[JURIST] Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] officer Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced Monday to 42 months in prison after being convicted of telling New York Times journalist James Risen [NY Times profile] about classified plans to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In 2006 Risen published his book “State of War,” in which he related details of a classified CIA plan to use a Russian intermediary, codenamed Merlin, to provide the Iranian government with flawed nuclear blueprints. Sterling was initially charged in 2010, but the government was never able to successfully compel Risen to divulge his informant, and Sterling was instead convicted [JURIST report] by a jury in January on a case built of mostly circumstantial evidence. Convicted in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on nine counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other related charges, Sterling was facing up to 20 years jail time for the crime. Prosecutors say Sterling was motivated to leak the information as a result of his failed suit against the CIA for discrimination.
Sterling’s prosecution is among many that the Obama administration has sought for the prevention of national security leaks. Last month General David Petraeus [JURIST news archive] was sentenced [CNN report] to serve two years on probation and pay a $100,000 fine for leaking classified information to his biographer and lover Paula Broadwell. In August 2013 Army Pfc. Bradley Manning 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. In January of that year, John Kiriakou was sentenced [JURIST report] to two and a half years in prison for leaking an undercover officer’s name to the media and for exposing parts of the CIA’s torture strategies.