Good News for Low Expectations: Jeffrey Sterling

Jeffrey SterlingWe seem to have had a couple of good days this week regarding politics. Of course, a large part of this is due to my greatly reduced expectations. Obama’s slap with regards to the TPP was good news, but there is little doubt that the Senate will eventually approve fast-track authority for the TPP. And on Monday, Jeffrey Sterling was given three and a half years for his leaks to James Risen. Now that’s still a good deal of time to be locked in a cage, but it is nothing compared to the two decades that the government was pushing for.

You should watch the following ten minute documentary by the great Norman Solomon, which was shown on Democracy Now! At this point, I’m not even certain that Sterling is guilty of these “crimes.” One thing is for certain: the government has had it out for him for well over a decade. It all started with a discrimination suit he filed against the CIA. It was thrown out of court for the usual reason: it could compromise “state secrets.” That is, of course, the government’s great “get out of jail free” card where it can never be held accountable — even though decades in the future, we will find out that there was nothing to the claim.

The prosecution of Sterling clearly had nothing to do with any leaks. It was all about getting back at him. The whole thing happened under the Bush administration, and seems to have ended there. It was only under our “liberal” president Obama that the Espionage Act was pulled out of World War I and used against Sterling and others. The whole thing is an outrage. But I hope that Sterling is the leaker. As retired CIA officer Ray McGovern said in the documentary, “I don’t know whether he did it or not, but whoever did it did a service to our country, because our country needs to know.” If Sterling was the leaker, he’s a hero and he deserves a parade. If he isn’t, he’s a martyr. Regardless, he deserves far better than this country is giving him.

The fact that the judge in the case gave Sterling such a relatively moderate sentence has been widely seen as a rebuke to the government. On Wednesday, The New York Times ran an editorial, Overkill on a CIA Leak Case. It described the sentencing as “a significant rebuke to the Obama administration’s dogged-yet-selective crusade against leaks.” As usual, the government argued that the leaks had put the United States in great peril. Of course, that is what the government always argues. Peter Maass noted the ridiculousness of this, Obama’s War on Leaks Faces Backlash in Court. He quoted Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith as noting what ought to be obvious, even to the authoritarians in the White House: that it is “jeopardizing vital credibility through exaggerated claims about the national security harms of disclosure.” In other words: it the boy who cried wolf.

But it is worse than that, of course. As The Times editorial put it:

In light of these prosecutions, it is worth considering the degree to which this White House seems to value secrecy over accountability.

It fixates on certain leakers, and the reporters they work with, even as it neglects to prosecute anyone for, say, the torture of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere, or for the intentional destruction of videotapes documenting that torture.

In fact, as we know, John Kiriakou was given two and a half years in prison for revealing our country’s torture program, but not one person has even been prosecuted for doing the torture. This is our legacy. The Tea Party thinks that the United States isn’t being true to itself? Where is the outrage about this? Nowhere, of course. That’s because to them, the United States is most pure when we never admit to our mistakes. And in that regard, the Tea Party and President Obama are very much in agreement. Let’s look forward, not backward! (Except when it comes to whistleblowers, of course.)

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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