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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds Subpoenaed Lawyer for Alleged CIA Turncoat

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Federal prosecutors reportedly subpoenaed a lawyer to appear before the grand jury investigating a former CIA officer who is charged with leaking government secrets to a newspaper reporter.

Mark Zaid, of Washington D.C., represented Jeffrey Sterling lawyer and specializes in high-profile national security cases.

Prosecutors subpoenaed and questioned Zaid about Sterling's motive, his own contact with third parties, and actions he had taken on Sterling's behalf, the St. Louis Beacon reported.

All of the questions asked of Zaid reportedly fell outside of the attorney-client privilege, but not everybody is convinced. Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer with the Government Accountability Project, told the Beacon that the subpoena was "another example of government overkill" and violated the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which sets ethical rules for prosecutors.

Radack cited a rule that stated prosecutors shall not subpoena a lawyer in a grand jury or criminal case unless the prosecutor reasonably believes three things - that the information is not protected from disclosure by any applicable privilege, that the evidence is essential to the prosecution and there are no other feasible alternatives to getting the information.

Radack contends, according to the Beacon, that this subpoena fails because "everybody knew" Sterling was the leaker of the information and so prosecutors could not claim they had no feasible alternative for getting the information or that the information gained was essential to prosecution.

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 won a Pulitzer Prize for his book "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."

Sterling worked for the CIA from 1992 to 2000, spending the last two years on the agency's Iranian 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 from the firing by leaking the information.

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