Reporters Without Borders (RSF) delivered yesterday with the wife of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling a petition for his pardon to the White House. The petition has now gathered over 150,000 signatures. Sterling, a former C.I.A. operative and the latest victim in the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, was convicted in January 2015 of divulging classified information to New York Times journalist James Risen.
Jeffrey Sterling was convicted under the Espionage Act for merely communicating with New York Times journalist James Risen. He’s now serving a 3.5-year prison sentence in a federal correctional facility in Colorado.
Before delivering the petition to the White House, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) co-sponsored a press conference at the National Press Club for Jeffrey’s wife Holly. She thanked the over 150,000 people who signed the petition to pardon her husband.
Speaking on behalf of RSF was US Director Delphine Halgand: “as an organization that defends freedom of information, we are extremely concerned by the precedent set in the United States’ government’s case against Jeffrey Sterling. How is it possible that proving the mere existence of contact between a former CIA operative and a journalist is sufficient to convict someone of espionage?”
Other speakers included prominent activist, author and professor Dr. Cornel West, former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou, lawyer and whistleblower Jesselyn Radack, and Senior Director of Strategy for Free Press Tim Karr.
Kiriakou, who served time in prison for leaking information on the CIA’s torture program, said Jeffrey “did exactly what he was supposed to do when he encountered a program of waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality.” The point of Jeffrey’s harsh 3.5 year sentence was “to utterly ruin him…to demonize him…and frighten any other would-be whistleblowers,” said Kiriakou.
During Jeffrey’s trial, the Department of Justice was unable to present any direct evidence proving that he divulged classified information to Risen. They relied on circumstantial evidence — emails and telephone conversations — to try to make a case to a jury who would likely favor his conviction.
Because Jeffrey utilized proper channels and informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of his concern for the safety of the American people, he is considered a whistleblower.
Last December RSF, RootsAction andExposeFacts led a coalition of organizations in support of a petition for his pardon on change.org and on RootsAction.org The Bill of Rights Defense Committee / Defending Dissent Foundation, Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom of the Press Foundation,The Nation magazine and Restore the Fourth are also supporting the petition. The White House acknowledged receipt of the 150,000 signatures yesterday.
To support Holly Sterling’s request to pardon her husband, sign the petition at change.org/pardonforjeffrey or at http://rootsaction.org/take-