ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A federal judge ruled that prosecutors may use the controversial “silent witness rule” to present jurors, but not the public, with classified evidence against Jeffrey Sterling, the former CIA officer accused of leaking defense secrets to a New York Times reporter.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema granted the government’s motion to admit the exhibits, which prosecutors claim could prove Sterling was the source of classified information reported in James Risen’s 2006 best-selling book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bus Administration.”
Sterling is scheduled to stand trial later this month for telling Risen about Operation Merlin, the CIA’s botched attempt to have a former Russian scientist pass on fake and intentionally flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran during the Clinton Administration. Details about the operation featured heavily in Chapter 9 of Risen’s book.
Earlier this year, Judge Brinkema ruled that Risen must testify, but prosecutors cannot ask him to reveal his sources, limiting his testimony to confirming that he wrote the chapter of his book and that he used unnamed sources to get information. Hoping to compensate for losing the most pertinent part of Risen’s testimony, prosecutors moved to present the classified documents seized from Sterling’s home.
Brinkema’s decision means that only the judge, jury and Sterling may view the exhibits, which will not be seen by the public.