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CIA Whistleblower Faces Decades in

Prison for Exposing Botched CIA Plan

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Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
January 7, 2015-Former

CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, accused of telling New York

Times reporter James Risen about a CIA operation that had provided flawed
nuclear weapon blueprint to Iran in 2000, is now going to trial next week.
Now a petition of support for Jeffrey Sterling is underway, titled "Blowing the
Whistle on Government Recklessness Is Not a Crime". It has gained more
than 30,000 signatures in recent weeks, urging the government to drop all
charges against Sterling.
Now joining us from New York, New York, is a sponsoring member of the
campaign, Norman Solomon. Norman is a founding director of the Institute
for Public Accuracy, cofounder of the national group, and
journalist for Expose
Thank you so much for joining us, Norman.
Thanks, Sharmini.
PERIES: So, Norman, tell us what Sterling is accused of and why it's such an
important case to you to mount such a campaign in support of him.

SOLOMON: Well, the accusation against Jeffrey Sterling as a former CIA officer
is largely under the Espionage Act, which is a misuse of that 1917 law. And
the charge is that he provided documents and information that has been
called classified by the CIA to New York Times reporter James Risen for a book
he wrote that was published in the year 2006 called State of War. And it was
about a flawed plan, really, implemented by the CIA for negatively
constructed or falsely constructed diagrams to the Iranian government for a
nuclear weapon. So it was a botched plan. It was both dumb and dangerous.
And the CIA and the Justice Department are now pursuing the prosecution of
him. He could face many years in prison.
PERIES: Now, you have mounted a campaign saying whistleblowers are, you
know, in the interest of--public interest should not fear this, basically. Now,
when one joins--I guess what's in everyone's mind is, when one joins the CIA,
one is sworn to secrecy and for protecting national secrets. So when does a
employee sort of cross the line and start defending public interest instead of
interest of the department?
SOLOMON: Well, if you're an employee of the CIA or the NSA or the Pentagon
or State Department, you take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the
Constitution of the United States, and that is your first loyalty, or should be.
And as in the case of Daniel Ellsberg with the Pentagon Papers, Chelsea
Manning with her revelations, as well as many other whistleblowers,
including Edward Snowden, it's important to recognize that the higher loyalty
is to truth and to the Constitution and to the informed consent of the
governed. It's really not possible to have meaningful democracy if the public,
the people don't know what is being done in their names with their tax
In this case it was highly dangerous what the CIA did. And I should emphasize
that Jeffrey Sterling, as the defendant, is not acknowledging that any of the
accusations in the indictment are true. He is not in any way stating that he
was a source for James Risen for this chapter in his book that provided
classified information. But no one disputes--and that includes Mr. Sterling--no
one disputes that he went to the Senate Intelligence Committee staff and
provided them with information about this operation by the CIA, and now 15
years old. And that alone, and significantly, makes him a whistleblower.
He went through channels. And part of the very vicious activity of the U.S.
government in oppressing whistleblowers, and in fact freedom of the press, is

that despite what we hear about how people should go through channels and
can go through channels meaningfully, when people do that who work at
agencies like the NSA and CIA, they are snared and trapped, and then later
pursued, and in some cases, as in this one, prosecuted. So he is a
whistleblower, no matter whether the indictment is true or false, and Jeffrey
Sterling should be defended as such.
As you mentioned, there is a petition urging the Justice Department to drop
all charges against Jeffrey Sterling launched by, many
supporting organizations, and people are very much invited to sign and
circulate that petition.
PERIES: Now, one of the things that the public is quite unaware of is the kind
of pressure somebody like Jeffrey Sterling is under. Could you describe sort of
what's going on in his case and the pressure he might be feeling at this time?
SOLOMON: It's a key point, because the prosecution has as its target not only
Jeffrey Sterling, but any would-be whistleblower in the CIA and other such
agencies. It has to be extremely difficult for anyone--and Mr. Sterling is in his
mid-late 40s now--anyone to look at the prospect of decades in prison
accused of doing something that, according to the government and quite a
large proportion of the media, is against the interests of the United States.
I think in this case, as is so routinely the case in whistleblower issues, in fact
the opposite is true, that the whistleblower acts in the interests of
democracy, in the interests of the people of the United States, although
against the interests of the ruling elites who run agencies like the CIA. But
the dominant view of the powerbrokers in government is the opposite, and
they're able to threaten the very freedom of Jeffrey Sterling in this case.
PERIES: So we know what happens to people under this kind of pressure.
Aaron Swartz, for example, ends up committing suicide, Edward Snowden is
exiled in Russia, and Chelsea Manning went through a horrid public trial of his
personal life. And Jeffrey Sterling is likely up for that kind of scrutiny as well.
Now the campaign you have mounted, obviously, is gaining momentum.
What do you expect will be its passage?
SOLOMON: Well, I think that the momentum is going to escalate in the next
couple of weeks. At, we're providing extraordinary, I think,
daily coverage, beginning January 12, of the trial, which is expected to run

two or three weeks. So everybody's invited to go for that coverage at
The petition also is continuing to gain traction. There are a lot of groups that
have gotten behind it. And I think it strikes a very important chord for
freedom of the press, for the flow of information in a democratic society, and
also on the issue of selective prosecution. This is key, because as a matter of
routine, high government officials in the White House, State Department,
Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and other agencies are leaking classified information to
the news media. We might call them authorized leaks. But the people who
perpetrate and authorize those leaks are not prosecuted at all. Often there
are not even crime reports filed by the CIA when there's a leak of CIA
information, which is not surprising since the press office of the CIA is often
leaking the classified information itself. So one would not expect the CIA to
file a crimes report against its own top officials or against its press office.
People should, I think, be aware that the recent report by the Senate
Intelligence Committee on torture documents that in fact it was a calculated
process implemented by the CIA press office to leak classified information to
make the interrogation and rendition program of the CIA look good in the
So this is a fundamental issue, and the campaign to support Jeffrey Sterling
will be stressing this point, that it is illegitimate to prosecute someone for
leaking classified information at the same time that top officials of the same
agency are doing the very same thing.
PERIES: It's going to be a interesting case. And, Norman, I hope you join us in
following it at The Real News.
SOLOMON: I'll be very glad to. Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
Norman Solomon wrote the nationally syndicated "Media Beat" weekly
column from 1992 to 2009. He is the founding director of the Institute for
Public Accuracy, a consortium of policy researchers and analysts, and was
IPA's executive director from 1997 to 2010. Solomon is co-founder of the
national group, which now has more than 400,000 active

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