A federal jury Monday convicted former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for revealing to reporter James Risen highly classified details of a U.S. operation designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
Sterling, 47, of Missouri was convicted of six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other charges.
The verdict followed a weeklong cloak-and-dagger trial in which CIA agents and a former Russian nuclear engineer known only as “Merlin” testified behind a screen and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked in open court about how she persuaded editors at the New York Times to kill a proposed story about the operation.
It also brought an end to a major confrontation between the Obama administration and the news media. Over the last six years, the Justice Department pursued New York Times reporter James Risen all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to force him to testify against Sterling.
Risen published details of what he described as a botched CIA operation against Iran in his 2006 book “State of War.”
Risen lost his case in the courts but was not forced to reveal his source after an outcry over the Obama administration’s pursuit of him and other reporters pressured Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to order prosecutors to back off.
Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the guilty verdict proved prosecutors did not need Risen’s testimony and set an important precedent.
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