Ex-CIA officer accused of leaking secrets gets bond
A former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter was ordered released from jail on Tuesday pending a trial set for September.
Jeffrey A. Sterling, 43, of O'Fallon, Mo., who worked for the CIA from 1993 to 2002, is accused of leaking secrets after he was fired from the CIA and the agency refused to settle a racial discrimination claim he made. He is charged in federal court in Alexandria with 10 felony counts, including obstruction of justice and unauthorized disclosure of national defense information.
The indictment does not identify the alleged recipient of the classified information. But U.S. officials and lawyers familiar with the case said the journalist is New York Times reporter James Risen.
The case against Sterling is one of several that have come amid the Obama adminstration's crackdown on revelations of government secrets to the media.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema on Tuesday released Sterling on a $10,000 bond pending trial under the conditions that he stay with friends in Virginia, avoid contact with witnesses in the case except in the company of his attorneys and make an effort to obtain a job. He must undergo a psychiatric evaluation and can't leave the Washington metropolitan area without prior approval.
"The danger posed by the defendant to national security at this point is somewhat reduced because of the number of years he's been away from the job," Brinkema said.
Federal authorities allege that Sterling, who was involved in spying efforts against Iran, shared details of sensitive CIA operations. They included, authorities allege, an effort code-named Merlin that was aimed at degrading Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program by sabotaging materials acquired by Iran.
The New York Times did not publish an article, but details about the Merlin operation appeared in Risen's 2006 book, "State of War."
Edward B. MacMahon Jr., Sterling's attorney, has said his client has "maintained his innocence."
In court papers, MacMahon questioned the strength of the government's case.
"The Government, which presumably has been investigating this case for over six years, does not even provide the Court with a single statement or email from Mr. Sterling to 'Author A' that mentions any of the classified information apparently at issue in this case," MacMahon said. "It fails to provide the Court any intercepted phone call, intercepted letter, intercepted email, a confession or any direct evidence that Mr. Sterling ever provided any classified matter for over six years."
Brinkema set a Sept. 12 trial date.
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