Jonathan Pollard, an American serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel, is expected to be released from prison in 2015, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site. This is the first time a release date has been mentioned for Pollard.
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The prisons bureau, which falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Justice Department, has an "Inmate Locator" section allowing users to find out the actual or projected date of release by typing in the inmate's name. According to the site, Jonathan Jay Pollard, a 51-year-old white male, register no. 09185-016, is due for release on November 21, 2015 - the 30th anniversary of his arrest.
By contrast, the site lists "Life" as the "Release Date/Projected" for other convicted American spies sentenced to life terms, such as Aldrich Ames from the Central Intelligence Agency and Robert Hanssen from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The Justice Department's readiness to recognize a possible release date for Pollard, even if it isn't for another 10 years, could help the Israeli effort to cut his sentence further still.
Pollard supporters say the sentence he received is disproportionate to his offense, and American Jewish groups and Israel have been calling for Pollard's release for years. Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally, say his supporters, pointing out that the median sentence for the offense Pollard committed - one count of passing classified information to an ally - is two to four years.
If Pollard is released in 2015, Pollard will be escorted by FBI agents to the entrance of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. News of the expected release in 10 more years comes even though Pollard's sentence has not been officially shortened, nor has any step been taken to shorten it.
In contrast to Israeli policy, whereby a life sentence is usually shortened to 24 years, which can then be cut by a third, Americans serving life terms don't know whether or when they will be released. The judge who sentenced Pollard to life in 1986 suggested that he not be eligible for parole.
U.S. President George W. Bush and former president Bill Clinton have not complied with requests by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shorten Pollard's sentence. Although Clinton appeared ready to consider such a step during talks on the Wye Accord in 1998, the move was blocked by American intelligence and law-enforcement authorities.
The Netanyahu government has officially admitted that Pollard acted on behalf of an official Israeli government official in the Defense Ministry.