Jonathan Pollard, the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally, received a sentence of that magnitude because of an unauthorized interview he gave Wolf Blitzer of the Jerusalem Post in 1986, according to a newly declassified CIA document.
Pollard, who on Nov. 21 entered his 28th year in federal prison following a conviction of spying for Israel without intent to harm the U.S., cooperated with prosecutors in 1987 return for an assurance that he would not receive a life sentence. But according to the CIA, Pollard’s interview with Blitzer—now a veteran television news anchor for CNN—violated that deal, the Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.
In the interview on Nov. 20, 1986, Pollard provided “extensive information on his motives and objectives in conducting espionage for Israel” and also gave Blitzer “a general account with important examples of intelligence he passed to the Israelis, and emphasized that the Israeli government must have been aware of and approved of his activities,” the declassified CIA document said.
The fact that Pollard gave the interview with Blitzer “without obtaining advance approval of the resulting text from the Justice Department,” the document said, represented a violation of his plea bargain.
Additionally, the document said Pollard’s wife at the time, Anne, also gave an unauthorized interview—with the CBS “60 Minutes” program, three days before Pollard’s sentencing.
Esther Pollard, Jonathan’s current wife, told the Jerusalem Post that the U.S. government “did something highly suspicious by forgetting to send anyone to monitor these interviews.”
“Later, at sentencing, the prosecutor successfully inflamed the judge against Jonathan by falsely claiming that not only had the interviews been secretly arranged behind their backs, but that Jonathan had also disclosed highly classified material to Blitzer that compromised the intelligence community’s sources and methods,” she said.
Pollard’s advocates in Congress and elsewhere have long said that his life sentence is disproportionate to his crime. When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last June, Israeli President Shimon Peres reportedly asked President Barack Obama in a private meeting to grant Pollard clemency. But the White House, at the time, said it would not change its position on Pollard.