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CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling's Case Now in Jury's Hands

Sputnik News

10:30 23.01.2015(updated 11:07 23.01.2015)

The prosecution and the defense made their closing arguments on Thursday in the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was charged with leaking classified information relating to the Iranian nuclear program during the Bush administration.

MOSCOW, January 23 (Sputnik) – A federal jury is now in deliberation after hearing the closing arguments in the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information about a mission to slow Iran's nuclear program to a New York Times journalist, the Associated Press reported.

Sterling, 47, of O'Fallon, Missouri, has been charged with disclosing information about a CIA mission to deliberately provide Iran with faulty nuclear blueprints to New York Times reporter James Risen. Sterling is being tried in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom.

Sterling denies the charges; his lawyers are saying that his case is purely circumstantial.

The prosecutors built the circumstantial case against Sterling after a failed seven-year campaign to force Risen to give up his sources failed. The defense argued that the prosecution's case was purely conjectural, and presented an alternate theory about who leaked the information. Prosecutors have asked the jury to convict Sterling in order to send a message to the world that the CIA can protect its secrets and defend those who provide them with intelligence, Politico explained.

'If this country cannot keep its secrets, why would other countries share their secrets with us? And if we cannot protect human assets, why would anyone willingly become one,' prosecutor Eric Olshan said during his closing statement before the court. Olshan argued that Sterling was 'bitter' and 'angry,' and 'felt mistreated by the agency,' and that he was 'the only person' with a motive to expose the program.

Sterling's Defense attorney Barry Pollack countered that all the government has its suspicions and a theory, but that it lacks evidence, and that 'explaining that something could have happened is simply not enough.' He proposed that Mr. Risen could have received his information from visits to the Senate Intelligence Committee in the early 2000s.

Risen had published his story about the CIA operation in a 2006 book entitled State of War, three years after the New York Times refused to run it, due to pressure from the Bush White House. The Obama administration has been criticized for the dramatic increase in prosecutions against whistleblowers over the course of the president's term.


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