News Release

Tale of Two Espionage Act Cases – Donald Trump and Jeffrey Sterling


A recent piece by CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling contrasts the current Espionage Act prosecution of Donald Trump with the prosecution of Sterling that resulted in a prison sentence.

In his article, titled “Donald Trump: Poster Child for the Espionage Act,” Sterling wrote: “It doesn’t take much to shock me, but that Donald Trump has been charged with violating the Espionage Act has me unequivocally astonished. I can’t say that I have many, if any commonalities with current or former presidents and I certainly take no pride in the shared tribulation I have with Donald.”

Sterling is a former CIA case officer who was at the agency, including in the Iran Task Force, for nearly a decade. He filed an employment discrimination suit against the CIA, but the case was dismissed as a threat to national security. He served two and a half years in prison after being convicted of violating the Espionage Act.

The prosecution of Sterling was based entirely on circumstantial evidence, and he continues to profess his innocence. In his new piece, Sterling wrote that the Espionage Act’s “non-specific language creates an overly broad net that the government and the Department of Justice casts, unfettered in any direction it so chooses. How the Espionage Act is being used is ludicrous, but considering the DOJ’s track record in implementing the outdated law, it would have had a hard time NOT indicting Trump under it.”

Also, see the piece “How ‘Operation Merlin’ Tainted U.S. Intelligence on Iran,” by Gareth Porter, which notes that Jeffrey Sterling was “the case officer for the CIA’s covert ‘Operation Merlin,’ who was convicted in May 2015 for allegedly revealing details of that operation to James Risen of the New York Times.