Back in July, Ed reported on the announcement that convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was going to be released from prison, though the date was unclear. At the time, Mr. Morrissey expressed a certain amount of skepticism over the, shall we say, convenient timing of the decision, coming as it did during a period of great tension between the White House and Israel. It could be argued that relations between Washington and Bibi aren’t all that much better today, despite the PM’s recent tour of the states, and the planned release of Israel’s most famous American spy looks to take place at the end of the week. (Yahoo News)

Jonathan Pollard, the Navy intelligence analyst whose 1985 arrest for selling secrets to Israel set off a sensational spy saga, is scheduled to be released from federal prison next week, marking the end of a three-decade diplomatic burr in the relationship between the two allies.

Pollard, 61, had been serving a life sentence, but was granted parole this year under sentencing rules in place at the time of his prosecution that made him presumptively eligible for release this month.

Although the decision from the U.S. Parole Commission came around the same time as a sharp disagreement between the U.S. and the Israeli governments over a nuclear deal with Iran, officials from both countries have denied the release was in any way tied to that arrangement, or was intended as a concession to Israel.

Of course it wasn’t tied to any agreement or intended as a concession. We routinely dump people who betray their country and spy on our military secrets out on the streets. (The jails are so full of spies that it’s just too expensive to house them all anyway.)

Pollard is an old man now and his ability to do any more spying at this point is rather limited to say the least. That’s not to say that he should actually be released… he was, after all, spying on us. But he’s become something of the poster child for an uncomfortable reality which nobody among the western nations really likes to admit: our friends spy on us and we spy on our friends. It was always a somewhat different story when we caught spies from the old Soviet Union or China or or the usual list of suspects you’d expect to be spying on us. Heck, we spied on them too, and there were occasional trades made so each side could get their people back. But Pollard let everyone know that the game went far deeper than that.

Remember, we’ve spied on Israel too, but this club isn’t just restricted to our two nations. We spy on the Germans and the Germans spy on us. (For that matter, Germany has been spying on the Turks since Nixon was in office.) There’s a long history of mutual spying between America and France, England, Spain and pretty much everyone else.

Even with the release of Pollard, none of this is going to stop. Even when you’re spying on your friends, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be attacking them. We just like to know what’s going on when making big foreign policy decisions and the same goes for everyone else. Of course, we also can’t turn a blind eye to it when we find a mole. This is an ages old game which we just can’t stop playing. I’m not a fan of the idea of releasing Pollard, but I can’t lose much sleep over it anymore. After thirty years behind bars we’ve probably made our point and accomplished the required window dressing to show that we’re serious. And given the current state of the world, we’ve got much bigger fish to fry out there than spending our time worrying about Israel.