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Editorial:  Jonathan Pollard should abide by the terms of his parole

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard leaves the federal courthouse in New York on Nov. 20.

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard leaves the federal courthouse in New York on Nov. 20.

(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Jonathan J. Pollard, the former U.S. intelligence analyst sentenced to life in prison for spying for Israel, has been released from incarceration after serving 30 years. But some of Pollard’s supporters, with an assist from two members of Congress, want the Obama administration to go further and waive a requirement that he not leave the United States without permission during his parole, which is likely to be five years. We see no reason for such a concession.

In a letter to Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch, Reps. Jerrold Nader and Elliot L. Engel, Democrats from New York, asked for “fair consideration” of Pollard’s request that he be allowed to move to Israel immediately. They noted that Pollard was willing in turn to renounce his U.S. citizenship, adding that he understands the likelihood that he would never be permitted to reenter the U.S.

Pollard betrayed his country and got paid for his espionage.

Nadler and Engel said that granting Pollard’s wish would be in “America’s interest” — an apparent allusion to the idea that acceding to Pollard’s request would improve U.S.-Israeli relations — and “the interests of justice.” They also claimed that the Justice Department established a precedent when it agreed to let Rene Gonzalez, a convicted spy for Cuba, remain in that country (where he was attending his father’s funeral) and renounce his U.S. citizenship in 2013.

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There are occasions when national security can justify allowing a spy to return to the country that employed him. In 1962, the U.S. traded Rudolf Abel, a convicted Soviet spy, for Francis Gary Powers, whose U-2 surveillance plane had been shot down. A similar goal may have been at play in Gonzalez’s case; at the time, Cuba was holding American contractor Alan Gross.

Obviously, there is no American being held by Israel who needs to be ransomed in exchange for Pollard. Allowing him to travel there in an effort to curry favor with Israel would be unseemly, a point this page made in 2014 when the Obama administration was reportedly dangling the possibility of Pollard’s early release in an (unsuccessful) attempt to win Israeli concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians.

As for the “interests of justice,” Pollard betrayed his country and got paid for his espionage. His release on parole after 30 years in prison was appropriate, but he must abide by its terms.

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