In an interview Saturday with Israeli news Channel 10, former director of the CIA James Woolsey expressed his position that Jonathan Pollard ought to be released after more than 25 years in prison.
Woolsey, who was head of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Clinton administration, said that most people in the industry considered Pollard old news, and no longer a threat. He pointed out that other spies caught passing information to American allies were released after much shorter prison terms.
Jonathan Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy in the 1980s. He was caught passing thousands of classified documents to his Israeli handlers. According to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding, Israel was entitled to the information contained in the documents, but when Pollard approached his superiors, they refused to pass it along. The information Pollard passed on enabled Israel to act on threats to its existence and save lives.
Woolsey told Channel 10 that spies for other US allies, including Greece, the Philippines and South Korea, were released after prison terms of between three and ten years. Although he opposed Pollard’s release when he was in power, he now sees no reason to continue to hold him.
When asked about the recommendation of the intelligence community that Pollard be kept behind bars, he said that was “ridiculous.” Most of his colleagues in the field, he claimed, consider the case “ancient history, which is one reason that Pollard ought to be released.”
Woolsey also suggested anti-Semitism may be a factor. “I certainly don’t think that it is universally true, but in the case of some American individuals, I think there is anti-Semitism at work here.”
Woolsey is not alone in voicing this concern. Last month, Anti-Defamation League Chairman Abraham Foxman expressed the same sentiment in an interview with Israeli Army Radio, and again in an ADL statement.
“If it were only a vendetta against one individual, it would be bad enough. But it has now become one against the American-Jewish community. In effect, the continuing imprisonment of this person long after he should have been paroled on humanitarian grounds can only be read as an effort to intimidate American Jews. And, it is an intimidation that can only be based on an anti-Semitic stereotype about the Jewish community, one that we have seen confirmed in our public opinion polls over the years – the belief that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country, the United States.”