spying for are the same people the killed 34 unarmed AMERICAN sailors and wounding 170 more aboard the USS Liberty. Machine gunning the life rafts to try to prevent any survivors.

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ezgoingncolo March 31 2014 at 8:10 PM

This posting system is like Flight 370 ... one's messages appear and then - disappear ... ???

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lenorasayshello April 01 2014 at 6:57 AM


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SpiritUSA March 31 2014 at 8:19 PM

Let me paint you the complete picture ...
Every country has their "spies" and are always searching to gain 'information'.
We all just can't get along ... work together to make the world a better place for all.

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newgismo March 31 2014 at 7:58 PM

There was a time when spies were hung by the neck until dead and that applied to all spies regard less of nationality, race or religion ..That was when America was strong and right ..new gismo...

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tillyweb April 01 2014 at 12:55 AM

it depend on how you view things and where you view them from ... my dad and his brothers were considered to be "terrorists" by the nazi's because they were in the French Resistance ... they considered themselves Freedom fighters ...

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1 reply
ronrsj tillyweb April 01 2014 at 1:24 AM

It's much like the Beyond the Fringe observation that the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter largely depends on whether you are being disemboweled by one.

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timetojumpout March 31 2014 at 11:51 PM

Hmmmm, where are all the bleeding hearts that absolutely love the traitor now living in Russia? Don't they have something to say about a "friend nation" of the United States spying on us? Every nation does this kind of spying and they always will. A nation that does not spy on "friends" as well as known enemies won't survive for long. And he should rot in his cell.

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majajbii March 31 2014 at 11:45 PM

Mr. Pollard knew what he was doing and knew what the potential penalties were for his betrayal. He deserves to remain right where he is for the rest of his natural life. For the record, I would advocate for the same sentence for that lowlife now hiding in Russia after picking the NSA's computers clean. Treason is treason, and spies belong behind bars for life.

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1 reply
waltervlod majajbii April 01 2014 at 12:59 AM

Eric is a communist who will be rewarded by the ****** and Igors.
Hopefully, they'll give him a ho with aids.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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