Former CIA operative latest victim of U.S. war on whistleblowers
Sept.22, New York: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply concerned by the precedent set in the United States' government's case against a former C.I.A. operative convicted of allegedly divulging classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen. Jeffrey Sterling is now in jail for merely talking to a journalist regularly. He was sentenced based only on circumstantial evidence.
On June 16, 2015 Jeffrey Sterling self-surrendered to the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Colorado, almost 900 miles from his home. After a long and grueling trial, this former CIA operative had been found guilty of 7 counts of espionage on January 26, 2015. Even if throughout his entire trial and to this day, Sterling maintains his innocence, he was sentenced in May to three and a half years in prison. Why? This is a long story. To sum up, Sterling was in touch with a journalist. And this is apparently a crime.
In 2006, the New York Times journalist James Risen published a book entitled State of War which highlighted, among others, classified “operation Merlin” designed to derail Iran's nuclear program to which Jeffrey Sterling was assigned during his time at the C.I.A. On December 22, 2010 a grand jury indicted Sterling on multiple charges under the Espionage Act for revealing classified information to James Risen. The Department of Justice (DOJ) repeatedly threatened Risen with jail time if he did not reveal his source before finally backing off a few months ago.
Sterling went through proper channels to divulge his concerns about the classified operation during a briefing with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March 2003. Yet the jury found Sterling guilty as Risen's source. But the evidence that formed the basis of his conviction consisted only of multiple emails and telephone conversations between the two men, without any content to directly prove Sterling was the source. The content of most of these emails and phone conversations remains unknown. Only the metadata have been made public.
The Oslo Times/Ifex