Jonathan and Esther Pollard.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard's strict parole conditions could be removed next month, a New York District Court judge said at the end of a hearing on Friday.
Pollard was released from prison on parole in November after serving 30 years of a life sentence for spying for Israel. But his parole conditions prevent him from leaving his New York home after 7pm or before 7am, require him to wear a GPS monitoring device that forces him to break the Sabbath, and force him to submit any computer he uses for inspection.
Following two hours of oral arguments about the parole conditions, Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York told Pollard's lawyer Eliot Lauer that she would probably issue a ruling within four weeks, Lauer told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
Lauer argued in the Manhattan federal court that the US Parole Commission had imposed arbitrary requirements. Those conditions were based partly on the grounds that Pollard could still disclose government secrets, which Lauer called inconceivable as his client would need to remember classified information from more than 30 years ago.
“The information is ridiculously stale, and it’s the type of information that no human being could reasonably recall,” Lauer told Forrest.
By leaving the computer restriction in place, Lauer said Pollard was being prevented from taking an investment firm job.
But a prosecutor pointed to a letter by US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stating that documents compromised by Pollard remain classified at the levels of “top secret” and “secret.”
“They do pose a current harm to national security if they are disclosed further,” Assistant US Attorney Rebecca Sol Tinio told the court.
She also said the commission rightly concluded Pollard was a flight risk given he had repeatedly expressed the wish to move to Israel, where his wife lives. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in prison and Israel had long pushed for his release. As part of his parole, Pollard must remain in the United States for five years.
The Ultra-Orthodox news website Hamodia reported Friday that during the arguments, Judge Forrest often seemed sympathetic to Lauer, repeatedly saying, “I hear your point.” But she questioned whether she had the authority to second-guess the decision on the parole conditions made by the Parole Commission. She noted that even if the court were to come to a different conclusion than the government over the parole restrictions, the “rational basis” test requires only that the Parole Commission’s restrictions be grounded in some rational basis, a low legal burden.
“As long as there is something there, even if there is a trail of breadcrumbs,” it would be enough to require the court to defer to the Parole Commission, Forrest said.
Tinio, who represented the government at the oral arguments, said that while “the government isn’t arguing that Pollard used a computer to commit his crimes,” the use of a computer is the ideal way in a contemporary society to transmit information. She also argued that the parole commissioner is willing to work with Pollard to tailor the computer restrictions’ for a specific employer.
Friday’s proceedings were the second time Pollard challenged his parole conditions in court.
In December, Forrest ordered the US Parole Commission to provide further justification for the tracking device and computer monitoring. The commission in March upheld the conditions while providing further reasoning.
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