“If Risen had written a story about how this [operation MERLIN] 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.”
Chief Judge Gregory pressed Prosecutor Eric Olshan to point to any evidence that classified information was actually divulged.
Jeffrey Alexander Sterling is an American lawyer and former CIA employee who was arrested, charged, and convicted of violating the Espionage Act for revealing details about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen. In May 2015, Sterling was sentenced to 3½ years in prison and thus set for release in 2018.
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The reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.
During the trial, Special Agent Ashley Hunt admitted that there was absolutely no email records, no phone call records and that no one had witnessed the two being together exchanging classified information.
Appealing the conviction
As the Court reviews his conviction, it appears that Judge Gregory seems to be very critical of the ‘evidence’ presented by the prosecutor.
Just because Sterling and Risen were communicating does not prove that Sterling was also leaking classified information.
“That’s inference on top of inference,” Judge Gregory said.
Sterling’s prison sentence currently expires in 2018. His wife said that Jeffrey may be released next year if he maintains good behavior.
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Ex-CIA Officer Gains Some Traction With Appeal