Aspin urges Pollard stay in prison

December 28, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, has tried to slip classified information into 14 of his letters from prison, Defense Secretary Les Aspin has told the White House.

In one of his final acts in office, Mr. Aspin told President Clinton in a confidential letter last week that Pollard should not be given leniency, as American Jewish groups and the Israeli government have requested, because the Pentagon still considers him to be a security risk and because of the severity of his offenses.

Officials in both the Justice Department and the White House have been discussing proposals to reduce the sentence of Pollard, serving a life sentence for espionage, by releasing him on parole ahead of schedule.

Mr. Clinton, who has broad discretion in clemency matters, has said he will soon decide what to do.

Mr. Aspin's Dec. 23 letter, which asserts that Pollard has included classified information in 14 of his letters from prison, is likely to make it more difficult for the White House to show leniency.

The letters were monitored by prison authorities, who presumably excised classified material Pollard included from memory after years in prison.

Officials would not say what was in the letters, to whom they were addressed or why Pollard would put classified information in correspondence that he knew would be monitored.

But they said Pollard was unrepentant, liked to show off his remarkable memory and was able to recall in detail information he had access to when he was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy in the mid-1980s.

Pollard's lawyer, Theodore B. Olson, said neither he nor Pollard had ever been told that Pollard's prison letters violated national security.

He said he did not know anything about the classified information cited by Mr. Aspin, and he suggested the information might have been nothing more than passing references Pollard used in defending himself against the government's charge that he damaged U.S. security.

Pollard was recruited as a spy by the Israeli Defense Ministry. He says he provided information vital to Israel's defense that was being withheld by Washington.

But prosecutors argued that the information he passed along hurt U.S. security and that Pollard received nearly $50,000 for it.

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