Pollard prosecutors drop unusual request

After judge restricted their request to file a secret brief, prosecutors file an unclassified one, seeking to retain Pollard's restrictions.

Hillel Fendel ,

Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard has won a small victory in his latest legal battle for relative freedom. Specifically, U.S. government prosecutors decided on Tuesday not to insist on filing a "classified" brief in the current legal battle over Pollard's parole restrictions.

Pollard was released on parole from U.S. prison after an unprecedented – for his crime of passing classified information to an American ally, namely, Israel – 30 years in jail last November. He was then given very severe parole restrictions: Home curfew from 7 PM to 7AM, constant wearing of an electronic bracelet for GPS tracking of his location, and constant monitoring and inspection of his computers, as well as those of his employer, if one would agree to hire him under such conditions. The daily recharging of the GPS bracelet involves the desecration of the Sabbath.

In response to Pollard's suit against the harsh restrictions, a federal judge ruled last December that the Parole Commission must explain why it placed the "broad and severe parole restrictions" on Pollard. The judge also asked whether Pollard, after all these years, still retained “in his head” secret information that could endanger the public and thereby justify the severity of the special conditions. It took nearly four months, but the Commission finally sent Pollard’s attorneys a “Supplemental Notice of Action,” supposedly meant to explain the rationale for the harsh restrictions. Pollard’s pro-bono attorneys felt that the Notice actually did no such thing, and filed a brief accusing the Commission of ignoring the court ruling and urging that she order that the restrictions be removed.

The next step was when the government prosecutors asked to file an "ex-parte" response, meaning that Pollard's attorneys would not be allowed to see it. In response, the ruling of Judge Katherine B. Forrest showed that she was not pleased with the government request. She ruled that the government must disclose the “gist or substance” of its secret submission, and "must justify the necessity of any ex-parte filing by including an ex-parte declaration or affidavit from an intelligence community official describing why Pollard’s counsel does not need to know the information contained in the filing.”

Here's where the "small victory" was won: The government took a long, hard look at the restrictions placed on its request, and decided it just wasn't worth it. Instead, the prosecutors submitted an unclassified declaration, written by an official of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Quoting a "legal expert who has been following the Pollard case for many years but is not affiliated with the current court case," Hamodia reported that the government was "very clearly peeved by [Judge Forrest's] requirement, one that likely severely hampers their ability to use such a filing against Pollard, so they decided to simply drop it… This is clearly a victory, albeit a relatively small one, for Pollard."

Pollard’s attorneys have until July 7 to file their reply, and oral arguments in the case are to be heard on July 22.