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US intel chief: Pollard still viewed ‘negatively’

James Clapper says parole discussions for Israeli spy will likely include government petition; release may ease tensions over nuke deal

File: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in Washington, DC, February 26, 2015. (Evy Mages/Getty Images/AFP)
File: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in Washington, DC, February 26, 2015. (Evy Mages/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Amid reports that the US may be preparing to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, National Intelligence Director James Clapper emphasized Friday that Pollard was still viewed “negatively” within the US intelligence community.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, an elite gathering of analysts and practitioners, Clapper said that “he’s viewed very negatively, even though a lot of the people who were around have left the community. There’s still an institutional memory of it and it is quite negative.”

He acknowledged that Pollard would be up for parole in November, and said that he “imagined” that the parole board procedures “will include a petition from the government,” although he did not discuss what exactly the government would petition for.

The government petitioned against Pollard’s early release in the one other parole hearing that has been held in Pollard’s case. Clapper said that he did not know whether he would have a say regarding Pollard’s release.

Jonathan Pollard (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
Jonathan Pollard (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

According to US officials cited in a Wall Street Journal report Friday, the release may come as part of an effort to alleviate tensions over the Iran nuclear deal.

Some are reportedly pushing for Pollard’s release in a matter of weeks, while others say it could take months. Still other US officials mentioned in the report denied any link between the Iranian nuclear deal and Pollard’s potential release.

There have been multiple false starts and reports over the years indicating that Pollard’s release was imminent. During his farewell visit as president of Israel to Washington DC last year, Shimon Peres pressed President Barack Obama for Pollard’s release.

In August 2014, a request by Pollard for parole was denied, with the officials arguing that releasing Pollard would “constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law.”

AP contributed to this report.

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