Former CIA Agent Who Leaked Iran Operation to the NYT Receives Sentence

Sterling is said to be eligible for parole in under three years.

By Published on May 12, 2015

A former Central Intelligence Agency officer was sentenced to three and a half years in prison Monday for leaking information about a clandestine operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to a New York Times reporter.

Jeffrey Sterling disclosed the scheme for a Russian scientist to provide a flawed nuclear blueprint to Iran, according to The New York Times.

From 1998 until 2000, Sterling “was assigned to a classified clandestine operational program designed to undermine the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  He was also the operations officer assigned to handle a human asset associated with that program, a person identified at trial as Merlin,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Sterling worked for the CIA until 2002 and contacted New York Times reporter James Risen by phone and email in 2003. They stayed in contact until November of 2005, shortly before Risen published his book, State of War: The Secret History Of The CIA And The Bush Administration, where he described the mission. According to the DOJ, the disclosure risked the operation and jeopardized the life of the scientist, a CIA informant.

Prosecutors allege Sterling, who is black, sought revenge against the agency after suing the CIA for racial discrimination. Sterling’s actions were ”borne not of patriotism but of pure spite,” say prosecutors, as reported by the NYT.

Risen battled DOJ demands to reveal the sources for his book for seven years. In 2014, former Attorney General Eric Holder dropped calls for Risen to disclose his sources, and prosecutors won the case without his testimony. Over the course of Risen’s legal battle, he championed First Amendment rights.

“I plan to spend the rest of my life fighting to undo damage done to press freedom in the United States by Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” Risen tweeted in February.

Sterling, originally from O’Fallon, Mo., was convicted of disclosing national defense information and obstructing justice in January. Prosecutors sought a 20-year sentence, but Sterling will be eligible for parole in under three years, writes the NYT.

 

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