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Israel: State Comptroller Report Says U.S. Deprived Convicted Spy of Due Process

(Sept. 3, 2009) On September 2, 2009, a report was issued by Israel's State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, on the Israeli government's actions to obtain the release of Jonathan Pollard, who has been incarcerated in the United States since 1985 following his conviction for spying for Israel. Pollard, an American citizen, received Israeli citizenship in 1995 and was acknowledged as an agent working for Israel in 1998. While most of its content remains classified, an abstract of the report was released for publication.

The report was directed by the Knesset (parliament) State Control Committee and focused on the efforts exerted by Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert to secure Pollard's release. In preparing the report, the State Comptroller established an investigative team that reviewed numerous documents and met with former Israeli prime ministers and other officials whose portfolios cover national security and foreign affairs. The State Comptroller further ordered a professional legal opinion regarding all the procedures related to Pollard's trial from Professor Kenneth Mann, whom the report describes as “knowledgeable in American law and an expert in criminal law.” According to the report, the request for Mann's opinion was initiated and paid for by the State Comptroller's office.

The report concluded that there has been strong and steady opposition on the part of U.S. administrations to releasing Pollard, based on U.S. intelligence claims that his release contradicts U.S. defense interests. The report further concludes that Israeli prime ministers had steadily raised the Pollard issue in discussions with U.S. presidents. These discussions, however, have not been recorded. Official contacts were also made by Israeli officials to their U.S. administration counterparts, as well as to Members of Congress. All efforts, however, were unsuccessful.

The State Comptroller proposed a review of the Pollard issue in the Ministerial Committee for Matters of Defense (which includes the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Justice) in order to discuss future coordination between the ministries regarding Pollard's release.

The report further notes that the evaluation of Mann's opinion and additional testimony “raises an important issue, namely, the apparent harm to Pollard's right to due process of law in accordance with the Fifth Amendment of the American Constitution, that anchors the basic rights of one suspected of an offense.”

The report states that the Israeli government, led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, must make every effort to obtain Pollard's release because of the debt it owes him and the fragile condition of his health. (Israeli Government Actions for the Release of Jonathan Pollard (Abstract of Opinion) [in Hebrew], The State Comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel website, Sept. 2, 2009, available at