Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, a whistleblower, was found guilty of all nine counts against him under the Espionage Act.? Sterling, an African American, was convicted by a jury on Monday in Alexandria, Virginia for illegally disclosing classified information about a mission to disrupt Iran?s nuclear program.
While Sterling?s case, in which a jury took a week to decide, has been compared to a number of other whistleblowers, it is reminiscent of Sam Greenlee?s novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door.? Much like Greenlee?s protagonist, Dan Freeman, who left the agency and then plotted to overthrow the government, Sterling was apparently dissatisfied with the way he was treated and had filed charges of racial discrimination against the CIA.
Freeman was upset that he was relegated to an unimportant position ?sitting by the door.?? Sterling, 47, who was fired by the agency several years ago, had acquired a much more important position as director of the agency?s plot to learn more about Iran?s nuclear program by funneling false information to them via a Russian scientist using the code name ?Merlin.”
According to the government prosecutor, Sterling had revealed the plot to James Risen, a New York Times reporter, thereby endangering the lives of many Americans.? Risen was not called to testify in the case, and for years since the publication of his book State of War, in which he wrote about the plot, has used the journalistic shield not to disclose the source of his information.
Sterling is the fifth whistleblower to be charged?and the first convicted–under the Espionage Act for violating the regulations about national defense information, none more publicized than Edward Snowden who fled the country and now resides in Russia.
Most of the evidence against Sterling was circumstantial and stemmed from Risen?s book, though Barry Pollack, Sterling?s lawyer, argued that the prosecution failed to show any direct evidence linking his client to what Risen had written.
The two did communicate via emails, but according to the defense, the discussion was not about the national defense but about Sterling?s ongoing discrimination case.
Noted commentator Norman Solomon in a Huffington Post article sees the entire trial as ?cravenly political.?? If it were otherwise, he said, ?the last two CIA directors to leave their posts?General David Petraeus and Leon Panetta?would be going through the same kind of ordeal that Sterling has been enduring.? There?s hefty evidence that both Petraeus and Panetta leaked classified information while running the agency.? But these days they?re busy getting rich, not in danger of imprisonment for the rest of their lives.?
In Greenlee?s novel, Freeman returns to Chicago, recruits a band of activists, and they began an uprising against America.? Sterling did not advance such adventurous notions, but evidently the government believed in the long run his actions were just as subversive.
Sterling will be sentenced on April 24 and could face a number of years in prison.? Until then US District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema has allowed him to remain free on bond.? There is also the possibility that the case will be appealed.