Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison over leaking classified information about Washington’s efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to a reporter.
The former agent received the verdict after appearing in Alexandria Federal Court in Virginia on Monday. Prosecutors had called for 20 years or more for the leak which they said hit the nation’s security apparatus at its core. Sterling’s lawyers, Edward MacMahon and Barry Pollack, said they still plan to appeal the conviction.
He was convicted of nine counts of unauthorized disclosure of US national defense information and other related charges in January. Sterling was part of a CIA covert mission aimed at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program over a decade ago. He was assigned to a classified operational program designed to undermine the Iranian nuclear program.
The case has dragged in court for years as New York Times journalist James Risen refused to identify his sources.
Without Risen’s testimony, prosecutors built a circumstantial case against Sterling. They introduced evidence showing regular phone and email contact between Risen and Sterling.
The case has also sparked outcry among media watchdogs. Critics say officials reveal classified information to journalists when it suits their purposes to show that President Barack Obama is tough on national security.
However, when information that makes the president look bad is leaked, administration officials decide to file lawsuits against the whistleblowers.