(CN) – A federal judge in Virginia ordered a former CIA agent accused of leaking government secrets to a newspaper reporter released on $10,000 bond. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, in Alexandria, ordered Jeffrey Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., released on bond, despite prosecutors’ claims that he must be detained to prevent further disclosure.
Brinkema ordered Sterling to stay in the Washington, D.C. metro area and to surrender travel documents.
Sterling was arrested Jan. 6 in St. Louis. He has been charged by a federal grand jury in Virginia with 10 counts of obstructing justice and disclosing national security information.
Sterling is suspected of disclosing secrets about an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program to New York Times reporter James Risen.
Sterling worked for the CIA from 1992 to 2000. From November 1998 to May 2000 he worked on the CIA’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 for the firing by leaking the information.
Prosecutors tried to portray Sterling as a danger to society. They claimed his actions were more heinous than a typical case in which a spy sells information for money, and that he leaked the information in a methodical, vindictive manner.
Sterling’s attorney, Edward McMahon, argued that defendants in similar cases were released from prison pending trial.