Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American convicted of passing U.S. secrets to Israel, was released Friday after serving a controversial 30 years in prison.
Gathered below are 15 things to know about Pollard, what landed him in prison, and what the case continues to mean for U.S.-Israel relations.
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1. He grew up in Indiana
— Born in Texas in 1954, Pollard's mother and father moved the family to South Bend, Indiana, in the 1960s so his father could take a job as a virologist at Notre Dame.
2. He felt discriminated against as a Jew
— In a CIA report compiled decades ago and released in 2012, Pollard told investigators that his life in Indiana presented him with an "agonizing struggle between competing values." According to CNN
, he said, "I suddenly found myself confronting a community in which racism and bigotry were acceptable social practices. I was never able to establish friendships in my neighborhoods and was compelled to spend most of my time around the city's Hebrew Day School, where I felt at least physically safe and emotionally protected."
3. He passed intelligence to Israel
— After graduating from Stanford University, Pollard went to work as an intelligence research specialist at the Naval Ocean Surveillance Information Center in 1979. After years of working there, he began passing intelligence to Israeli agents. After he began handling large amounts of intelligence having nothing to do with his assignments, he came under suspicion, and was confronted after taking classified material outside of the building. According to some reports, he was paid for passing the information to Israel.
4. He sought asylum at the Israeli embassy
— Pollard and his wife, Anne Henderson Pollard, were arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after the Israeli Embassy in Washington refused their request for asylum.
5. He was convicted under the Espionage Act
— "Pollard eventually pleaded guilty to handing Israel suitcases full of classified documents that included intelligence about Arab military systems and Soviet weapons as well as satellite photographs and information about American 'sources and methods' of its own spycraft," The New York Times reported
6. He was given a life sentence
— After pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage, Pollard was given a life sentence in prison. His wife was sentenced to five years in prison on accessory charges, but was paroled a few years in.
7. He regrets his actions
— "I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work," Pollard said in a 1998 interview, according to CBS News
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8. He is divorced and remarried
— Pollard divorced Anna a few years into his prison sentence, as he expected to be there for life. He married Esther "Elaine" Zeitz, a Canadian activist who has long campaigned for his early release, in the early '90s.
9. He was granted Israeli citizenship in prison
— Pollard applied for Israeli citizenship in 1995 from prison, and the request was granted.
10. Israel has long campaigned for his release
— Several efforts have been made by Israeli officials and laypeople to negotiate Pollard's release dating back to the 1980s, but to no avail. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even spoken to President Barack Obama about the issue.
11. He was released on parole, but can't move to Israel
— Pollard was released from a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, Friday after being granted parole. As part of the standard terms of the parole, he is not allowed to leave the country, foiling his desire to move to Israel. He's opted to spend his parole in New York City.
12. President Bush didn't help Pollard
— George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld all argued against releasing Pollard during the years of the Bush administration.
13. Obama won't help Pollard
— "The president has no plans to alter the forms of his parole," Benjamin J. Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters this week, according to The New York Times.
14. His release was kept low-key because of ongoing tensions
— "Mr. Netanyahu had asked his ministers to refrain from discussing the case in order to tamp down the air of celebration," The New York Times reported. Pollard's early-morning release was also reportedly planned to avoid spectacle.
15. He's met with his wife
— "We know that he is out of jail; we can’t give more details. He met his wife. It was a really, very, very moving moment, as you can imagine — the first time that they have been together as a couple out of jail, something that is really, really hard to imagine," said a spokesman for Free Pollard, an Israel-based group that has advocated for Pollard's release.
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