1/28/2015

the treatment of Jeffrey Sterling

Jeffrey Sterling has been in the news recently due to the completion of the trial phase of his prosecution by the Obama Administration under the Espionage Act. That in itself is noteworthy since so few Americans have ever been tried under that particular piece of legislation born out of the war preparations for what was supposed to have been the great war. But like the Selective Service System and the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act and all the rest of the national security state, these things have a tendency of becoming permanent.

A typical headline and lede goes something like this:

C.I.A. Officer Is Found Guilty in Leak Tied to Times Reporter

WASHINGTON — Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

Now, that's from the paper whose reporter himself published the information in question. Sterling wasn't found guilty of espionage. He was found guilty of whistleblowing. And of course, even that is circumstantial. Remember how hard it is to prosecute the financial fraudsters and war criminals because we don't have airtight cases against them? Well, when the government actually wants to, it prosecutes people on rather flimsy evidence. If you're interested in the details of the proceedings, Marcy Wheeler has been following this in depth.

What I want to do is tell a little more about him and government employment. Something I haven't seen in the corporate media at all is anything that would humanize him or tell an actual story about him other than ooh, spy convicted. (In fact, if an American really was spying on America for America's Enemies, why hasn't he been tried and hanged for treason?).

You see, Sterling is a graduate of Washington University in Saint Louis, my alma mater. He grew up in Missouri, Cape Girardeau, not Virginia, where he's being tried. He received a law degree in 1992. He worked for the public defenders office. And he had a respected career in government service until something happened. Was it incompetence? Nope. Did he steal something? Nope. Did he sexually harass a colleague? Nope.

Sterling is a black man. Now that shouldn't matter. But it does still matter in our society. When he filed a discrimination suit against the CIA, all of a sudden, the government started not liking him. That's the real story here. An employee tried to exercise their right to anti-discrimination, and the government responded by pursuing that employee aggressively for alleged leaking of classified information - a pursuit not sought with the same vigor against others who might also have been the source of the leak.

And, oh, what was this leak? Yeah, well, the government doesn't want you to ask. See, they classified materials in the discrimination proceedings and the leak proceedings. Because, you know, public information doesn't belong to the public. It belongs to the Fearless Leaders of our great country.

This is where we are at. The US commits acts of war against Iran. Dedicated public servants are denied their right to pursue nondiscrimination in employment. When someone leaks information that was improperly classified in the first place, the obvious solution is to go after the guy making waves.

That's called retaliation when a private sector employee does it. But when the government does it, it's called national security. Literally, it is a secret of the state. Just another tidbit for MMTers to consider. How, exactly, will employee rights be guaranteed by a government that is so secretive, vindictive, and authoritarian that it prosecutes someone like Jeffrey Sterling?

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