NEW YORK — A U.S. judge warned a convicted Israeli spy on Friday that she had only "limited" authority to help him overcome parole conditions preventing him from taking a financial industry job.
During a nearly two-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest repeatedly lowered expectations for Jonathan Pollard, who served over 30 years in prison after admitting giving secrets to Israel. She said she expects to rule within a month.
Forrest signaled she was unlikely to grant Pollard's request that she direct the U.S. Parole Commission to eliminate some parole restrictions, including monitoring of work computers and his whereabouts, along with a curfew.
She began the hearing by announcing that her ability to review a decision by a parole board "is quite limited." Then she said the restrictions could be found to be reasonable as long as they were not imposed in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner. She noted that if Pollard were sentenced today, he would be ineligible for parole. And she suggested that he could teach or find a job other than the position as an investment firm analyst that he was offered after his November release.
In June 1986, Pollard pleaded guilty to conspiring to deliver national defense information to a foreign government.
Prosecutors had accused him of giving secrets to Israeli agents from June 1984 through November 1985 after removing large amounts of highly secretive classified information from his office when he was an intelligence research specialist in the U.S. Navy.
Eliot Lauer, Pollard's attorney, said the government had failed to cite any documents among hundreds that his client supposedly once had access to that might be a national security risk decades later if information was released.
"It's amazing," he said. "You'd think they would provide some specific examples to the court."
"After accessing many, many hundreds of documents in 1984, 1985, can the government think he reasonably retains that in his head?" Lauer added. "The information is in fact ridiculously stale, the kind no individual could recall."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Sol Tinio said restrictions were necessary because national security could be affected if Pollard shares knowledge from classified documents.
She said the 61-year-old Pollard is still in the custody and under the responsibility of the U.S. attorney general and the parole commission.
She said the parole commission set the restrictions after considering the nature and circumstances of Pollard's crime and the history and characteristics of the defendant.
"Mr. Pollard's crime was so grave that he has been in a prison a long time," she said. "He was given a life sentence. He's still serving his sentence."