US journalist facing jail term for refusing to testify in CIA officer’s trial

James RisenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A leading American journalist is facing a possible jail term after the United States Supreme Court refused to consider his appeal against testifying at the trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency officer. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, who worked for the CIA from 1993 until 2002, was arrested in early 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was charged with leaking classified information about Operation MERLIN, a botched CIA covert operation targeting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The operation was publicly revealed for the first time in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. In chapter 9 of the book, Risen details a bungled operation by the CIA’s Iran Task Force to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. Risen alleges that the CIA operation backlashed and may actually have helped the Iranian nuclear weapons program, as Iranian nuclear engineers would have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws”. Risen was summoned to testify in Sterling’s trial, but refused, arguing that having to identify the source of his allegation about Operation MERLIN would infringe on press freedom. On the other side of the argument, the United States government claimed that the freedom of the press does not permit journalists “to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources”. Risen filed a case in a Virginia court, arguing that he should not be forced to comply with the subpoena issued to him to testify at Sterling’s trial. After the court upheld the subpoena, Risen’s legal team filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. But the Court has now refused to hear the case, which means that Risen will have to testify in Sterling’s trial or face a possible jail sentence. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #736

Abdel Baset al-MegrahiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Convicted Lockerbie bomber dies. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer who was the only person ever convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, died at home in Tripoli Sunday, nearly three years after he was released from a Scottish prison to the outrage of the relatives of the attack’s 270 victims. He was 60. Scotland released Mr. al-Megrahi on Aug. 20, 2009, on compassionate grounds to let him return home to die after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Anger over the release was further stoked by subsequent allegations that London had sought his release to preserve business interests in the oil-rich North African nation, strongly denied by the British and Scottish governments.
►►Federal appeals panel to hear CIA leak case. A federal appeals panel in the United States will hear the case of ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who has been charged with leaking classified information about Iran’s nuclear program to New York Times reporter James Risen. Prosecutors say Sterling was a key source in Risen’s 2006 book, State of War. They are also challenging the court’s decision to strike two government witnesses and allow disclosure of the identities of covert CIA operatives to Sterling’s lawyers.
►►New study of British Empire’s spies published. British newspaper The Guardian has published a review of William Beaver’s newly published book, Under Every Leaf: How Britain Played The Greater Game From Afghanistan to Africa. Much of the book concerns the creation in the mid-1850s of the British War Office Intelligence Department. According to the review, the book does much to restore the “missing dimension” to Britain’s military-imperial history between 1855 and the creation of her modern intelligence agencies in the early 1900s.

News you may have missed #604 (CIA edition)

Raymond Allen Davis

Raymond Davis

►►Aid agency leaves Pakistan following CIA vaccination scheme. Fears that a fake CIA vaccination scheme, created to hunt Osama bin Laden, has compromised the operations of aid agencies in Pakistan have intensified, after it emerged that Save the Children, a major NGO, was forced to evacuate its staff following warnings about their security.
►►CIA contractor arrested in car park brawl. A CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was freed by Pakistani authorities after the families of two men he killed in a shootout agreed to accept more than $2.34 million in blood money, has been arrested after a brawl over a car parking space, according to police in the US state of Colorado.
►►Judge approves secret evidence for CIA leak trial. A federal judge has ruled that prosecutors pursuing a leak case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling may use a controversial procedure known as the “silent witness rule” to present evidence to the jury that will not be seen by the public. Sterling is accused of leaking CIA secrets to New York Times journalist James Risen.

News you may have missed #589

James Risen

James Risen

►►US lawmakers want audit of Colombia intelligence aid. Two US lawmakers on Wednesday requested the White House to scrutinize US assistance to Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS, after media reports that American money and training was used by the DAS for the illegal spying on government opponents.
►►Judge quashes subpoena to reporter in CIA leaker case. New York Times investigative reporter James Risen will not have to reveal the identity of his confidential source when he testifies in the criminal trial of Jeffrey Sterling, an alleged CIA leaker, a US federal judge recently held in a case involving the highest-profile journalist subpoena in recent years.
►►Ex-White House scientist pleads guilty in spy case tied to Israel. Stewart D. Nozette, a former senior government scientist who held the highest US security clearances, pleaded guilty to espionage on Wednesday and agreed to a 13-year prison term for selling top-secret information on military satellites and other technology to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli spy.

US government wants to use secret witnesses in CIA leak trial

James Risen

James Risen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Prosecutors in the case of an ex-CIA officer accused of disclosing classified information to a journalist have asked the court for permission to introduce evidence in secret and to use privacy screens to shield the identities of witnesses. Jeffrey Sterling, who worked for the CIA’s Iran Task Force,  faces 10 felony counts and up to 120 years in prison for sharing information about the CIA’s operations in Iran. Court documents do not name the recipient of Sterling’s information, but it is common knowledge that Sterling spoke to James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times. In chapter 9 of his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Risen details a botched operation by the Iran Task Force, which tried to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. To do this, the CIA apparently recruited a Russian former nuclear scientist, who had defected to the United States. The unnamed scientist was told to travel to Vienna, Austria, in early 2000, and offer to sell the documents to the Iranians. But the documents contained a deliberate technical flaw, which, Risen alleges, the Russian CIA operative thought was so obvious that it could make him look untrustworthy in the eyes of the Iranians, thus endangering the entire mission. The Russian scientist ended up letting the Iranians know about the flaw, reveals Risen. He further alleges that the CIA operation may have actually helped the Iranian nuclear weapons program, as Iranian scientists would have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #536 (US edition)

James Risen

James Risen

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US federal agencies sitting on decade-old FOIA requests. In the United States, as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are growing, a new study has found that eight government agencies are sitting on requests filed over ten years ago. According to the Knight Open Government Survey, conducted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the single oldest request is now 20 years old. FOIA requires agencies to process and respond to a request within 20 business days. ►►US journalist seeks to avoid testifying at CIA agent’s trial. A sizeable percentage of FOIA requests are filed by journalists, who are also on the receiving ends of most intelligence-related ‘leaks’ in the United States. One of those journalists, James Risen, of The New York Times, has been subpoenaed by the Obama administration to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is a former CIA employee, who has been arrested under the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing details about Operation MERLIN to Risen. MERLIN was a botched US effort to provide Iran with a flawed design for building a nuclear weapon, in order to delay the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program. Times lawyers argue that the First Amendment should shield Risen from having to testify at Sterling’s trial. ►►US intel research agency works on 3-D holographs. Also in the United States, IARPA, the US intelligence community’s technical research wing, has announced that it is working on a system that lets intelligence analysts collaborate with each other using “interactive 3-D holographic displays”. Through this system, IARPA hopes that intelligence personnel could take simultaneous virtual strolls through real-life target locations, help plan raids, etc.

Ex-CIA officer faces up to 120 years for leaking secrets

James Risen

James Risen

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A former CIA officer, who sued the Agency after he was fired, was arrested last Thursday in St. Louis, Missouri n charges of leaking classified information about a botched CIA covert operation in Iran. There is no information on the indictment about the recipient of the information that was leaked by Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, who worked for the CIA from 1993 until 2002. But it is common knowledge Sterling spoke to James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The New York Times. In 2002, Risen wrote an article about Sterling’s lawsuit, in which the plaintiff claimed he was told by his superiors that he was “too big and black” to operate covertly overseas. According to the indictment, in 2003, after Sterling’s lawsuit was thrown out on national security grounds, he started leaking information (presumably to Risen), which he had gathered while working for the CIA’s Iran Task Force. Risen reportedly tried to publish Sterling’s disclosures, but The New York Times declined to print them, after its editors were warned by the White House that they would be severely detrimental to national security. Read more of this post