[JURIST] A jury in the US District Court Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Monday convicted [press release] former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent Jeffrey Sterling of violating the Espionage Act [text]. Sterling was found guilty on all nine of his charges, including acting as a CIA mole and supplying a journalist with insider information about a US plan to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapon development. A book containing the classified information was published in 2006, and there have been several unsuccessful attempts to force the author’s testimony. According to the Associated Press, Sterling may have been motivated [AP report] to leak classified information because he felt mistreated and racially discriminated against. The jurors deliberated for three days before alerting the judge that they could not reach a unanimous decision. After the judge urged them to continue deliberation, they returned with a guilty verdict. Sterling’s conviction marks the first time in 30 years that a former official has been convicted by a jury of leaking classified state secrets.
Sterling’s prosecution is among many that the Obama Administration [official website] have sought for the discussion of national security leaks. In August 2013 Army Pfc. Bradley Manning [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his disclosure [JURIST reports] of classified information to the anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks. In June 2013 Edward Snowden, a former government employee and contractor, was charged [JURIST report] with disclosing to newspaper reporters information about US intelligence activities that he obtained during the course of his work, raising significant First Amendment concerns [JURIST op-ed] over the Espionage Act.