NEAR DETROIT, MI — Jonathan Pollard, a former civilian Navy intelligence analyst, is a traitor convicted of spying on the U.S. at the Mossad’s Bureau for Scientific Liaison’s behest. He’s been in jail for 25 years. Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu has a thing about trying to free him. There’s a fringe in Israel, as there is in the U.S., of people who want Pollard out of jail. Most right-wing American Jews readily understand that leniency on a spy is a bridge too far; extremely few right-wing Israelis want to make it an issue in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Then comes Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress, the premiere progressive think tank (which, full disclosure, very briefly employed me in 2008 to write the 1.0 version of this blog), to help Bibi out:

On Monday, Netanyahu met with Pollard’s wife Esther, as well as Lawrence Korb, who was the U.S. assistant secretary of defense at the time of Pollard’s arrest.

The two brought to Netanyahu a letter from Pollard asking that Israel formally request his release.

I’ve emailed Korb and asked him what’s up with this, and I’ll post his response when I get it. But the New York Times cites him saying:

Mr. Korb told reporters here on Tuesday that he had told the prime minister that to “get the ball rolling,” Mr. Netanyahu should ask for Mr. Pollard’s release publicly and “not as a quid pro quo, but as a matter of justice.”

So… releasing a convicted spy for nothing in return? At least that recognizes the U.S. wouldn’t actually get anything in return…

Update, 5:16 p.m.: Korb was good enough to call me from Ben-Gurion airport in Jerusalem, where yesterday he addressed the Knesset on Pollard. Not much came out of our conversation that isn’t in this post: Korb averred that Pollard was justly convicted, deserved to serve his time, but letting him out after 25 years is “a matter of justice.” He wrote about the case for freeing Pollard directly in October for the LA Times. I don’t find it compelling; maybe you will. And Korb reiterated that he’s not after any quid pro quo.

Update, 4:30 p.m., Dec. 22: Thanks to an eagle-eyed student of the Israeli security bureaucracy for the correction on who ran Pollard.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman