The 42-month sentence imposed this week on former CIA case officer Jeffrey Sterling for leaking information to a New York Times reporter helps thwart public information about the powerful agency in a precedent extending beyond the CIA.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, VA imposed the sentence May 11 on Sterling, 47, who was convicted at trial earlier this year of leaking information to reporter and author James Risen about the CIA plan “Operation Merlin” to send flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran. Sterling has denied leaking the information. The government won nine convictions at trial on a circumstantial case without Risen’s testimony.
The Obama administration fought for years to convict Sterling of a spy charge. With convictions that included one for espionage, Sterling faced total potential penalties of nearly three centuries in prison, with the government urging a harsh sentence to deter future leakers. Realistically, the sentence would not likely have been more than twenty years at worst under sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender but prosecutors urged that Sterling’s acts be considered multiple offenses.
Sterling’s first public interview on the case can be seen in a video interview organized by Norman Solomon, executive director of ExposeFacts.org, entitled, The Invisible Man: Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Whistleblower.
With seven spy prosecutions of officials and former officials who leaked to journalists, the administration has now indicted approximately double the number of leakers under the World War I-era law than all previous administrations combined, depending on whether the count begins with a World War II-era prosecution or, as most commentators calculate, with the prosecution of Vietnam War-era leaker Daniel Ellsberg. The difference, according to a Tampa Bay Times count, is 11 total prosecutions or 10, as reported here in CNN’s Tapper: Obama has used Espionage Act more than all previous administrations.
Shown below is a round-up of news coverage and commentary.