White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to contradict reports that the United States might release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as part of a deal to extend peace talks with the Palestinians.
"I have nothing new about Jonathan Pollard that I haven't said in the past, which is that he was convicted of espionage and that he is serving his sentence," Carney replied when CBS' Major Garrett asked if he would reiterate the longstanding U.S. refusal to release Pollard.
Reuters reported on the proposed deal. "Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst caught spying for Israel in the 1980s, could be released by mid-April," the report says. "In addition, Israel would go ahead with a promised release of a fourth group of Palestinians, among the 104 it pledged to free in a deal that led to the renewal of peace talks last July."
Carney's comment to Garrett is a softening of his previous statements, when — in response to proponents of Pollard's release — he has emphasized the significance of the espionage. "Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes," he said in June of 2012. In February of last year, Carney said that Obama would not "be considering" releasing Pollard ahead of a trip to Israel.
"No, our position has not changed," he said.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton predicted in July of 2012 that Pollard would never be released. "[H]e was, as you know, convicted of spying in 1987," she told reporters in Israel. "He was sentenced to life in prison. He is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectation that that is going to change."