(Washington, DC) Former CIA employee Jeffery Sterling was convicted of violating the Espionage Act on Monday. Sterling’s case is one of an unprecedented number of Espionage Act cases the Obama administration has brought against intelligence community whistleblowers for alleged mishandling of classified information.

The conviction demonstrates that using the Espionage Act to punish mishandling of allegedly classified information is a fundamentally flawed, inherently unjust and repressive policy. The Espionage Act has essentially become a strict liability law, with no public interest defense, no whistleblower defense, and no ability for accused whistleblowers to explain their motives.

GAP National Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack said:

“The Espionage Act was intended to be used against spies, not whistleblowers. The Justice Department was able to turn a whistleblower into a felon without proving any actual harm to national security.

“The Justice Department uses the broken classification system to manipulate every aspect of an Espionage Act case, from the charges that are brought, the evidence available to the accused, the way the evidence is presented (or hidden from the jury), and even what words can and cannot be used at trial.”

In the pre-trial phase of Sterling case, the Justice Department repeatedly attempted to force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify, arguing throughout the case that the law recognized no confidential privilege for reporters and their sources. Even though the Justice Department agreed not to call Risen to the stand in the face of overwhelming pressure from new organizations and dozens of award-winning journalists, the conviction is still a blow to press freedom: with truth-telling sources intimidated into silence, reporters will be forced to repeat government-approved talking points and nothing more.


Contact: Andrew Harman, GAP Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034 ext. 156
Email: [email protected]

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.