U.S. officials are denying a report by the The Wall Street Journal that says the Obama administration is preparing to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard early to help ease tensions with Israel.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Alistair Baskey, said that "there is zero linkage between Mr. Pollard's status and foreign policy considerations." He said Pollard's status would be determined by the U.S. Parole Commission according to "standard procedures."
Pollard has served nearly 30 years in prison on charges of spying for Israel and is up for parole in November.
The Journal published its report Friday, citing anonymous U.S. officials, some of whom it said hoped Pollard's release would improve relations with Israel following the Iran nuclear deal. The report said some administration officials were pushing for Pollard's release in a matter of weeks, while others expected it would not happen until he was up for parole.
The Justice Department said in a statement Friday that it "continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed."
Pollard, a Jewish American, was arrested on charges of spying for Israel in 1985 and was sentenced to life in prison. He worked as a civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy at the time of his arrest and later pleaded guilty of leaking thousands of classified documents to Israel.
Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship while in prison, and his case has long been a cause of tension between Israel and the United States.
Now 60, Pollard is reported to be in poor health at a prison in the state of North Carolina.
Relations between the United States and Israel have been increasingly tense in recent years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced strong opposition to the nuclear deal struck this month between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S.
Pollard's case is unusual in that he was caught spying for a U.S. ally. Israeli officials have long championed his bid for freedom, and Netanyahu, when he was out of office, visited the imprisoned Pollard in 2002.
Some researchers looking at Pollard's case say his spy efforts were more extensive than just working for Israel. Former U.S. naval intelligence officials have claimed Pollard offered U.S. secrets to three other countries before working for the Israelis, and to a fourth nation while carrying out the spying for the Israelis.
Some prominent U.S. officials say the life prison term Pollard was handed after pleading guilty of espionage, however, is excessive.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008; former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz; and one-time Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey all have called for Pollard's release.