A district court sentenced former CIA case officer Jeffrey Sterling to 3 years in prison this month, a decision Sterling described as payback. His conviction stemmed from charges that Sterling had revealed to a New York Times reporter, James Risen, the details of an ill-fated covert action called Operation Merlin. Risen had publicized Operation Merlin, in which the CIA spread false nuclear-weapons-development information to Iranian officials, as dangerous.
Sterling pled not guilty, insisting that he had communicated his concerns about Merlin only, and lawfully, to congressional intelligence committees.
Five years before the arrest on unauthorized-disclosure charges, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a Sterling lawsuit alleging racial discrimination by CIA director Porter Goss and 10 other agency employees. A previous decision by the 4th Circuit, in rejecting Sterling’s discrimination suit, noted, “There is no way for Sterling to prove employment discrimination without exposing at least some classified details of the covert employment that gives context to his claim.”