A former American CIA director has alleged that anti-Semitism might be part of the reason why Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is still in a US jail cell.

Pollard is currently serving a life sentence in North Carolina after pleading guilty to spying for Israel in 1987. Pollard’s presence in prison has become a cause celebre in Israel, where many support his early release.


Last year President Obama acknowledged this effort, but said he had no immediate plans to release the spy.

“He’s been serving his time,” Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 at the time, according to ABC News. “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately but what I am going to be doing is to make sure that he, like every other American who’s been sentenced, is accorded the same kinds of review and the same examination of the equities that any other individual would provide.”

“I recognize the emotions involved in this. One of the strengths of the Israeli people is you think about your people wherever they are and I recognize that and I’m sympathetic,” Obama continued.

Now, however, former CIA director R. James Woolsey is suggesting that anti-Semitism may be part of the reason why Pollard is still in jail almost 30 years after his conviction.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 recently, Woolsey said that the American government has freed spies from other countries after far shorter sentences.

“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, head of the CIA in the 1990s, said in the interview according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency,

Woolsey echoed these sentiments in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“My view is that he should be treated like other intelligence assets of allies,” Woolsey told the Post. “We spy on some allies and they have spied on us. Because they’re allies, usually they have only been in prison for a few years. What I said is that people shouldn’t be hung up on him being Jewish or Israeli. Pretend he’s Greek and release him.”

The JTA notes this isn’t the first time an official has mentioned anti-Semitism in relation to the Pollard case. In fact, last month Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman told Israel’s Army Radio that Pollard’s continued imprisonment is “on the verge of anti-Semitism.”