News Release

Sterling Trial Underway: Crime and CIA Embarrassments

The trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling is underway. Coverage of the trial can be tracked at:

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at
McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

He just wrote the piece “Crime and CIA Embarrassments,” which states: “I confess to being naïve. From what I had read about ‘Operation Merlin,’ a harebrained scheme to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, I was convinced that the CIA would be determined to avoid calling more attention to it. Or, by extension, to author James Risen’s continuing revelations — in his new book Pay Any Price — of unconscionable incompetence by our intrepid spies. ‘Merlin’ was exposed in an earlier Risen book, State of War.

“How wrong I was! The decision by the CIA and hired hands at the Justice Department to prosecute former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling reflects, rather, a clear determination to give priority to deterring potential whistleblowers privy to information extremely embarrassing to the government. I repeat, embarrassing to the government, not detrimental to the national security.

“As for risk of extreme embarrassment once U.S. citizens got additional insight into the dumb schemes of amateur intelligence operators, the government presumably thinks it can depend on mainstream media to treat bungling by our sophomore spies ‘with discretion.’

“In short, the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling seems to have little to do with exposing secrets, but everything to do with hiding the kind of gross misfeasance that — truth be told — does constitute a real and present danger to our national security.

“Similarly, one might think the government would be embarrassed when it became more widely known that Jeffrey Sterling did go to Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to tell them of this unconscionably stupid covert action (which involved delivering flawed nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran in 2000 with the goal of sabotaging any bomb-building plans, but the flaws were apparently detected and the real data inadvertently exposed genuine nuclear-weapons secrets).

“Sterling’s efforts to go through channels had zero results. One need not be a cynic to conclude that the government apparently sees an overweening, countervailing positive in demonstrating to potential whistleblowers (if further evidence were needed) that going to congressional ‘overseers’ is a feckless exercise and only serves to get you in a peck of trouble. When Risen included a section about Operation Merlin in State of War, Sterling became the chief suspect and now faces 10 felony counts, including seven under the Espionage Act.

“In this light, is there not supreme irony in former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s plea that former CIA Director David Petraeus not be prosecuted for sharing classified information with his biographer/mistress because he has ‘suffered enough?’ …

“A cruelly different standard applies to Jeffrey Sterling, who is alleged to have let the American people in on the secret of a reckless covert action.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at, @xposefacts
MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at, @emptywheel
Available for a limited number of interviews, Solomon and Wheeler are covering the Sterling trial from the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. for Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.

Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at She just wrote the piece “Jeffrey Sterling: The Government’s Circumstantial Case.”

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.