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Judge Questions Restrictions on Israel Spy

MANHATTAN (CN) - The U.S. Parole Commission failed to demonstrate the need for extra government scrutiny on convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, a federal judge ruled Monday.

One day shy of his 30th year behind bars for using his job as a civilian intelligence contractor to supply classified information in suitcases to Israeli agents, Pollard became a free man last month on Nov. 20.

He immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the conditions of his parole, including a curfew and GPS and Internet monitoring.

Eliot Lauer, an attorney for the spy with Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosele, noted that the Internet did not even exist when Pollard passed along hard copies of the information in 1985.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest appeared skeptical about the need for these restrictions at a roughly hour-long hearing Monday, but she gave the U.S. Parole Commission another opportunity to make its case.

The commission spent just one page explaining its desire to keep a close eye on Pollard.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Sol Tonio noted that the "top-secret" and "secret" classification of the documents Pollard passed on, by definition, means the disclosure of that information could pose "exceptionally grave" or "serious" damage to the government.

For Lauer, however, that risk is long gone, if it was ever a factor at all.

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and former Senate Intelligence Committee member Dennis DeConcini both submitted sworn declarations on Pollard's behalf finding that this information is "of no value to anyone today."

The prosecutor disputed this by saying that much of the information "remains classified." Ironically, however, the Parole Commission lacks security clearances to understand why.

When Pollard first filed his lawsuit, he pointed to his severe diabetes as a reason why his bracelet was a burden. Now he asserts that as an observant Jew the bracelet imposes a religious burden because he has to recharge its batteries on the sabbath.

Pollard also says curfews forcing to be home between before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. prevent him from attending religious services and events, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Tonio countered that parole officials swapped his monitoring with another that keeps a charge for 40 hours to address the first issue.

One probation officer who submitted a declaration for the defense told the court that Pollard's case is only the third that he has encountered involving monitoring.

As for the computer monitoring, Pollard claims that this restriction is burden for his attempt to land a job in the finance industry.

Judge Forrest said that she was reluctant to make any changes to the terms of his parole without giving the Parole Commission another chance to explain their findings on remand.

"If I were wrong, I would be treading in an area that is quite serious," she said.

Pollard and his attorneys declined to comment outside the courtroom.

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