America notoriously honors its worst – persecutes, punishes and at times murders its best.
Sterling was wrongfully charged and convicted of seven counts under the long ago outdated 1917 Espionage Act for unproved allegations of providing classified information to then-NYT journalist James Risen – material used in his book, titled “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”
The book discussed an unidentified firsthand account of CIA extraordinary rendition, torture and other abuses – flagrant violations of international, constitutional and US statute laws, no one at Langley ever held accountable for criminality.
Sterling was wrongfully accused of providing classified information about so-called Operation Merlin, a top-secret CIA operation, targeting Iran’s nuclear program – known to have no military component.
At trial, the DOJ failed to prove charges against him beyond a reasonable doubt – the highest standard of proof required for conviction in US judicial proceedings, especially in criminal cases.
Without it, defendants should be exonerated – not usually the case when Washington wants convictions, Sterling and other US whistleblowers wrongfully convicted like Lynne Stewart and many other notable figures.
In Jeffery Sterling’s case, the Justice Department presented unacceptable circumstantial evidence alone a fair tribunal would have rejected as inadequate to prove guilt.
Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark once said “(o)ur jails are filled with saints” – individuals imprisoned for political reasons, not criminality.
Obama waged war on whistleblowers, targeting more than all his predecessors combined.
Sterling was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. He was treated abusively, including largely denying him vital medical treatment for a heart condition.
The little he got was inadequate, punishing him for allegedly revealing CIA wrongdoing, acting courageously and honorably.
He endured episodes of atrial fibrillation experienced prior to imprisonment, requiring hospitalization and expert care.
Describing his symptoms, he said they felt like “a sudden very hard heartbeat with a sort of pause that emulates your entire body, breathing, moving, etc. being suddenly halted (along with) sharp (chest) pain,” lightheadedness and shortness of breath.
Prison authorities disgracefully claimed he feigned illness, Sterling saying “(t)here has been more effort to refute me than there has been to actually provide any care.”
Proper cardiological examination in prison could have easily diagnosed his condition and prescribed needed treatment.
Medical care in US prisons is notoriously abysmal.
Internationally recognized human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart was imprisoned for defending the wrong clients Washington wanted convicted.
Obama wanted her dead. She was denied proper medical care for breast cancer, progressing to life threatening stage four because vital surgery was delayed for 18 months.
Cancer spread to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs. She was dying when granted a compassionate release and freed on December 31, 2013.
Doctors gave her six months to live. Though seriously ill, she survived until March 7, 2017. I met with her months before her death at age-77, a shadow of the woman I knew earlier physically, her courageous spirit resolute for justice to the end.
Lots more like her and Sterling are needed. He joined the CIA for patriotic reasons. The agency “turned on him and (wrongfully) made him into a criminal,” said wrongfully imprisoned Langley whistleblower John Kiriakou.
Last month, Sterling was released to a halfway house after serving 30 months of his three-and-a-half-year sentence – mostly, not entirely free.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hailed his release, saying “(h)is conviction was a breach of First Amendment protections. Simply being in contact with a journalist does not amount to espionage and should not incur imprisonment.”
His wife Holly explained “(w)e maintain hope that we can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding our life that the government vehemently destroyed. Jeffrey’s legacy is now branded with the scarlet letter of being a supposed traitor to his country – the country he still loves.”
Trump disgracefully believes whistleblowers should be prosecuted and imprisoned. Last November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his office has 27 ongoing investigations of allegedly leaked classified information.
Last year, former NSA intelligence specialist Reality Leigh Winner was charged with “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet” while working for military contractor Pluribus International Corporation.
Sterling’s conviction was based on communications with James Risen. The DOJ failed to prove disclosure of classified information – nothing about he and Risen discussed.
Instead of dismissing the case for lack of credible evidence, Judge Leonie Brinkema accepted what she called “very powerful circumstantial evidence.”
It failed to prove Sterling’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Instead of exoneration, he was wrongfully convicted – how US injustice works against individuals Washington wants convicted and imprisoned.