The Associated Press & DSWright / FireDogLake – 2015-01-29 00:37:53
Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling Convicted of Leaking Secrets to NYT Reporter
The Associated Press
(January 26, 2015) — A former CIA officer was convicted Monday of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter.
Jurors convicted 47-year-old Jeffrey Sterling of O’Fallon, Missouri, of all nine counts he faced in federal court. On the third day of deliberations, the jurors told the judge that they could not reach a unanimous verdict. However, they delivered guilty verdicts later in the afternoon after the judge urged them to keep talking.
At issue in the two-week trial: Who told journalist James Risen about the secret mission, one that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified was one of the government’s most closely held secrets as well as one of its best chances to thwart Iran’s nuclear-weapons ambitions?
The case was delayed for years as prosecutors fought to force Risen to divulge his sources, though they ultimately decided not to call him to testify once it became clear he would not reveal those sources even if jailed for contempt of court.
Prosecutors had acknowledged a lack of direct evidence against Sterling, but said the circumstantial evidence against him was overwhelming. Defense lawyers had said the evidence showed that Capitol Hill staffers who had been briefed on the classified operation were more likely the source of the leak.
The plan involved using a CIA asset nicknamed Merlin, who had been a Russian nuclear engineer, to foist deliberately flawed nuclear-weapons blueprints on the Iranians, hoping they would spend years trying to develop parts that had no hope of ever working.
Risen’s 2006 book, State of War, describes the mission as hopelessly botched, and possibly backfiring by giving the Iranians blueprints that could be useful to them if they sorted out the good information from the errors.
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Eric Olshan said the chapter of Risen’s book seemed to be clearly written from Sterling’s perspective as Merlin’s case handler. The book describes the handler’s misgivings about the operation while others at the CIA push the plan through despite its risks.
Furthermore, Sterling believed he had been mistreated and was angry that the agency refused to settle his racial discrimination complaint, Olshan said.
Risen had written about that complaint, and he was known to have a relationship with Sterling. The two exchanged dozens of phone calls and emails, Olshan said.
But defense lawyers said the government had no evidence that Risen and Sterling talked about anything classified in those phone calls and emails. The government failed to obtain Risen’s records to see who else he may have contacted.
Defense attorney Barry Pollack said Risen first got wind of the operation in early 2003, within weeks of Sterling reporting his misgivings to staffers at a Senate intelligence committee — a channel that Sterling was legally allowed to pursue. Pollack said it makes more sense that a Hill staffer leaked to Risen.
Dianne Feinstein Wants David Petraeus To Be Above The Law
DSWright / FireDogLake
(January 13, 2015) — Senator Dianne Feinstein has proclaimed that former CIA Director David Petraeus should not face prosecution despite the recommendations of federal prosecutors and the FBI concerning his alleged leak of classified information to his then mistress Paula Broadwell. Feinstein’s call to not uphold the law and prosecute Petraeus as he has “suffered enough” stands in stark contrast to Feinstein’s positions on others who have leaked classified information.
Feinstein said she was unsure if Petraeus gave Broadwell classified material but that even if he did he was “the four star general of our generation” and therefore should be above the law and face no legal repercussions. Yet Feinstein — wait for it — had a completely different reaction to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information by both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
Long-standing mavens of DC political power literally believe that they and their class-comrades are too noble, important and elevated to be subjected to the rule of law to which they subject everyone else. They barely even disguise it any more. It’s the dynamic by which the Obama administration prosecuted leakers with unprecedented aggression who disclose information that embarrasses them politically while ignoring or even sanctioning the leaks of classified information, which politically glorify them.
It is, of course, inconceivable that someone like Dianne Feinstein would urge the release of ordinary convicts from prison on the ground that their actions are “in the past” or that they have “suffered enough.” This generous mentality of mercy, forgiveness and understanding — like Obama’s decree that we Look Forward, Not Backward to justify immunity for American torturers — is reserved only for political officials, Generals, telecoms, banks and oligarchs who reside above and beyond the rule of law.
Typically the defense of lawbreaking by elites in government is forgiven and explained as people doing bad things for a good reason, a social dynamic called noble cause corruption which has long been a staple of police crime dramas. The officer had to torture the suspect, it was the only way to find the kidnapped child in time etc.
But Feinstein has gone beyond the typical apologetics for elite criminality and simply called for suspending the rule of law for a man who reportedly committed a crime with no noble intentions and has suffered no material penalty. In fact, Petraeus is currently making money working with Wall Street and is in the process of trying to reenter public life through academia. Suffered enough?
Senator Feinstein has proved once again that she has contempt for the public and truly believes in the formation of a neo-feudal society where the poor and middle class live by one set of laws while the rich and powerful soar above.
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