ST. LOUIS (CN) – A former CIA officer who is accused of leaking government secrets to a newspaper reporter waived his right to a detention hearing in Federal Court here Monday. Jeffrey A. Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, will be sent to Virginia for a hearing on whether he is a flight risk or a danger to the community, as prosecutors allege.
Sterling, who is recovering from knee replacement surgery, will be detained until that hearing, which will be held after the government decides it is safe for him to travel.
Sterling has been charged by a federal grand jury in Virginia with 10 counts related to obstructing justice and disclosing national security information. He allegedly stole classified documents and made his first disclosures in 2003 in connection with “a possible newspaper story” and a book published by the same reporter in 2006, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The Justice Department did not name the country involved or the reporter, but the dates and details point to the reporter being James Risen of The New York Times.
Risen, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” was subpoenaed in April 2010 to appear before a grand jury to reveal his sources for a chapter in the book that details the CIA’s efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons research. Risen refused to comply.
Sterling’s attorney, Edward McMahon, says his client is innocent but refused to comment to reporters.
Sterling worked for the CIA from 1992 to 2000. From November 1998 to May 2000 he worked on the CIA’s Iran desk, which handled Iranian spies who had defected to the United States.
Sterling was fired in October 2001 after filing a lawsuit in New York Federal Court, claiming the CIA discriminated against him because he is African-American. Prosecutors claim Sterling retaliated for the firing by leaking the information.
If convicted, Sterling could face up to 10 years in prison for unauthorized disclosure and retention of national defense information charges, 20 years for mail fraud, 10 years for unauthorized conveyance of government property and 20 years for obstruction of justice. Each charge is also punishable by a $250,000 fine.