Four Years Ago — Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling : “Letter From Prison” [Was there a Second Snowden?]

“For now, I’m confined to the black TV room at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado. When I am free, I don’t want to feel that I’m merely going from one prison to another.”

Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling

“Sterling’s case drew nationwide attention because the Obama-era Department of Justice unsuccessfully tried to force the reporter, James Risen, to divulge the identity of his sources for ‘State of War’, a book in which he revealed the CIA had botched a covert operation against Iran’s nuclear program. Risen reported that instead of undermining the Iranians, the CIA had provided them with useful information on how to build a nuclear bomb.”

The Intercept — Peter Maass (January 19 2018)


Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling

September 16 2016 — Jeffrey Alexander Sterling is an American lawyer and former CIA employee who was arrested, charged, and convicted of violating the Espionage Act for revealing details about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: Breaking News — Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling Released from Prison [Op-Ed from John Kiriakou]

RELATED POST: Jeffrey Sterling — Mark Zaid Responds to Allegations He betrayed His Client

RELATED POST: Appeals court affirms most convictions of ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling

RELATED POST: Prison Officials Respond to CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling’s Health Complaint

RELATED POST: Former CIA John Kiriakou: “Doing Time Like A Spy”

RELATED POST: Former CIA John Kiriakou Explains The Jeffrey Sterling Case (VIDEO)

UPDATE (September 16 2020) — The story of Jeffrey Sterling has never really made sense to me. I still feel that we miss a serious piece of this puzzle.

According to a new book by New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt, the FBI suspected a “Second Snowden” because some of the leaks came from material to which Ed Snowden didn’t have access.

According to Schmidt, an informant was telling both James Risen and the FBI that he knew a man in Germany “who had access to a trove of NSA documents and might leak them.”

“The two worlds of the informant collided in Bruges, Belgium, where he was attempting to lure the source for a meeting. Risen was also planning to visit Bruges “around the same time in the hopes of obtaining the leaked documents.”

The scheme twisted the FBI into legal, bureaucratic and logistical knots, as it sent an “entire squad” to Bruges to oversee a meeting between the FBI’s informant and the source. One might expect subsequent developments ripped from the pages of some great spy thriller. The actual result, though, was a bit pathetic, as Schmidt reports:

The plan turned into a debacle. The source never arrived at the cafe, and the informant ended up getting drunk while waiting for him. When higher-ups at the bureau learned what had happened, they grew furious that an entire team had been sent to Belgium based on information from a man with little track record as a source who was also known to be double-crossing a reporter on the same matter.” [Erik Wemple]

Risen didn’t travel to Bruges. However, in 2014, Risen invited the informant to his Maryland home. While at the house, he secretly copied a trove of documents from Risen’s home computer onto a thumb drive.

The official story goes like this, for now… The FBI never looked at the information on the flash drive that still sits untouched in a safe at the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

James Risen is quite baffled by the news.

“I was already under the subpoena — I was fighting the leak investigation and also trying to do my job at the same time.

I was trying to develop new reporting tracks. And I’ve now been told by other reporters that they did this. ”

Please, let us take a good look at the timeline!

On December 22, 2010, U.S. attorney Neil H. MacBride filed an indictment against Sterling on the unlawful retention and unauthorized disclosure of national defense information.

Sterling — who has always maintained that his communications with Risen did not involve secret information — was convicted of espionage charges on January 26, 2015.


A Letter from Jeffrey

It is a strenuous, unceasing effort to cope with the ordeal of being incarcerated at a federal prison.

I find myself identifying with the title character from Shakespeare’s “Richard II” when he laments his own effort to adjust to confinement by wondering, “I have been studying how I may compare this prison where I live unto the world.”

I do my best to resist the thought that prison is a reflection of our society, but the comparisons are unavoidable.

Unlike “Richard II,” my “studying” has not been so much a comparison as an unhappy realization.

Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling


Jeffrey Alexander Sterling is an American lawyer and former CIA employee who was arrested, charged, and convicted of violating the Espionage Act for revealing details about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen. Sterling denies the charges.

The case against him is circumstantial. (There is evidence that Sterling and Risen have called each other. Risen has of course dozens of contacts at the CIA.)

Sterling joined the CIA on May 14, 1993. In 1995, he became operations officer in the Iran task force of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia division.

On December 22, 2010, U.S. attorney Neil H. MacBride filed an indictment against Jeffrey Alexander Sterling on the Unlawful Retention and Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information, Mail Fraud, Unauthorized Conveyance of Government Property, and Obstruction of Justice. Sterling was arrested on January 6, 2011.

Sterling was convicted of espionage charges on January 26, 2015

On 11 May 2015, Sterling was sentenced to 3½ years in prison and thus set for release in 2018.

On August 11 2016, Jeffrey Sterling filed a health complaint against Colorado federal correctional institution.

December 2016 — Jeffrey’s appellate hearing took place in early December 2016. “His attorneys did a phenomenal job and there were some pointed questions asked by at least one judge.”

On June 22 2017, a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld all but one of Sterling’s convictions.

On January 16 2018, Jeffrey Sterling was released from prison to a halfway house.

On February 14 2018, Jeffrey Sterling was sent now home for the rest of his sentence.

UPDATE (September 16 2018) — On January 16 2018, Jeffrey Sterling was released from prison to a halfway house, ahead of the original end date of his 3.5 year prison sentence on June 14, 2018.

Now that my suspicions regarding the true story of the CIA debacle in China have been confirmed, I believe that one should be very careful about the official narrative of this case.

Keep in mind that there was no direct evidence against Sterling, only “metadata”.

RELATED POST: The True Story of the CIA Debacle in China — UPDATE

RELATED POST: CIA Debacle in China — The Search for “PATIENT ZERO”

According to a friend who is in contact with Sterling, his health is better and  home confinement is finally over.

So, the Sterlings are re-building their life. Jeffrey has been invited to speak in Europe but, of course, he must first apply for a permission to travel abroad.


UPDATE (September 16 2019) — “Unwanted Spy: The Persecution of an American Whistleblower” written by Jeffrey Sterling has just been released.

John Kiriakou — former CIA counter-terrorism officer and senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — wrote the following review:

“Unwanted Spy is at the same time an American tragedy and a first-person account of how to live an upstanding life against daunting odds. Jeffrey Sterling is a patriot.

He is also one of the most courageous and underappreciated whistleblowers in contemporary America. We all want to believe the best about our country, our government, and our society. But the truth is sometimes ugly. And sometimes patriots are harmed by that ugliness.

Jeffrey Sterling was vilified by our government because he wouldn’t toe the line. He paid for his conscientiousness with his freedom. Unwanted Spy makes it clear, though, that he was right and ‘they’ were wrong. He’s the better man for it.”

KIRKUS REVIEW — A CIA whistleblower tells his tale.

Sterling, a lawyer who spent eight years in the CIA, relates his life story and the details of what he maintains was a phony conviction for espionage.

“During the trial,” he writes, “the government did not present a shred of hard evidence to validate the charges against me. Even [the judge] summarized the case against me as being based on ‘very powerful circumstantial evidence’ rather than on hard proof.”

Some readers—e.g., those who condemned Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden—may conclude that the author should not have exposed certain sensitive CIA secrets.

However, given his coherent account, backed by copious details (other than a few redactions), most readers will believe that his revelations were warranted.

Rather than coming across as a bitter former CIA agent seeking retribution for his imprisonment, Sterling comes across as a reasonable man with a persuasive case that after the CIA hired him, his white supervisors held back promotions solely because he was black.

When he sued the CIA for racial discrimination, government officials, including Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, sought to discredit Sterling by alleging espionage.

In the first 50 pages of the narrative, the author chronicles his upbringing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. While some schoolmates and family members considered him too “white” to comfortably hang out with other black students, many whites displayed prejudice against him as a black boy.

After noting how he was determined to find a path that suited him, Sterling discusses his undergraduate studies at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and his law school years at Washington University in St. Louis.

While working as a public defender, he jumped at the opportunity to join the CIA after reading a recruitment advertisement. Despite his initial enthusiasm while training at CIA headquarters, Sterling soon saw not only the racial discrimination, but also the strict conservative leanings of most agents and the sometimes damaging incompetence infecting the agency hierarchy.

A book that amply demonstrates grave flaws in the criminal justice system.


Former CIA John Kiriakou Explains The Jeffrey Sterling Case

“Just like the CIA primary mission is to protect the Agency, the New York Time primary mission is to protect the Time. And so when this hit the fan — so to speak — Jeffrey was on his own.”

Former CIA John Kiriakou


I Was a CIA Whistleblower. Now I’m a Black Inmate. Here’s How I See American Racism. The Intercept Sept. 13 2016

Appeals Court Scrutinizes Ex-CIA Officer’s Leak Conviction — ABC News

Appeals court affirms most convictions of ex-CIA officer convicted in leak case — WaPo

In Opinion Mostly Rejecting Jeffrey Sterling Appeal, Fourth Circuit Criminalizes Unclassified Tips — emptywheel

Jeffrey Sterling, Convicted of Leaking About Botched CIA Program, Has Been Released From Prison — The Intercept


Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling: Letter From Prison

One Year Ago — Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling: Letter From Prison

Two Years Ago — Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling : Letter From Prison

Three Years Ago — Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling : “Letter From Prison”

Four Years Ago — Former CIA Jeffrey Sterling : “Letter From Prison”

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