Attorney General Lynch: No Pollard link to Iran deal

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Story highlights

  • Justice Department will not interfere with release
  • AG speaks at Aspen Security Forum

(CNN)Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard has served enough time in prison to be released according to the sentencing laws he was convicted under in 1985, and the Justice Department will not interfere in the case, Attorney General Lynch said on Saturday.

Lynch -- who also rejected any connection between his possible release and the Iran nuclear agreement -- said that Pollard was one of the few prisoner's still serving time under old sentencing structures which gave those with life terms for certain crimes the possibility of parole after lengthy stints behind bars.
"Our sentencing structure has changed in the late '80's and early '90's to where now a life sentence is in fact a life sentence. But under the law in which he was sentenced and the laws of our country which we abide It's not really a recommendation needed from us," Lynch said at the Aspen Security Forum.
    Lynch also rejected speculation that Pollard's release could be timed to placate the Israeli government, which has long lobbied for his release, at a time when diplomatic tensions are high following a controversial nuclear deal with Iran.
    "It would have been extremely far-thinking of people 30 years ago to sentence Mr. Pollard and set this mandatory release date to coincide with the Iran deal. And if they were able to pull that off I would be quite impressed," Lynch told NBC's Andrea Mitchell, who was moderating the session.
    Pollard was convicted in 1987 after being charged with passing classified military information to Israel when he was a U.S. Naval Intelligence officer. He is eligible for parole this November and by all accounts has been a model prisoner while serving out his sentence, which has been taken into consideration by the parole board.
    "They simply evaluate his behavior in prison, they evaluate all the factors and circumstances. And we look at it in terms of anything we need to look at further or investigate or review and provide that information to the parole board," Lynch Said.
    But his good behavior, coupled with the belief by U.S. officials that the information he once possessed is no longer a threat to America, is still not enough to convince some officials that he is deserving of parole. On Friday, Intelligence Director James Clapper was asked about how the intelligence community felt about Pollard's potential release.
    "I think that within the community he's viewed very negatively. Even though a lot of the people who were around when all of this happened have left the community. But there's still I think an institutional memory of it and it's quite negative," Clapper told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum.
    Clapper is unsure whether or not he will have any say when the government is believed to petition for his release in November, adding, "I don't know... I'll have to see."
    On Friday, U.S. officials told CNN the U.S. government anticipates releasing Pollard in November or perhaps even earlier if legally possible.
    CNN's Evan Perez and Pamela Brown contributed to this story.