By Elaine Magliaro
On Monday, Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Sterling is the former CIA officer who was convicted of “leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program.” Risen exposed how “Operation Merlin” could have actually aided the Iranian nuclear program. The US government claimed that Sterling had violated the Espionage Act by revealing details about that covert operation during the Clinton Administration, which “was to provide Iran with flawed designs for nuclear weapons components, ostensibly to delay the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program, or frame Iran.”
Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing):
With Sterling as a source, Risen wrote about Operation Merlin operation in his 2006 book, “State of War.” Risen described it as a botched mission which may have ended up advancing, rather than deterring, Iran’s nuclear program.
I wrote about Sterling in two posts in February:
- What You Should Know about “Operation Merlin,” Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA, the Obama Administration and Whistleblowers
- CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling’s “Trial by Metadata”: Does It Set a Dangerous Precedent for Free Speech Rights in the United States?
According to Peter Maass (The Intercept), Sterling’s lawyers asked the judge “not to abide by sentencing guidelines calling for 19 to 24 years behind bars.” They argued that the former CIA officer “should be treated with the same leniency shown to former Gen. David Petraeus.” Petraeus was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He avoided prison time after he admitted “to leaking classified information to his biographer and then-girlfriend, Paula Broadwell.”
Sterling’s lawyers also pointed to the case of former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who was recently released from jail after a 30-month sentence for disclosing the name of a covert agent to a reporter, and to the 13-month-sentence handed down to Stephen Kim, who pleaded guilty to talking about a classified document with a Fox News reporter.
After the sentencing, Barry Pollack—one of Sterling’s lawyers—said, “We think (the jury) got it wrong. That said, the judge today got it right. She looked at all of the good work Jeffrey Sterling had done throughout his life and gave him a fair sentence under the circumstances. Today closes a sad chapter in a long saga.”
The sentence, while one of the longest for a leaker in the Obama era, was far lower than some people had expected. Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, told The Intercept that she had expected “a lot worse” than 42 months. “Any jail time is excessive in light of what Gen. Petraeus got, but in light of what the government was seeking, between 19 and 24 years, this is the least worst outcome,” she said. Radack noted, however, that the offense for which Brinkema sent Kiriakou and Sterling to prison was also committed by Petraeus, because the information he shared with Broadwell included the identities of covert agents.
Exclusive: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Speaks Out Upon Sentencing to 3.5 Years in Prison (Democracy Now!)
NEWSFLASH: Disgraced General David Petraeus Remains a Trusted White House Advisor (Flowers for Socrates)