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Sunday, December 4, 2016

CIA agent hopes for "Hillary Justice" over leak

Richmond, Va. -- Jeffrey Sterling had worked for the CIA and now sits in prison at  federal prison in Colorado. He was found guilty of leaking government secrets to a reporter but now maintains his innocence and hopes for an early release on a federal appeals court that will soon consider whether or not to reverse his convictions. He is currently serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence.

Sterling, 49, was convicted by a jury on all counts last year after being charged under the Espionage Act for leaking details of a CIA mission to James Risen of the New York Times. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in his case on Tuesday.

"I continue to have hope that the truth will come out," his wife, Holly Sterling said. She travels from their Missouri home him once a month to visit him.

Also in the same federal 'slammer' are former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Jared Fogle, of Subway Restaurant fame.

According to prosecutors, Sterling was a disgruntled former CIA employee who told the reporter about a plan to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon--supposedly to discredit the CIA. The black op involved an agent nicknamed "Merlin" to deliver bogus nuclear blueprints to Iran in the hopes they would spend years trying to develop a nuke that wouldn't actually work, similar to the instructions for building a backyard barbecue. 

In his 2006 book "State of War," Risen cited anonymous sources and said the idea was a reckless and botched operation that might have actually helped advance Iran's nuclear ambitions. The CIA strongly disputed that notion.

"Sterling's actions destroyed the program, endangered the lives of a covert human asset and his family, and compromised the United States' ability to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons," the appeals brief by the prosecutors stated.

Sterling claims that he was not Risen's source and Risen never testified during trial. Sterling's attorneys argued the leak came from a Capitol Hill staffer after he told staffers at a Senate intelligence committee in 2003. The attorneys further stated that prosecutors only went after Sterling because Risen's story made the CIA look foolish (like calling people you need to support you 'deplorables').

On appeal, Sterling's attorneys argue that his conviction should be reversed because the prosecution never proved that he ever disclosed any secret information in the Eastern District of Virginia, where the case was tried.

Barry Pollack, who represented Sterling at trial said, "If Risen had written a story about how this was a superb operation that successfully set back the Iranian nuclear program, I don't think there is any chance whatsoever that Mr. Sterling would have been charged."

But it's hard to prove a negative.

Another argument is that the lower court inappropriately permitted prosecutors to tell jurors about Sterling's mishandling of other CIA documents, and his lawyers are urging the 4th Circuit to grant him a new trial.

Holly Sterling said her husband may die in prison due to health issues and Obamacare. She knows that the odds that the 4th Circuit will side with Sterling are a long shot, especially since he isn't a Clinton, but she remains hopeful. 

She is hoping her husband will receive the same consideration that Hillary received in regard to the Espionage Act.