The impassioned plea by a CIA whistleblower’s wife for a presidential pardon for her husband has brought unusual support from several major media organizations.
Holly Sterling (shown at right in Justice Integrity Project photo), wife of imprisoned former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, begged President Obama for her husband’s pardon Oct. 15 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
“Not only has Jeffrey suffered but so have his family, his friends, community and society,” she wrote in her 14-page letter to Obama. “And now an intelligent, strong, ethical, and productive member of our world feels as though he ceases to exist while in prison.”
Club President John Hughes introduced the session and Reporters Without Borders U.S. Director Delphine Hagland urged support because reporters cannot function without whistleblowers. Fox News gave national coverage to the event.
The media comments showed rare support for whistleblowers that was particularly notable because the media often defer to intelligence agencies.
Also notable at the press conference were the strong protests voiced by former CIA, NSA and Justice Department whistleblowers against the unfairness of the defendant’s conviction on spy charges for what they aptly described as a double standard compared two other recent high-profile investigations of mishandling of classified information.
One prosecution was the misdemeanor conviction, $40,000 fine and suspended sentence for former CIA Director David Petraeus for allowing his lover/biographer Paula Broadwell to access classified information.
The other is the ongoing debate regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email system for her sensitive government work. She appeared Oct. 22 before a special House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi deaths of four Americans. Emails retrieved from the server or suspected as missing were a topic focus for the committee’s Republican majority as they questioned the front-running Democratic presidential candidate. Separately, the FBI is investigating some aspects of the procedures but officials have been careful not to label it so far as a criminal investigation.
Former CIA career officer Ray McGovern, former CIA and NSA analyst Thomas Drake, and former Justice Department ethics officer Jesselyn Radack each sharply criticized the unfairness whereby the Obama administration has prosecuted Sterling on espionage charges for actions they described as less serious and less proven than that by high-ranking officials like Petraeus and Clinton.
Radack (shown above in another JIP photo) has represented seven national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged, or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. These include Drake, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden (who was previously an NSA and CIA employee), and former CIA employee John Kiriakou.
She noted that President Obama has already made statements that send a message to prosecutors that he is excusing Clinton for her email system at the same time the president and his Justice Department have launched an unprecedented crackdown using spy charges against lower-ranking federal intelligence and other employees suspected of talking to news reporters.
The news conference prompted in-depth reports by both the conservative Fox News in Whistleblowers Call Out Double Standard in Hillary’s Email Scandal and the liberal Democracy Now! Breaking Silence. Sterling is shown at right in a photo from “The Invisible Man,” a documentary about his case.
The reaction against the Sterling prosecution and those like it parallel several other recent scandalous revelations of broken and corrupt government in Washington, DC.
Our project began a series of reports on Oct. 18 about these epic breakdowns. This series has included so far:
- NY Times Features Challenge To Obama Bin Laden Raid Story
- Memo Exposes Former British PM Tony Blair
- How Obama Leads Drone Strikes Killing Many Civilians
- Clinton’s Benghazi Hearing
Today, we examine the unprecedented federal prosecutions of whistleblowers on spy charges more specifically below. An appendix provides links a range of commentary.