Jonathan Jay Pollard (born August 7, 1954) is an American prison inmate who pled guilty in 1987 to selling classified information to Israel while working as a civilian intelligence analyst. He was sentenced to life in prison; but because his offenses were committed prior to November 1987, he could become eligible for parole as early as November 2015.
Pollard is the only American ever to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally of the U.S. Israeli officials, American and Israeli activist groups, and American politicians who see his punishment as unfair have lobbied continuously for reduction or commutation of his sentence. The Israeli government issued a formal apology to the U.S. in 1987 for its role in Pollard's espionage. Since then, it has made repeated attempts, through both official and unofficial channels, to negotiate his release. Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, but did not publicly admit buying classified information from him until 1998. Pollard's supporters claim that he has "expressed regret" for his actions, and argue that he was never charged with treason (which is only applicable, technically, in cases that involve an enemy state).
In contrast, there is considerable ongoing resistance to any form of clemency from numerous officials familiar with the case, including former CIA director George Tenet, multiple former U.S. Secretaries of Defense, a bipartisan group of U.S. congressional leaders, and members of the American intelligence community. Opponents maintain that the damage to American national security as a result of Pollard's activities was far more severe and enduring than publicly acknowledged. Intelligence officials contend that at least some of the information purchased from Pollard ended up in the Soviet Union. His motives, they argue, were monetary, not idealistic or patriotic. He stole classified documents related to China that his wife used to advance her personal business interests. He admitted shopping his services to countries other than Israel. There is evidence that he sold classified information to South Africa, and attempted to do so with Pakistan. He also attempted to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran.
Pollard's case was later linked to that of Ben-ami Kadish, another U.S. citizen who pled guilty to charges of passing classified information to Israel in the same period.