Those criminal defense lawyers who regularly practice in federal court likely have not encountered a federal parolee in 20 years. This is for good reason as parole was abolished for all federal offenses with the enactment of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (SRA). However, for those convicted of offenses before the SRA was enacted and sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment, they are still subject to that byzantine punishment. Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard is one such dinosaur.
Pollard, a former naval intelligence analyst, was released from prison last week after 30 years behind bars for spying for Israel. There was little time for joy after his release because his lawyers immediately went to court to challenge his parole conditions designed to ensure Pollard didn’t divulge any U.S. military secrets he squirreled away. Pollard’s parole conditions require him to wear a GPS unit to transmit his whereabouts at all times, allow the installation of monitoring equipment on any computers he uses at work or at home, and agree to periodic, unannounced inspections of those machines.
To support their petition, Pollard’s lawyers submitted a statement from former U.S. National Security Adviser Bud McFarlane dismissing the government’s fears–“To the extent Mr. Pollard even recalls any classified information, it would date back 30 years or more, and would have no value to anyone today.”
U.S. intelligence officials have long argued that Pollard, who pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage, did severe damage to the United States during the Cold War by giving away an enormous volume of military intelligence secrets that some suspect wound up in Soviet hands. His defenders, in turn, have contended that his punishment was overly harsh for helping a close U.S. ally.