Court Lets Feds Shield Sterling Case Witnesses

     (CN) – A federal judge has allowed the government to partially cloak evidence and witnesses in the ongoing legal saga of former CIA Agent Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking top-secret government documents to a New York Times reporter.
     In a heavily redacted judgment signed Friday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled on a number of filings made by both parties throughout the case.
     The court began by denying without prejudice Sterling’s June motion to compel the government to reveal some information gleaned from its initial investigation of Sterling.
     Brinkema also denied, without prejudice, a number of similar motions brought by the defense, and deferred consideration of the defense’s subpoenas of certain government witnesses.
     But most significant among these rulings was Brinkema’s partial granting of the government’s motion to redact certain documents and hide the identities of certain witnesses pursuant to the Classified Information Procedures Act.
     “The government will be permitted to use limited substitutions and redactions in exhibits subject to the court’s determination that the exhibits are relevant, not cumulative, and not shown by the defense to be unfairly prejudicial,” Brinkema wrote. “In assessing its proposed redactions, the government should consider all previous unredacted statements and phrases.”
     The court’s ruling also involved a CIA operative known only as “Human Asset No. 1.”
     “The court will also permit the heightened security measure of allowing any Human Asset called to testify to do so behind a screen separating the witness box from the public; other witnesses will testify in public with some additional security measures, which were discussed on the record, as needed,” the decision states.
     The battle over these issues will continue through the coming weeks.
     “To determine whether the government may use the silent witness rule for a small number of its proposed exhibits, it is hereby ordered that the government submit its brief setting forth the basis and proposed use of the silent witness rule by Friday, September 9, 2011,” Brinkema concluded. “Defendant is directed to file his reply by Friday, September 16, 2011.”

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