By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who served 30 years in prison after being convicted of spying for Israel, on Wednesday urged a U.S. appeals court to loosen his parole conditions.
Lawyer Eliot Lauer argued to a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that the conditions, which require Pollard, 62, to wear an electronic tracking device, adhere to a curfew and submit his computers to monitoring, serve no legitimate purpose.
Pollard, who attended the hearing with his wife, pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage in connection with providing Israeli contacts with hundreds of classified documents he had obtained as a naval intelligence specialist in exchange for thousands of dollars.
He was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison. After serving 30 years, which included time in custody following his 1985 arrest, Pollard was released on parole on Nov. 20.
He now lives in New York City, and his lawyers say his parole conditions have prevented him from having a job.
As part of his parole, Pollard must remain in the United States for five years. He has sought to move to Israel, where his wife lives and where he was granted citizenship while in prison. Israel had long pushed for his release.
Lauer said Wednesday there was no rational basis for the government to think Pollard "might retain details in his head about documents created 32 to 33 years ago" that he could disclose.
Circuit Judge Reena Raggi, however, pressed Lauer to explain why Pollard's crime was not enough to justify the conditions.
"Why is it the government's obligation to take the chance that he's forgotten something and it pops into his mind, or he does retain it?" she asked.
Lauer responded that there must be some rational basis for the government's position.
Rebecca Tinio, a lawyer for the government, said the conditions imposed by the U.S. parole commission were "well within in its broad discretion."
Tinio also emphasized the "enormous harm to the United States" Pollard caused, noting that former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had submitted a letter stating that documents compromised by Pollard remained highly classified.
"We're optimistic," Lauer told reporters after the argument. "I think it went well. I thought the court understood the issues, and I have great faith in American justice."
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)