(WASHINGTON) -- A former CIA officer was arrested Thursday on charges he illegally disclosed national defense information and obstructed justice, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was charged in a 10-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Dec. 22, 2010, and unsealed Thursday. The indictment charges Sterling with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, and one count each of unlawful retention of national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstruction of justice. Sterling was arrested Thursday in St. Louis.
According to the indictment, Sterling was employed by the CIA from May 1993 to January 2002. From November 1998 through May 2000, he was assigned to a classified clandestine operational program designed to conduct intelligence activities related to the weapons capabilities of certain countries, including Country A. During that same time frame, he was also the operations officer assigned to handle a human asset associated with that program. According to the indictment, Sterling was reassigned in May 2000, at which time he was no longer authorized to receive or possess classified documents concerning the program or the individual.
In connection with his employment, the indictment alleges that Sterling, who is a lawyer, signed various security, secrecy and non-disclosure agreements in which he agreed never to disclose classified information to unauthorized persons, acknowledged that classified information was the property of the CIA, and also acknowledged that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information could constitute a criminal offense.
According to the indictment, these agreements also set forth the proper procedures to follow if Sterling had concerns that the CIA had engaged in any “unlawful or improper” conduct that implicated classified information. These procedures permit such concerns to be addressed while still protecting the classified nature of the information. The media, according to the indictment, was not an authorized party to receive such classified information under such circumstances.
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