Despite Israeli calls, the US is reluctant to release jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, saying the former Navy employee is guilty of "the most serious crimes."
"I think it is important to underscore that Pollard was convicted of some of the most serious crimes that anybody can be charged (with)," AFP quoted White House spokesman Robert Gibbs as saying on Wednesday.
Pollard is serving a life sentence for passing thousands of secret military documents about US spy activities in the Arab world to Israel between May 1984 and his arrest in November 1985.
Pollard himself has never denied that he turned over a great deal of classified material to the Israelis, but he maintains that his sole motive was to favor Israeli security.
Bill Clinton, during his tenure as US president, had turned down the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s request for clemency.
During talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in October, Tel Aviv brought up the issue with President Barack Obama. According to Israeli reports, Obama had tentatively agreed to release Pollard.
When the president’s acquiescence became publicly known, the American intelligence community responded immediately, with unequivocal anger.
According to the Times, George J. Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, warned the president that he would have to resign from the agency if Pollard were to be released.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a letter to US President Barack Obama, has called for Pollard’s release, reports said on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later told Netanyahu that Pollard’s release would not be imminent, and ordered a formal review of the case.
But many observers feel it is unlikely that Obama would immediately grant the request, citing vehement opposition from the US intelligence community.