The White House is denying a published report that said convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard may be freed early to smooth relations with Israel that have been wounded by a nuclear deal with Iran.
Pollard, 60, is serving a life sentence in federal prison for selling classified information to Israel. He is already eligible for parole in November, but the Wall Street Journal, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, reported Friday that he may be released earlier.
The White House pushed back on the report late Friday afternoon. "Mr. Pollard's status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures. There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard's status and foreign policy considerations," said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy when he was arrested in November 1985. He pleaded guilty in May 1986.
The Israeli government, which made Pollard a citizen in 1995, has been pushing for his release for years, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally pressed the issue with President Obama and other U.S. officials. But former and current U.S. intelligence officials have consistently opposed his release, citing what they say was the considerable damage done by his spying.
His supporters say he is ill and that his sentence was unusually harsh for someone convicted of spying for a U.S. ally.