Jeffrey Alexander Sterling
Jeffrey Alexander Sterling is an American former CIA employee who was indicted, arrested, and charged with violating the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing details about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen.
Sterling joined the CIA on 14 May 1993. In 1995, he became operations officer in the Iran task force of the CIA's Near East and South Asia division. He held a top secret security clearance and had access to sensitive compartmented information, including classified cables, CIA informants, and operations.
After training in Persian in 1997, he was sent first to Bonn, Germany, and two years later to New York City to recruit Iranian nationals as agents for the CIA as part of a secret intelligence operation involving Iran's weapons capabilities. In April 2000, Sterling filed a complaint with the CIA's Equal Employment Office about management's alleged racial discrimination practices. The CIA subsequently revoked Sterling's authorization to receive or possess classified documents concerning the secret operation and placed him on administrative leave in March 2001.
After the failure of two settlement attempts, his contract with the CIA was terminated on 31 January 2002.
Equal Employment law suit
Sterling's lawsuit accusing CIA officials of racial discrimination was dismissed by the judge after the government successfully argued the state secrets privilege by alleging the litigation would require disclosure of classified information. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, ruling in 2005 that “there is no way for Sterling to prove employment discrimination without exposing at least some classified details of the covert employment that gives context to his claim.”
Indictment and arrest under the Espionage Act
Between 2002 and 2004 the U.S. federal government intercepted several interstate emails to and from Sterling, which were "(...) routed through a server located in the Eastern District of Virginia (...)". The authorities also traced telephone calls between Sterling and - according to a senior government official - the journalist and book author James Risen. In the intercepted communications Sterling allegedly revealed national defense information to an unauthorized person.
On 22 Dec 2010, U.S. attorney Neil H. MacBride filed an indictment against Jeffrey Alexander Sterling on the Unlawful Retention and Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information, Mail Fraud, Unauthorized Conveyance of Government Property, and Obstruction of Justice. Sterling was arrested on 6 January 2011. Sterling became the fifth individual in the history of the United States who has been charged under the Espionage Act with mishandling national defense information.
In a hearing at the U.S. District Court on 14 Jan 2011, Sterling's defense attorney Edward MacMahon entered a not guilty plea. MacMahon reported to the court that he was still waiting for clearance to discuss the case in detail with his client. Rather than relying exclusively on records of electronic communications to legally establish that Sterling exchanged information with Risen, the prosecution has subpoenaed Risen to testify and reveal his journalistic sources, an effort which Risen and his attorneys are contesting.
Sterling earned a national 2010 Anti-Fraud Award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association for helping break up a Medicare fraud ring, leading to estimated recoveries and savings of US$ 32 million.
- Nuclear program of Iran
- Thomas Andrews Drake (NSA whistleblower prosecuted under Espionage Act, 2010)
- Stephen Jin-Woo Kim (State Department contractor prosecuted under Espionage Act, 2010)
- Chilling Effect
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- Risen, James (2002-03-02). "Fired by C.I.A., He Says Agency Practiced Bias". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- Fields-Meyer, Thomas (2002-05-20). "Out in the Cold: Agent Jeffrey Sterling Charges the CIA with Racial Discrimination". People (Magazine). Retrieved 2011-01-11.
- "Former CIA Officer Arrested for Alleged Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information and Obstruction of Justice". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- MacBride, Neil H. (2010-12-22). "United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, Defendant". In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
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- Scott Shane (11 June 2010). "Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press". The New York Times.
- "US war on whistleblowers grows". PressTV. 2011-01-19. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
- Cratty, Carol (2011-01-14). "Ex-CIA officer pleads not guilty in classified info case". CNN. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Isikoff, Michael (2011-02-25). "DOJ gets reporter's phone, credit card records in leak probe". MSNBC.
- "Ex-CIA officer pleads not guilty to leaking info". Forbes. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Liptak, Adam (February 11, 2012). "A High-Tech War on Leaks". New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- Savage, Charlie (April 28, 2010). "U.S. Subpoenas Times Reporter Over Book on C.I.A.". New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
- Aftergood, Steven (February 29, 2012). "There is No Reporter’s Privilege, Leak Prosecutors Insist". Federation of American Scientists Secrecy news. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- Affidavit of James Risen, June 21, 2011 (with exhibits and attachments), Federation of American Scientsts, Sterling case files
- Byron Hollis, Esq, CFE, AHFI (2010). "2010 Anti-Fraud Awards - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia - Winning program: Medicare Advantage Private Fee for Service Fraud Scheme". BlueCross BlueShield Association.
- Sterling vs. Tenet, CIA, United States District Court, Southern District of New York, 2001
- Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. George Tenet, Director, Central Intelligence Agency, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 2005
- Fallout: The true story of CIA's Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking, book review on NPR
- Defendant’s Opposition to Government’s Motion for Pretrial Detention Case 1:10-cr-00485-LMB Document 17 Filed 01/21/11
- USA v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling: Selected Case Files fas.org