Pardon Plea For Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower Wins Press Backing


The impassioned plea by a CIA whistleblower’s wife for a presidential pardon for her husband has brought unusual support from several major media organizations.

Holly Sterling (shown at right in Justice Integrity Project photo), wife of imprisoned former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, begged President Obama for her husband’s pardon Oct. 15 at the National Press Club in Holly SterlingWashington, DC.

“Not only has Jeffrey suffered but so have his family, his friends, community and society," she wrote in her 14-page letter to Obama. "And now an intelligent, strong, ethical, and productive member of our world feels as though he ceases to exist while in prison.”

Club President John Hughes introduced the session and Reporters Without Borders U.S. Director Delphine Hagland urged support because reporters cannot function without whistleblowers. Fox News gave national coverage to the event.

The media comments showed rare support for whistleblowers that was particularly notable because the media often defer to intelligence agencies.

Also notable at the press conference were the strong protests voiced by former CIA, NSA and Justice Department whistleblowers against the unfairness of the defendant's conviction on spy charges for what they aptly described as a double standard compared two other recent high-profile investigations of mishandling of classified information.

One prosecution was the misdemeanor conviction, $40,000 fine and suspended sentence for former CIA Director David Petraeus for allowing his lover/biographer Paula Broadwell to access classified information.

Jesslyn Radack NPC 10-15-2015The other is the ongoing debate regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email system for her sensitive government work. She appeared Oct. 22 before a special House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi deaths of four Americans. Emails retrieved from the server or suspected as missing were a topic focus for the committee's Republican majority as they questioned the front-running Democratic presidential candidate. Separately, the FBI is investigating some aspects of the procedures but officials have been careful not to label it so far as a criminal investigation.

Former CIA career officer Ray McGovern, former CIA and NSA analyst Thomas Drake, and former Justice Department ethics officer Jesselyn Radack each sharply criticized the unfairness whereby the Obama administration has prosecuted Sterling on espionage charges for actions they described as less serious and less proven than that by high-ranking officials like Petraeus and Clinton.

Radack (shown above in another JIP photo) has represented seven national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged, or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. These include Drake, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden (who was previously an NSA and CIA employee), and former CIA employee John Kiriakou.

She noted that President Obama has already made statements that send a message to prosecutors that he is excusing Clinton for her email system at the same time the president and his Justice Department have launched an unprecedented crackdown using spy charges against lower-ranking federal intelligence and other employees suspected of talking to news reporters.

Jeffrey Sterling File informationThe news conference prompted in-depth reports by both the conservative Fox News in Whistleblowers Call Out Double Standard in Hillary's Email Scandal and the liberal Democracy Now! Breaking Silence. Sterling is shown at right in a photo from "The Invisible Man," a documentary about his case.

The reaction against the Sterling prosecution and those like it parallel several other recent scandalous revelations of broken and corrupt government in Washington, DC.

These developments are explored below as a part of a series on foreign policy that began Oct. 13. It has presented so far (in chronological order): 

Today, we examine the unprecedented federal prosecutions of whistleblowers on spy charges more specifically below. An appendix provides links a range of commentary.

 

ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy, filmed the Oct. 15 news conference at the press club in the segment above. It co-sponsored the event along with Reporters Without Borders and RootsAction.org.

ExposeFacts introduced the session as follows: "Jeffrey Sterling was convicted under the Espionage Act as a source for New York Times reporter James Risen’s book State of War. He began serving his three-and-a-half year prison sentence in June. His wife’s news conference was the first time the spouse of a CIA whistleblower has made such an appearance."

The Press Club's president, Hughes, opened the conference by noting that substantive news reporting cannot exist without government whistleblowers. That is a theme often repeated in talks by Risen at the club, as we have reported previously in such columns as Mr. Drake Goes To Washington.

But it is sometimes difficult to mobilize media support for whistleblowers because their activities are varied and often controversial. Support for whistleblowers thus risks the media's professed tradition of neutrality as well as real-world access to the institutions whistleblowers are criticizing. So, the press club's introduction of the event was a significant step even without a formal endorsement of the specifics the pardon plea.

Halgand, director of the U.S. office for Reporters Without Borders since December 2011, directly supported Sterling, saying his imprisonment shows an alarming crackdown harming reporters and their audiences via new electronic surveillance tools.

President Obama Working at desk Oct. 23, 2015“In fact," she said, "the war on whistleblowers is designed to restrict all but the officially approved version of events. The United States has witnessed an alarming trend in curtailing freedom on information these recent years, and as we heard earlier, President Obama’s so-called ‘war on whistleblowers’ played an important role in this decline.”

“The Department of Justice built a case against Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence," she said, "and they sustained his conviction in what the BBC called, ‘a trial by metadata.’ How is it possible that proving the simple existence of contacts between a former CIA operative and a journalist is sufficient to convict someone of espionage?"

The Obama administration has maintained that its warrantless surveillance encompasses only metadata, which is essentially the who-and-when log of electronic transmissions, not the contents of public messages.

But NSA whistleblowers, including those like Drake speaking at the press club event, have disputed that categorization. Drake and his former NSA colleague William Binney are among those saying the NSA has access to content also.

Additionally, they have warned that even collection of metadata represents an unconstitutional and dangerous risk for journalists or anyone else in a free society because metadata can be used to build circumstantial cases like Sterling's that may be totally unfair, sending innocent people to prison and spreading fear through millions of government workers and contractors.

President Obama is shown in a White House photo working at his desk on Oct. 23.

"If anybody can be sentenced in the United States just because he was merely talking to a journalist on a regular basis," Halgand continued, "where is press freedom heading in the country of the First Amendment?"

“The Obama administration presided over the most draconian crackdown on national security and intelligence whistleblowers in U.S. history,” said Radack, who leads the whistleblower and source protection program at ExposeFacts. “The Justice Department has used the antiquated Espionage Act as a bludgeon to threaten, coerce, silence, and imprison whistleblowers for alleged mishandling of classified information.”

David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell July 2011 afghanistan“Meanwhile," she continued, "powerful and politically connected individuals accused of the same and much worse conduct receive, at most, a slap on the wrist. Like General David Petraeus, who gave away more secret information at a much higher level to his mistress and received a sweetheart plea deal for a minor misdemeanor.” Petraeus is shown at right in a photo with his biographer and lover Paula Broadwell, who reportedly is not being prosecuted for obtaining classified information from Petraeus.

Inside the Jeffrey Sterling Case

Jeffrey A. Sterling, a Missouri native, was an attorney and undercover CIA officer from 1993 to January 2002. With a top secret clearance, he worked part of that time on sensitive covert actions to disrupt Iran's arms development, which was code named Operation Merlin.

But Sterling suffered career reverses that he attributed to his race. He filed a discrimination complaint internally with the CIA in 2000. Later, he resigned and became the first black officer to file a federal race bias lawsuit against the agency. Also, he testified as a whistleblower in secret before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 about shortcomings in the Operation Merlin plan. The gist of the super-secret plan was to persuade a Russian-born scientist working with the CIA to provide Iranians with flawed plans on how to develop nuclear capabilities. 

After leaving the agency Sterling worked as an insurance fraud investigator beginning in 2004. Federal courts dismissed his race bias lawsuit on appeal in 2005 because they agreed with the CIA's view that the agency could not defend the suit without revealing state secrets.

Sterling had some contact during this period with Risen, a senior reporter for the New York Times covering the intelligence sector. No evidence was introduced at trial they talked about Operation Merlin, which Risen described in his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. 

Federal authorities arrested Sterling on Jan. 6, 2011 on charges that included violation of the Espionage Act, allegedly for conveying information to Risen.

In a trial delayed by years of litigation over whether federal officials could force Risen to testify against Sterling, a Virginia federal jury convicted the defendant Jan. 26, 2015 on circumstantial evidence of revealing to Risen details about Operation Merlin. The nine felony counts included espionage. The charge was unusual because a mainstream newspaper, not foreign agents, received disputed information. Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued at trial that the information could have come from any of 90 different persons. The jurisdiction is one of the most difficult in the nation for defendants in criminal cases involving intelligence because many jurors and family members work directly or indirectly for the federal government, often for intelligence and defense-related sectors.

In May, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced Sterling to 3½ years in prison, which was less than the 19 to 24 year sentence sought by prosecutors. Sterling is serving his term in Colorado despite the protests of his wife Holly, a social worker, who lives in Missouri. She says the financial hardship travel so far is compounded by nearly a decade of prosecution and her husband's inability to work during recent years because of the investigation and charges.

Holly Sterling's Oct. 15 press club appearance and a preceding interview that morning on the Democracy Now! radio show were her wife's first in-depth description of the case.

She attacked the unfairness of the Obama's unprecedented use of spy charges against suspected whistleblowers.

Ray McGovern Jesslyn radack at NPC 10-15-2015She and other speakers, including former CIA career officer Ray McGovern , noted that officials leaking classified information to the media face no consequences when it advances official goals and when high-ranking officials receive little sanction even when engaged in self-serving and unauthorized leaks. Petraeus, for example, received merely probation for a term of up to two years and a $40,000 fine.

That fine is relatively trivial for a man rewarded by Wall Street by being named CEO of KKR Global Initiatives and repeatedly invited even after his dismissal to attend Bilderberg annual conferences, teach at major universities, and serve on boards.

McGovern (shown in a photo) is a retired CIA analyst turned political activist and speaker. He chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s and prepared the CIA's daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush.

“Does the government have no shame," she wrote in her letter to the president, "in destroying one man’s life and wasting tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to punish a man who had the audacity to do two things: Stand up for his constitutional rights and utilize proper channels provided to him to express concern for the citizens of our country?” 

She and Institute for Public Accuracy executive director Norman Soloman amplified on that theme earlier during the Democracy Now! interview, Breaking Silence hosted by Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman.

They showed a clip of Jeffrey Sterling, taken from "The Invisible Man" documentary that Soloman co-produced. "They already had the machine geared up against me," Sterling said. "The moment that they felt there was a leak, every finger pointed to Jeffrey Sterling."

Soloman protested the selective prosecution illustrated by the cases. "This administration, worse than any other in memory in this regard, has totally turned the prosecution of leaks into a politicized set of vendettas," he said. "And I think it’s necessary — it’s essential — that we recognize that there is no equality or near equality or justice under the law in this regard."

Later that day, Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge reported on the "Hannity" show Whistleblowers Call Out Double Standard in Hillary's Email Scandal.

She broadened the case beyond Sterling's to that of other whistleblowers. "Today," she said, "intel whistleblowers and the wife of an imprisoned whistleblower held a press conference to highlight the glaring double standards between their situations and Hillary Clinton’s server scandal. They claim they lost their careers and life savings for doing just a fraction of what Clinton did."

Herridge reported that Sterling's convictions included one for obstruction of justice charges because a single email was missing from his account.

Thomas Drake Oct. 15, 2015 NPC (JIP)She noted also that Drake, the former NSA senior executive at the press conference Oct. 15, was indicted in 2010 under the Espionage Act for sharing unclassified information with a Baltimore Sun reporter. Her Fox report continued:

"Compare that to the Clinton emails, more than 400 containing classified information on her personal, unsecured server," Herridge said. She noted that Clinton's go-to explanation is that nothing on her server was marked classified, but the Drake and Sterling cases show that's no excuse under the law. Herridge said it doesn't matter how emails are labeled. The content is what matters. "The question is, will the law be applied in a universal way, and that there's not a double standard, sort of a law for the common guy and then a law for the politically elite, like Mrs. Clinton?"

Thomas Drake (shown at right) had blown the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11. As a result, the Obama Administration indicted him in 2010 as the first whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg charged with espionage. In 2011, the government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal. 

Drake denounced the prosecution of Sterling as abusive. “In the United States," Drake said at this month's news conference, "national security is currently engaging in un-amending the First Amendment: The cornerstone, the foundation of the Bill of Rights and all of our liberties and freedoms." He continued:

If you don’t have the ability to do redress for grievances, if you don’t have the ability to publish what is in the public interest, to inform people, to associate freely one to another, then what we call our constitutional republic, this special form of democracy, begins to erode and disappear.

Halgand, the Reporters Without Borders U.S. director, summed up: “It is really clear that the Department of Justice chose to make an example of Jeffrey, to warn government employees against talking to journalists. Leaks are the lifeblood of investigative journalism in this country given that nearly all information related to national security is considered secret and classified."

 
 
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Related News Coverage

Jeffrey Sterling: 'The Invisible Man' and His Case

Intercept, CIA's Jeffrey Sterling Sentenced to 42 Months for Leaking to New York Times Journalist, Peter Maass, May 11, 2015. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent convicted of sharing classified information Jeffrey Sterlingwith a New York Times reporter, was sentenced today to three and a half years in prison, a significantly shorter term than had been expected. Sterling’s lawyers had asked the judge not to abide by sentencing guidelines calling for 19 to 24 years behind bars. They argued Sterling should be treated with the same leniency shown to former Gen. David Petraeus, who was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and avoid prison after admitting to leaking classified information to his biographer and then-girlfriend, Paula Broadwell. Sterling’s lawyers also pointed to the case of former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who was recently released from jail after a 30-month sentence for disclosing the name of a covert agent to a reporter,Judge Leonie Brinkema lecture (photo by Bill Wetzel via Flickr) and to the 13-month-sentence handed down to Stephen Kim, who pleaded guilty to talking about a classified document with a Fox News reporter. (Judge Leonie Brinkema photo at a university lecture by Bill Wetzel via Flickr.)

Reporters Without Borders, Holly Sterling asks for President Obama's pardon, Staff report, Oct. 15, 2015. On June 16, 2015 Jeffrey Sterling self-surrendered to the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Colorado, almost 900 miles from his home. After a long and grueling trial, this former CIA operative had been found guilty of seven counts of espionage on January 26, 2015. Even if throughout his entire trial and to this day, Sterling maintains his innocence, he was sentenced in May to three and a half years in prison. Why? This is a long story. To sum up, Sterling was in touch with a journalist. And this is apparently a crime.

Sterling went through proper channels to divulge his concerns about the classified operation during a briefing with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March 2003. Yet the jury found Sterling guilty as Risen’s source. But the evidence that formed the basis of his conviction consisted only of multiple emails and telephone conversations between the two men, without any content to directly prove Sterling was the source. The content of most of these emails and phone conversations remains unknown. Only the metadata have been made public.

Herein lies Reporters Without Borders’ biggest concern: the DOJ built a case against Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence, and obtained his conviction in what the BBC aptly named a “trial by metadata.”

“How is it possible that proving the mere existence of contact between a former C.I.A. operative and a journalist is sufficient to convict someone of espionage?, highlights Delphine Halgand, US Director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Is a relationship with a reporter the new catalyst for government prosecution of whistleblowers, whether alleged or actual? If anybody can be sentenced in the United States just because he was merely talking to a journalist on a regular basis, where is press freedom heading in the country of the First Amendment?”

Post Haven, How "Progressive Media" Go Wrong: The Case of Jeffrey Sterling, Sam Husseini, Oct. 15, 2015. There's real evidence that the intention of [Operation Merlin] was not to forestall Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, but rather, the program may have been to give Iran — and Iraq — nuclear weapons information that could then be used as a pretext to attack those countries for having such information. I had some suspicions along these lines, and had been cautioning people from accepting the keystone kop narrative without definitive evidence, but David Swanson is the person who really moved the ball on this. His piece “In Convicting Jeff Sterling, CIA Revealed More Than It Accused Him of Revealing,” which analyzes a secret cable that was made public in the course of the Sterling trial. Swanson writes: “During the course of Sterling’s trial, the CIA itself made public a bigger story than the one it pinned on Sterling. The CIA revealed, unintentionally no doubt, that just after the nuclear weapons plans had been dropped off for the Iranians, the CIA had proposed to the same asset that he next approach the Iraqi government for the same purpose.”

Washington Post, Twisted view of CIA’s Operation Merlin, Walter Pincus, Jan. 26, 2015. The conviction Monday of former CIA case officer Jeffrey A. Sterling for leaking classified information to a reporter requires a review of the CIA’s once-covert operation to slow down Iran’s nuclear program. The CIA effort, which began in 1997, tried to use a former Russian nuclear engineer to misguide Tehran’s scientists pursuing a nuclear bomb. The engineer was to pass on flawed Russian plans for a nuclear triggering device. Walter Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy for The Washington Post. He first came to the paper in 1966 and has covered numerous subjects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, politics and congressional investigations. He was among Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

Called “Operation Merlin” by Risen — after the engineer’s code name — the program was described as not only a failure but as “one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.” Risen said it was one that may have helped put nuclear weapons in the hands of a charter member of what President George W. Bush called the “axis of evil.” In the intervening eight years, stories about this onetime highly secret CIA operation have continued to describe it as a botched effort and one that might have actually helped Iran. Those descriptions, of course, were based on the assumption that all the facts in the book were true.

The Intercept, This is how it ended for Jeffrey Sterling, Peter Maass, June 18, 2015. A former covert officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, Sterling sat down in a federal courtroom with a lawyer on either side, looking up at a judge who would announce in a few moments whether he would go to prison for the next 20 years. A few feet away, three prosecutors waited expectantly, hoping that more than a decade of investigation by the FBI would conclude with a severe sentence for a man who committed an “unconscionable” crime, as one of them told the judge.

In Sterling’s blind spot, behind his left shoulder, his wife tried not to sob so loudly that the judge would hear. A social worker, she had been interrogated by FBI agents, her modest home was searched, she had been made to testify before a grand jury, and she had given up her hopes for an ordinary life — a child or two rather than the miscarriages she had, a husband who could hold a job, a life that was not under surveillance, and friends who were free of harassment from government agents asking for information about her and her husband.

One of Sterling’s lawyers stood up to ask for leniency. Sterling was a good person, the lawyer said, not a traitor. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. After leaving the CIA, he worked as a healthcare investigator and won awards for uncovering millions of dollars in fraud. He loved his wife. He did not cause any harm and did not deserve to be locked up until he was an old man for talking to a New York Times reporter about a classified program that he believed had gone awry. Please let the sentence be fair, the lawyer said.

Sterling’s case has drawn attention primarily for two reasons: it was part of the Obama Administration’s controversial crackdown on leakers and whistleblowers, and prosecutors had tried to force the Times reporter, James Risen, to divulge the name of his source, whom the government believed was Sterling. The case, known as United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, was treated mainly as a freedom-of-the-press issue, with Risen as the heroic centerpiece. Lost in the judicial briefs about the First Amendment was the black man in the middle.

Democracy Now! Breaking Silence, Wife of Jailed CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Seeks Presidential Pardon, Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman interviewing Holly Sterling and Norman Soloman, Oct. 15, 2015. In an unprecedented news conference today, the spouse of a jailed CIA whistleblower is speaking out. Holly Sterling, the wife of imprisoned former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, will appear at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to appeal for a presidential pardon. Sterling is serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Risen later exposed how the risky operation could have actually aided the Iranian nuclear program. In January, Sterling was convicted of nine felony counts, including espionage. Ahead of her news conference, Holly Sterling joins us along with Norman Solomon, longtime activist and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

NORMAN SOLOMON: The government raided the home of Jeffrey Sterling and Holly Sterling in 2006, as I recall. And Holly was hauled before a grand jury and in front of the FBI in the D.C. area. And then, for several years, nothing happened. And it wasn’t until the Obama administration came in when suddenly Jeffrey, who had gone back into private employment—an exemplary inspector against insurance fraud—was suddenly indicted and arrested and taken into custody. And then there was a dragged-out several years while the government attempted to force the excellent New York Times investigative reporter James Risen to essentially rat on his sources for his book State of War about the Bush administration. And to his credit, Risen absolutely refused to do that. And so, after many years, Jeffrey Sterling was finally taken to trial early this year.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Holly Sterling, can you talk about the role of race in your husband’s case?

HOLLY STERLING: Absolutely. Well, as you had stated, Jeffrey was the first African-American case officer to file a suit against the CIA. And that, that played a major part in the trial, I believe. You know, Jeffrey had upset the CIA, and because of that, they went after him as really the only source, potential source, for Mr. James Risen’s book. And so, subsequently, you know, no one else — no one else was investigated except Jeffrey.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Holly, what happened when the authorities came to raid your home? Can you describe the day, where you were? Were you at home? Was Jeffrey at home?

HOLLY STERLING: Yes. Actually, I had just gotten home from testifying at the grand jury. And Jeffrey and I were home. Approximately 20 minutes after arriving home, my lawyer called to tell me that the FBI was on their way, because they did have a search warrant. And I’d like to note out that my lawyer said that this never happens. He’s never had, in the history of him being a criminal lawyer, the FBI calling to alert him that his client’s home is going to be raided. He said that means they have nothing on Jeffrey.

So, approximately about 10 minutes later after that phone call, there was a knock at the door, and about 15 agents surrounded our home, came in. They went methodically through our home. They were very polite. They asked, you know, "Is this the room where you said you had a computer?" took everything out, wearing gloves, putting things in brown paper bags, you know, and went through, put everything back. At one point, one of the agents went over to Jeffrey and showed him a subpoena for his work laptop. And the agent went to take Jeffrey’s actual suitcase that had the laptop in it. And many people may not know, but Jeffrey was a licensed lawyer before he was convicted, and read the subpoena and said, "It does not include the contents of the bag; it only includes the laptop," and so took out the laptop and gave that to the agent.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Norman Solomon, could you explain what President Obama could do now? What’s in his executive power to do on Sterling’s case?

NORMAN SOLOMON: President Obama has the power to respond to Holly Sterling’s letter today by issuing an immediate pardon for Jeffrey Sterling and getting him out of prison, where he’s been now for four months and is scheduled not for release until the middle of the year 2018. So the president could halt this, really, persecution, I would say, of Jeffrey Sterling that’s been going on for more than a decade, when you trace back the origins of what ordeal he and Holly Sterling have gone through.

Consortium News, Jeffrey Sterling’s Selective Prosecution, Chelsea Gilmour, Oct. 17, 2015. Exclusive: The leak conviction of ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling exposed a range of double standards, from how the spy agency treats African-Americans to how favored officials like Gen. David Petraeus get a pass while others get prison, an issue now before President Obama. Holly Sterling, the wife of a former CIA officer convicted of leaking details about a botched CIA plan to give flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, has asked President Barack Obama to pardon her husband who was targeted for prosecution after accusing the CIA of racial discrimination and taking his concerns about the Iran scheme to congressional authorities. In a 14-page letter to President Obama, Holly Sterling recounted the personal nightmare of the U.S. government’s relentless pursuit of her husband, Jeffrey Sterling, an African-American, after an account of the Iran operation – code-named Operation Merlin – appeared in State of War, a 2006 book by New York Times reporter James Risen.

Petraeus Case

Politico, Feds complain leak lawsuit spurred leaks, Josh Gerstein, Oct. 15, 2015. A flurry of improper leaks to the media is plaguing a lawsuit the FBI is facing over allegations it illegally leaked private information, the Justice Department complained Thursday. The government's move to turn the tables came in a suit brought by Florida residents Jill and Scott Kelley, who contend that their privacy was invaded when FBI and Defense Department officials leaked messages from their private email account after Jill Kelley told the FBI that she and high ranking government officials she knew were being stalked online.

The ensuing investigation exposed an extramarital affair then-CIA Director David Petraeus had with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The disclosure led to Petraeus's resignation and eventually to his guilty plea earlier this year to a misdemeanor charge he mishandled classified information by storing it at his home and sharing it with Broadwell. In a court filing early Thursday (posted here ), the Justice Department pointed to stories on CNN's website and in Politico [FBI agent in sworn deposition: Petraeus lover accessed his emails, April 23, 2015] detailing aspects of a key FBI agent's deposition in the case. The motion seeking to limit questioning of FBI officials stopped just short of accusing the Kelleys or their attorneys of the leaks, but argued that the disclosures appeared to be part of an effort to abuse depositions in the case to fish for information on topics that government lawyers believe should be off limits.

The DOJ filing argues that the Kelleys' attorneys are pursuing an "ulterior motive" by using the depositions to embarrass and harass witnesses and to seek information not related to the only surviving issue in the suit: whether the FBI or Defense Department leaked private information about the Kelleys to the media. Some press accounts after the probe became public suggested Jill Kelley had an affair with Gen. John Allen {shown in a file photo], something both parties deny. 

Paula Broadwell

Washington Post, Federal prosecutors recommend charges for ex-CIA chief Petraeus, Sari Horwitz and Adam Goldman, Jan. 9, 2015. David Petraeus could face criminal proceedings for providing classified documents to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, shown with her book, All In.

New York Times, Prosecutors Said To Recommend Charges Against Former Gen. David Petraeus, Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, Jan. 9, 2015. The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against retired Gen. David H. Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress while he was director of the C.I.A., officials said, leaving Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to decide whether to seek an indictment that could send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison. Petraeus and Broadwell are shown together in a photo from an NBC-TV screenshot.

Hillary Clinton Emails and Server

Fox News, Source: FBI probe of Clinton email focused on ‘gross negligence’ provision, Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, Oct. 16, 2015. Whistleblower calls out double standard in Clinton case. Three months after Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and server while secretary of state was referred to the FBI, an intelligence source familiar with the investigation tells Fox News that the team is now focused on whether there were violations of an Espionage Act subsection pertaining to "gross negligence" in the safekeeping of national defense information. Under 18 USC 793 subsection F, the information does not have to be classified to count as a violation. The intelligence source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the ongoing probe, said the subsection requires the "lawful possession" of national defense information by a security clearance holder who "through gross negligence," such as the use of an unsecure computer network, permits the material to be removed or abstracted from its proper, secure location.

Subsection F also requires the clearance holder "to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer. "A failure to do so "shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both." The source said investigators are also focused on possible obstruction of justice. "If someone knows there is an ongoing investigation and takes action to impede an investigation, for example destruction of documents or threatening of witnesses, that could be a separate charge but still remain under a single case," the source said. Currently, the ongoing investigation is led by the Washington Field Office of the FBI.

Fox News, Herridge: Whistleblowers Call Out Double Standard in Hillary's Email Scandal, Catherine Herridge, Oct. 15, 2015. Today, intel whistleblowers and the wife of an imprisoned whistleblower held a press conference to highlight the glaring double standards between their situations and Hillary Clinton’s server scandal. They claim they lost their careers and life savings for doing just a fraction of what Clinton did. 

 

Hillary ClintonAtlantic, Should There Be a Criminal Investigation Into Hillary Clinton's Email?  Conor Friedersdorf, July 24, 2015. The request for a formal probe highlights the deep dysfunction of America’s system for classifying documents and prosecuting leaks. Federal overseers are urging an inquiry into whether Hillary Clinton illegally mishandled classified documents during her four-year tenure as secretary of state, according to an article published late Thursday in The New York Times. At issue is her decision to conduct official business via private email. “Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled,” the story reported. “The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation.”

The New York Times has since updated its story, characterizing the requested probe as a look at whether emails on Clinton's private server were mishandled rather than whether Clinton mishandled emails. It is not clear who else would be responsible for those emails.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who was recently appointed by President Obama, must now decide whether to launch an investigation involving the most powerful politician in the Democratic Party, potentially changing the course of an election; or to reject the advice of two ostensibly independent overseers and appear to give special treatment to a powerful Obama administration veteran, protecting her from scrutiny as she stands accused of compromising national security.

Barack Obama Hillary WH patio 7_29-13.jpgThe President and then-former Secretary of State relax on July 29, 2013 on the White House patio: White House photo. 

ExposeFacts, In Political Press, Hillary Clinton Gets Subjected to the Thomas Drake and Jeffrey Sterling Standard, Staff report, July 24, 2015. The political press is attacking Hillary Clinton using the same standards of retroactive classification DOJ used against whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Jeffrey Sterling. The political press is abuzz with news that the State Department (State IG) and Intelligence Community Inspectors General (ICIG) have asked the Department of Justice to review whether the Department’s handling of the personal email from Hillary Clinton was proper. The story was first reported in sensational fashion by the New York Times, revised somewhat overnight, and then reported in more measured form — making it clear that Clinton herself is not being investigated — by the Associated Press this morning.

Justice Integrity Project, Clinton's Benghazi Hearing Creates Fireworks On Old, Partisan Claims, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 22, 2015. A Republican-led House committee investigating the 2012 deaths of four Americans in Libya focused heavily Oct. 22 on a prosecution-style attack on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for misleading comments and poor judgment.

Justice Integrity Project, Watchdogs Decry 'Corrupt' DC Actions On Hillary, Immigration, IRS Issues, Andrew Kreig, Sept. 15, 2015. U.S. capital leaders operate with unprecedented bipartisan corruption that threatens the American way of life, according to a Sept. 14 address several blocks from the Capitol Building by best-selling legal commentator and former New Jersey judge Andrew Napolitano. “Expose Congress for the weaklings they are and the president for the tyrant he is,” Napolitano told a Leadership Summit on Washington, DC Corruption and the Transparency Crisis. The Fox News commentator and former New Jersey judge drew from his most recent book, Suicide Watch, and two of his WND) columns, "What if Hillary doesn't care? and Will deceptive Hillary get a pass?" The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch sponsored the one-day conference, which primarily documented misconduct allegations against Democrats. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton announced that new evidence shows an inexplicable and potentially criminal five-month gap in the official emails submitted recently on behalf of Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner and former secretary of state.

Other Whistleblowers and Leakers

Antiwar.com, What Clinton Got Wrong About Snowden, John Kiriakou (shown in a file photo), Oct. 22, 2015. The former secretary of state attacked the NSA John Kiriakouwhistleblower without bothering to get her facts straight. The presidential candidate and former secretary of state insisted during the recent Democratic debate that Snowden should have remained in the United States to voice his concerns about government spying on U.S. citizens. Instead, she claimed, he “endangered US secrets by fleeing to Russia.” After accusing Snowden of stealing “very important information that has fallen into the wrong hands,” she added: “He should not be brought home without facing the music.” Clinton should stop rooting for Snowden’s incarceration and get her facts straight.

First, Snowden is a whistleblower, not a leaker. Whistleblowing is the act of bringing to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, lawbreaking, or dangers to public health or safety. Snowden did exactly that when he divulged proof that the National Security Agency was illegally snooping on all of us. Second, Snowden knew it was impossible to report this wrongdoing through his chain of command at the NSA, where he was working as a contractor employed by the consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton.

I’ve written previously about whistleblower Tom Drake, who went through his own chain of command to report an earlier illegal wiretapping scheme by the NSA. Drake went to his bosses, his office’s general counsel, the NSA’s inspector general, the Pentagon’s inspector general, and congressional oversight committees – only to be charged with 10 felonies, including five counts of espionage. CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, who reported wrongdoing in a CIA operation related to the Iranian nuclear program through his chain of command, was similarly charged with multiple counts of espionage. Now he’s serving 42 months in prison.

The sad fact is that many national security chains of command are overtly hostile to people who report wrongdoing. I learned this firsthand when I spent nearly two years behind bars for denouncing the CIA’s use of torture years after I left the agency. And I didn’t go to any country club. I went to a real prison. Indeed, one of my former supervisors at the CIA called whistleblowing “institutionalized insubordination.” In other words, employees should just “follow orders,” even if those orders are illegal.

The Guardian, Edward Snowden praises EU parliament vote against US extradition, Staff report, Oct. 29, 2015. Edward Snowden on Thursday hailed as “extraordinary” and a “game-changer” a vote in the European parliament calling on member states to prevent his extradition to the US. The parliament voted 285-281 to pass a largely symbolic measure, a resolution that called on European Union member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistleblower and international human rights defender.”

Snowden has lived in exile in Russia since revealing secret US government surveillance programs in June 2013. The European parliament is a directly elected legislature with members from all 28 EU member states. Its legislative authority is limited. The resolution amounted to a request that member states reject attempts by the US to arrest and prosecute Snowden.
“This is not a blow against the US government, but an open hand extended by friends,” Snowden tweeted. “It is a chance to move forward.”

Justice Integrity Project, Feds Crushed Telecom CEO Who Protected Customer Data from NSA Snoops…But He’s Back, Protesting New Reform Law, Andrew Kreig, July 26, 2015. Long before 9/11 in 2001 or the reformist surveillance law signed last month, one of the nation’s top telecom executives reminded federal officials they needed court approval before his company could hand over en masse private customer data to the National Security Agency (NSA). Qwest Chairman and CEO Joseph P. Nacchio, chair of two national telecom advisory councils under the then-new Bush administration, thus followed traditional business and legal principles regarding government requests for electronic data. But Nacchio then endured a long nightmare of reprisal that is relevant to the supposed protections of the USA Freedom Act signed last month.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Washington Post, Powerful admiral punishes suspected whistleblowers, still gets promotion, Craig Whitlock, Oct. 21, 2015. The U.S. Navy declined to discipline the SEAL commander despite five investigations into illegal reprisals.


RT International, Former Fox News ‘CIA & terrorism expert’ arrested for fraudulent career claims, RT’s Eunan O’Neil speaks with former CIA officer Ray McGovern, Oct. 16, 2015 (video). News broke Thursday that Wayne Simmons, who has been a regular panel expert for Fox News since 2004, and who claimed to have knowledge and experience as a CIA operative, had been arrested for lying about that very CIA experience on government documents. RT’s Eunan O’Neil speaks with former CIA Agent Ray McGovern about how the fallout will affect mainstream news and how agencies vet their people.

 

Gawker, Prosecutors Say "Terrorism Expert" Was Actually Just an Expert at Conning Fox News Producers, Gabrielle Bluestone. Oct. 15, 2015. A “former CIA agent” who frequently talked national security on Fox News was actually just an extremely talented con man with a penchant for scamming Fox News producers and government contractors alike. On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Wayne Simmons with false statements, major fraud against the U.S., and wire fraud. It seems Simmons — a frequent Fox News guest who also wrote a book drawing on his “27 years in the CIA” — was able to parlay his claims of a career in intelligence into actual government contractor jobs abroad. Simmons was invited to train at a U.S. Army facility after allegedly lying his way into a position as a “Human Terrain System Team Leader” for an “unnamed government contractor in 2008.” He popped up in another government subcontractor job. In that role, prosecutors said, he was actually deployed overseas as an adviser to senior U.S. military personnel. He’s been charged with taking a $125,000 “real estate investment” and using it for his personal expenses.