Joseph diGenova, the former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Israeli spy and former U.S. intelligence agent Jonathan Pollard, said Tuesday his potential release under an emerging deal to extend Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would be “literally insane.”
The Obama administration has been weighing whether to release Pollard, the 59-year-old Israeli spy who did historic damage to the U.S. and is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of espionage in 1987.
The emerging deal would reportedly extend negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis past an original April 29 deadline and into 2015. In exchange for the release of Pollard, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would also be released. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday no decision has been made on whether to release Pollard.
“My first reaction was that it doesn’t make any sense because it’s literally insane,” diGenova told Business Insider in a phone interview Tuesday. “In the midst of the Edward Snowden scandal, this administration is proposing to release a spy who has done some of the gravest damage ever done to the United States.”
DiGenova repeatedly drew the connection between Pollard and Snowden. He said it would inspire Snowden copycats, who would get the hint the federal government would always be ready to cave under the right circumstances. He even said CIA Director John Brennan should threaten to resign if Pollard is freed, much like former CIA Director George Tenet threatened to do in 1998 amid President Bill Clinton’s consideration of the move.
But the most baffling aspect for both diGenova and other experts is that the U.S. is dangling Pollard as an enticement only to extend talks. There is no indication Israel and Palestine are anywhere close to a peace deal, or even close to an agreement on any of the remaining sticking points. Even if the talks are extended, there’s a good chance they could ultimately fail.
DiGenova has been openly critical of President Barack Obama on a host of issues. He is a longtime Republican activist, and he represents a former Marine who has accused Obama of participating in a cover up on the 2012 Benghazi terror attack. But he, like others, pointed to the extensive damage done by Pollard’s spying.
Pollard, a former Navy intelligence officer, used his top-secret clearance to access to national defence information. He provided Israel with thousands of pages of U.S. intelligence on military and technical intelligence on the Soviet Union, Arab states, and Pakistan. Israel promised to pay him nearly $US750,000 to spy, diGenova said.
“For the President to link his release to some vague peace process, give him to the country for whom he worked against his own country … this is insanity,” diGenova said. “No president can conceive of this at a time like this, with Snowden hanging around in Russia. This is mind-boggling. It’s lunacy.”
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