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Israeli spy seeking release appears to claim justification


WASHINGTON -- The campaign to win release for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard hit a snag yesterday with the disclosure of a note Pollard wrote that appears to express justification for his actions in selling classified information to Israel.

The handwritten note was dated last June and disclosed yesterday by Jewish Week, a New York-based newspaper. In it, Pollard praised an article emphasizing the moral rightness of his action and comparing him to Moses.

His comments are relevant because they appear to contradict a letter he wrote to President Clinton expressing contrition. The letter was in support of his plea for leniency.

Justice Department and White House officials indicated yesterday there would be no action before the New Year on Pollard's application for commutation, which is being supported by some American Jewish leaders and Israeli officials.

Pollard, who is serving a life sentence, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy who received $50,000 for 1984-1985 espionage for Israel, as well as promises of an additional $600,000 over the following 10 years. He has contended that he was motivated by the belief that Israel critically needed the information for its defense and had been unfairly denied it by its longtime ally.

Attorney General Janet Reno said she was seeking "lots" of additional information before making a recommendation to Mr. Clinton.

Pollard's lawyer, Theodore B. Olson, denied that Pollard, meant to renounce his statement of contrition and said the basis of it was a dispute over religious meanings that had been "blown completely out of proportion."

In the handwritten note that Pollard sent to Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, editor of Shema, a religious-oriented Jewish publication, he praised a piece written on his case by his rabbi, Avi Weiss of Riverdale, N.Y. Pollard said it was "the first piece that truly reflects my inner feelings."

The Weiss article quoted Pollard as saying a year before the Persian Gulf war: "Granted, I broke the law. But to tell you the truth, I'd rather be rotting in prison than sitting shiva [mourning]

for the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who could have died because of my cowardice" in not spying for Israel.

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