(JTA) — Opponents of Jonathan Pollard’s release should stop being "hung up" that he is a Jew, former CIA head R. James Woolsey wrote in a letter to the editor to The Wall Street Journal.
Woolsey pointed out in the letter Thursday that of the more than 50 recently convicted Soviet and Chinese spies only two, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, received life sentences and two-thirds were sentenced to less time than Pollard has served so far.
"There is absolutely no reason for Pollard to be imprisoned for as long as Ames and Hanssen, and substantially longer than spies from other friendly, allied, and neutral countries. 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’s letter said.
Woolsey, who recommended against clemency for Pollard while director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Clinton, said in the letter that he now supports a release of the convicted spy for Israel, citing the passage of time.
"When I recommended against clemency, Pollard had been in prison less than a decade," Woolsey wrote. "Today he has been incarcerated for over a quarter of a century under his life sentence."
Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, was sentenced to life in 1987.
The calls to release Pollard, who is said to be in ill health, have intensified in recent months, with pleas from lawmakers and former top officials of both political parties.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, in Washington last month to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, asked President Obama in a private meeting before the ceremony to consider granting clemency to Pollard.