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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Condi’s Speech Will Be Better Live in Leak Trial

(CN) - A federal judge curbed the U.S. government's ability to rely on Condoleezza Rice's talking points in place of her testimony while prosecuting former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for allegedly leaking national security secrets to The New York Times.

The brief decision also dispatches with a number of other evidentiary motions and makes provisions to protect the identities of CIA employees who will appear as government witnesses.

Prosecutors had wanted to admit talking points from former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice in place of her testimony at trial. The written talking points were the basis of a speech at the White House to New York Times reporters, including James Risen, on the issue of reporting matters concerning national security.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected the motion on Oct. 18 and also declined to admit "excited utterances" that Human Asset No. 1 made to his CIA case officer after he read Chapter 9 of Risen's "State of War." The court also declined to block Sterling from arguing or admitting evidence that "everybody does it" - that is, everybody leaks classified information.

Though the government can admit into evidence notes that a CIA press officer took of his conversations with Risen, Brinkema said there must be "a cautionary instruction as to how Risen's statements may be considered by the jury."

William Harlow was director of the CIA's Office of Public Affairs in 2003 and had discussions with Risen "relating to Human Asset No. 1 and Classified Program No. 1" in which Risen confirmed that "he possessed 'documents' relating to the Classified Program No. 1," the government says.

Brinkema also permitted prosecutors to admit Sterling's 2000 and 1993 Personnel Appraisal Reports, over defense objections that these reports are irrelevant.

In adopting the government's proposed voir dire, the court will take certain security measures for some government witnesses. "Because the witness list will contain the full names of many CIA employees whose identities the government wants to protect, it will remain classified," Brinkema wrote.

The court will also erect a screen to block ten specific witnesses from the courtroom. These witnesses can use a pseudonym in open court, and the court will delay "asking potential jurors if they recognize the names of any witnesses until a qualified pool of jurors is established."

Brinkema asked the government further explain why it wants to conceal the names of those 10 witnesses even from the defendant and the jury.

Sterling argued in his reply to the government's motion that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 16 has "no provision for anonymous experts," and that the government must identify and provide the witnesses' qualifications as the defense did with its expert witnesses.

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