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January 8, 2011

Former CIA agent indicted after leaking classified information

Former CIA agent indicted after leaking classified information

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

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The seal of the CIA

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, an ex-officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was taken into custody Thursday by federal agents in St. Louis, Missouri. He was indicted on six separate counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, as well as four additional charges: mail fraud, unlawfully keeping national defense information, obstruction of justice, and unauthorized conveyance of government property. Sterling, aged 43, had been employed by the CIA from May 1993 until he was fired in January 2002. During his arraignment, a judge declared that he would be held until a Monday hearing because the government called him a danger to the community.

Sterling, an African American lawyer who lives in O’Fallon, allegedly provided classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen, some of which was incorporated into Risen’s 2006 State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Risen, who wrote about the CIA’s involvement in Iran’s nuclear program, has not named any of his sources even after being subpeonaed twice; Risen was not explicitly named in Sterling’s indictment, but his involvement in the alleged leak is strongly supported by its contents, and a US government official confirmed the connection to NBC News.

The indictment stated that, for two years during his career with the CIA, Sterling had been involved in “a classified clandestine operational program designed to conduct intelligence activities related to the weapons capabilities of certain countries.” An anonymous source close to the investigation said one of those countries was Iran. While managing CIA operations, Sterling also handled a “human asset,” whose name he is also accused of releasing.

From 2000, Sterling had been engaged in various disputes with the agency. According to a story authored by Risen for The New York Times in March 2002, Sterling’s supervisor during the Iran program said, “You kind of stick out as a big black guy.” The comment was made after Sterling made requests for new assignments concerning Iran, requests declined because his appearance could interfere with the cases. Sterling, sued the CIA for racial discrimination shortly after being fired, but was unable to come to a settlement in February 2003, and allegedly began leaking the classified information soon after that. The indictment claimed the motive behind the leak was retaliation for the unsuccessful lawsuit.

Edward B. MacMahon Jr., a Virginia attorney for Sterling, said, “He has always maintained his innocence throughout the course of this entire investigation. We’ll seek to prove that in court.” MacMahon also said trial will be held at a U.S. District Court in Alexandria, as the case began in that state. Every charge against Sterling comes with the possibility of 10–20 years of jail time.

US Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer made a statement, saying that “Sterling placed at risk our national security and the life of an individual working on a classified mission.” A spokesperson for the CIA said, “Separate and apart from any specific instance, including this matter involving a former agency officer who left the CIA years ago, we take very seriously the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.” The New York Times did not comment on the matter.

The Obama administration has already taken action in several similar leaks involving government officers. The administration has also initiated an investigation into Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, after the site’s release of thousands of classified documents.



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March 18, 2006

Prosecution to proceed with alternate witnesses in Moussaoui trial

Prosecution to proceed with alternate witnesses in Moussaoui trial

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Saturday, March 18, 2006 The judge in the U.S. federal death penalty trial against Zacarias Moussaoui ruled on Friday that prosecutors can seek replacement witnesses for seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees whose testimony was tainted, and therefore disallowed because of pre-trial coaching by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lawyer.

The 18-member jury (6 alternates) were sent home for a week while the court dealt with the revelation that government aviation security witness had been contacted prior to the trial by TSA lawyer Carla J. Martin, to help prepare their testimony in the case.

Martin, aged 51, is accused of misconduct by sending prosecution witnesses e-mail that included trial transcripts of another related case along with observations of her own that pertained to the Moussaoui case, including suggestions and talking points. She was recently suspended with pay by the TSA and retained Roscoe Howard to act as legal council in the face of legal actions that might arise against her.

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema initially ruled to prevent testimony from any aviation employees, but reversed her decision after the prosecution argued they would have little case left if their testimony remained inadmissible. FAA employee testimony is expected to take the form of what measures would have been taken by the agency to prevent against the September 11, 2001 airliner attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. if Moussaoui had warned officials of the plan prior to the strikes.

The connection to the Carla Martin involvement in the case was discovered in a separate trial involving liability law suits against two U.S. airline companies for losses as a result of the attacks. Family member lawyers of flight attendants drew attention to contacts by Martin to persons involved in the case.

The jury will return Monday for the trial’s resumption.

A U.S. federal public defender appointed to Moussaoui argued for the jury to spare his life during opening statements on Monday, March 6, in the trial that will determine his fate — either life in prison or death by lethal injection.

Defense attorney Edward B. MacMahon said that Moussaoui “aspires to martyrdom,” and called on jurors to deny the Al-Qaeda operative his wish to die. A wish that would result in him becoming “a smiling face on a recruiting poster for Osama bin Laden,” MacMahon said.

Moussaoui is believed by some to be the missing member in the team of 19 other attackers that carried out the suicide airliner strikes in New York City and Washington D.C. Arrested in Minnesota on immigration charges three weeks prior to the attacks, Moussaoui could have warned officials of the pending attacks, but failed to do so, argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Spencer for the prosecution in opening statements.

The second day of the trial both Moussaoui and juror’s attention was riveted as a federal prosecutor read a radio transmission account of the exchange between a flight attendant on Flight 11 and ground controllers.

“We are flying low. We are flying very very low. We are flying way too low,” Amy Sweeney told controllers, according to an Associated Press report. The plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:44 a.m. after she said, “Oh my God, we are way too low!”

Moussaoui has claimed that he had no involvement with the 9/11 attacks when he pleaded guilty to:

  1. conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries
  2. conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy
  3. conspiracy to destroy aircraft
  4. conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction
  5. conspiracy to murder United States employees
  6. conspiracy to destroy property

He said that he was to play a role in another future attack on the White House using an aircraft. Four of the conspiracy charges each carry a maximum penalty of death.

Family members of the nearly 3,000 killed in the attacks were able to watch the Alexandria, Virginia courtroom proceedings by closed-circuit television in six U.S. cities: New York, Boston, Central Islip, N.Y., Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia.

Moussaoui has a history of disrupting previous trial proceedings with outbursts. He has disavowed his lawyers, and mostly ignored his mother who was present during the opening days of the trial because she had spoken to his defense lawyers.

Upon leaving the Tuesday, March 7 court session for a recess, Moussaoui pumped his right fist in the air and shouted, “Allah Akbar! God curse America! Bless Osama bin Laden!”

The outbursts have been timed to occur outside the earshot of Judge Brinkema and the jury as those persons filed out of the courtroom for recesses.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April last year to the conspiracy charges. Evidence linking him to the plot was discovered when his duffel bags were searched after the attacks.

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December 6, 2005

Lawsuit filed against CIA for the use of torture

Lawsuit filed against CIA for the use of torture

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Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A German man, Khaled al-Masri, has filed a lawsuit against the CIA for alleged torture when he was held prisoner for five months in Afghanistan last year. He was arrested in 2004 in connection with the September 11 attacks when he was stopped in Macedonia. After being arrested, he was flown to Afghanistan for questioning.

U.S. Secretary of State Rice meeting with German chancellor Merkel

Masri said his cell in Afghanistan was cold, dirty and in a cellar, with no light and one dirty cover for warmth. The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: “You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing Mr. al-Masri in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Alexandria, Virginia seeking damages of at least $75,000. The main defendant is former CIA director George Tenet.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Germany and would not comment on the lawsuit but the new German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “I’m happy to say we have discussed the one case, which the government of the United States has of course accepted as a mistake…”

A senior U.S. official accompanying Condoleezza Rice to Romania said that Rice had not admitted to any mistakes in the handling of Masri. “We are not quite sure what was in her head,” he said, referring to Merkel.


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August 10, 2005

Greenpeace tries to thwart Chesapeake Bay fishing fleet

Greenpeace tries to thwart Chesapeake Bay fishing fleet

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Menhaden catch

Greenpeace activists scattered schools of menhaden bait fish in the Chesapeake Bay on Tuesday when fishing ships belonging to Omega Protein Corp. were about to drop their sceine nets.

The Omega fleet consisted of two spotter planes and four fishing boats with eight tenders. Greenpeace arrived with four fast moving out-board motor boats, manned by thirteen activists, who attempted to drive away the fish. The Coast Guard was called in and ended the confrontation peacefully.

The Houston-based Omega Protein Corporation is the largest processor and distributor of protein-rich menhaden and fish oil products in the United States. The company accounts for nearly 90% of the entire East Coast menhaden catch.

An Omega spokesman Toby Gascon said of Greenpeace, “They have now demonstrated that their real agenda is to put Omega out of business, even if it means risking the safety of Omega’s fishermen.” Their fleet is out of Reedville, Virginia, now a top U.S. fishing port due to the recent Omega processing plant opened there.

Chesapeake Bay menhaden are considered an important food source for fish species popular with sports fisherman. They are also, next to oysters, a prime filter feeder in bay waters. The bay oyster population has suffered drastic declines from disease over the last two decades. Studies of menhaden populations are still inconclusive as scientists try to determine the overall number of bay menhaden.

Greenpeace says the species is near historic lows and predators that depend on the fish as a food source, such as striped bass, show signs of suffering from malnutrition and poor body condition.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, had praise for Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources. They secured a commitment from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to seek a cap on commercial harvesting of Atlantic Menhaden.

A coalition of recreational anglers and environmentalists, called Menhaden Matter, also joined the debate by saying coast-wide population of Atlantic Menhaden has fallen to near record lows. They are also against an encroachment by Omega into Chesapeake waters.

The issue is a cap proposed by ASMFC on the menhaden harvest. The Board recommended a Draft Addendum to limit the menhaden harvest to 110,400 metric tons, which is the average over five years of consecutive declines in harvests for the species. The limit would apply to Atlantic and in-land waters of the species. The proposed cap is for years 2006 and 2007 and open to public debate.

ASMFC recently rejected an offer by Omega that would voluntarily cap their harvest at 135,000 metric tons annually for the next four years. They noted Omega also seeks to reopen some waters in Maryland and New Jersey which are currently closed to industrial purse seine operations. A public hearing is scheduled in Alexandria, Virginia in the next few days.

Omega says that ASMFC’s own reports indicate the population levels of Atlantic menhaden are healthy.

A Chesapeake Bay Foundation senior scientist, William J. Goldsborough, said, “I believe that a cap on the purse seine catch of menhaden at current levels, covering the total catch as well as removals from Chesapeake Bay, would be a prudent measure to adopt.”

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April 22, 2005

Moussaoui pleads guilty to conspiracy in 9/11 attacks

Moussaoui pleads guilty to conspiracy in 9/11 attacks

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Friday, April 22, 2005

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema accepted would-be hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui’s guilty pleas on six charges of conspiracy laid against him for his plotting to participate in the Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui, who had to be restrained at one point during the trial in an Alexandria, Virginia courthouse, was polite and quiet during the day’s appearance.

36-year-old Moussaoui, a French citizen, faces the death penalty or life in prison in the sentencing phase of his trial. The prosecution has also asked that Moussaoui be forced to pay restitution to the victims of the attack.

September 11, 2001 attacks

19 hijackers took control of four planes on September 11, 2001. Nearly four weeks before the attack, Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota on immigrations charges having raised the suspicions of instructors at a flight school.

During the attack, two planes were flown into the World Trade Center buildings, a third struck the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, USA.

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