Originally published on January 29, 2015, at NationofChange.org
A former CIA case officer has been convicted for telling a New York Times reporter details concerning a reckless CIA operation that potentially sped up Iran’s nuclear advancement. Although the case against the CIA whistleblower was largely circumstantial and lacking evidence, former case officer Jeffrey Sterling faces a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison for speaking to New York Times reporter James Risen. Under threat of arrest, Risen tenaciously refused to reveal his sources to the government.
After joining the CIA on May 14, 1993, Sterling eventually rose to the rank of case officer and began working with the agency’s Iran Task Force. Between November 1998 and May 2000, Sterling had been assigned to a mission conspiring to deliver flawed nuclear blueprints to the Iranian government codenamed Operation Merlin. Unaware of the design flaws, the Iranian government would waste years devising a nuclear weapon that could not detonate.
The CIA planned to use a Russian nuclear engineer codenamed Merlin to transport the nuclear blueprints to the Iranians. In a luxurious hotel room in San Francisco, Sterling and a senior CIA officer gave the blueprints to Merlin, who immediately identified a flaw even though he had not been debriefed. Instead of aborting the mission because the design flaw was too obvious, the senior CIA officer went ahead with the operation.