pollard - AP - March 30, 2006
Former U.S. naval intelligence clerk Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview, May 15, 1998 Photo by AP
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The United States must free Jonathan Pollard immediately, the former American deputy defense secretary at the time of Pollard's arrest told Army Radio on Sunday.

Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 on charges of spying on the U.S. for Israel.

Lawrence Korb said that Pollard should be freed since his punishment was too severe relative to the felonies he committed.

Korb pointed out that Pollard has been sitting in prison longer than any other person who has been charged with spying for a friendly country on the U.S.

The reason for Pollard's severe punishment, Korb explained in a piece written for the Los Angeles Times, was due to a letter that the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time gave to the court directly before Pollard's sentencing.

In the letter, Secretary of Defense Caspar Willard Weinberger detailed the damage that Pollard caused to the national security of the U.S., including an apparent connection with the exposure and subsequent killing of 11 American agents in the former USSR. According to Korb, the letter demanded that Pollard be severely punished. In Korb's article, he says the thinking that any of Pollard's information had reached the USSR has been debunked.

Another reason that Korb cited in his article was the refusal on the side of the Israeli government to acknowledge that Pollard was indeed one of their agents.

Last month, several U.S. congressmen signed a petition calling on President Obama to pardon Jonathan Pollard in order to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

A statement released by Democratic Representative Barney Frank "notes the positive impact that a grant of clemency would have in Israel, as a strong indication of the goodwill of our nation towards Israel and the Israeli people."

The petition in support of Pollard's release will circulate until mid-October, when it will be sent to the U.S. president, the statement released by Frank's office said.