Ex-CIA Chief Hints Anti-Semitism With Pollard

Middle East Newsline - July 6, 2012

WASHINGTON -- For the first time, a former senior U.S. official has cited anti-Semitism as the reason for the detention of Jonathan Pollard.

Former CIA director James Woolsey said anti-Semitism played a role in the continued detention of Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst sentenced to life for relaying classified data to Israel in the 1980s. Pollard has served 27 years, more than any other convicted spy, including those working for China and Russia.

"For those hung up for some reason on the fact that he's an American Jew, pretend he's a Greek- or Korean- or Filipino-American and free him," Woolsey, who is not Jewish, said in a letter to the Wall Street Journal on July 4.

Woolsey's letter was published in wake of an Israeli-sponsored campaign in June 2012 to release Pollard, which included appeals by scores of former senior U.S. officials and members of Congress. At one point, Israeli President Shimon Peres urged U.S. President Barack Obama to free Pollard.

This marked the most intensive Israeli effort to free Pollard since 1998, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu won a pledge from then-President Bill Clinton for Pollard's release after 13 years in prison. Clinton was said to have reneged on his pledge amid opposition by the U.S. intelligence community.

In his letter, Woolsey said he had opposed Pollard's release during his tenure as CIA director from 1993 to 1995. He said his recommendation against clemency for Pollard was issued before he had served 10 years in prison. In 1986, a federal judge, under pressure from then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, rejected a plea bargain in which Pollard would have been sentenced to 10 years.

"What would I say has changed?" Woolsey wrote. "The passage of time. When I recommended against clemency, Pollard had been in prison less than a decade. Today he has been incarcerated for over a quarter of a century under his life sentence."

Woolsey said only two of the more than 50 people convicted for spying for either China or the former East Bloc were sentenced to life. He identified those sentenced to life as Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, a CIA and FBI officer, respectively.

"The recently convicted spies for such countries as Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Ecuador, Egypt, the Philippines and South Korea are serving less than a decade," Woolsey said. "One especially damaging Greek-American spy, Steven Lalas, received a 14-year sentence, just over half of what Pollard has already served."

The White House has refused to discuss the prospect of clemency for Pollard. In 2011, Obama was approached by at least one major contributor to the Democratic Party who sought Pollard's release in an effort said to have been supported by the American Jewish leadership.

"Our position has not changed and will not change today," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes."

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