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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/14/20

Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, Who Went Through Kafkaesque Trial, Wins 2020 Sam Adams Award

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Jeffrey Sterling in 2016.
Jeffrey Sterling in 2016.
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Sterling Meets Kafka

Former CIA operations officer Jeffrey Sterling will receive the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence this Wednesday, joining 17 earlier winners who, like Sterling, demonstrated extraordinary devotion to the truth and the rule of law by having the courage to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing.

Tuesday will mark the fifth anniversary of the eerie beginning of Sterling's trial for espionage -- the kind of trial that might have left even Franz Kafka, author of the classic novel The Trial, stunned in disbelief.

There can be a heavy price exacted for exposing abuse by secretive governments, especially ones that have neutered the press to the point where they are immune to exposure when they take serious liberties with the law. Making this reality plainly obvious, of course, is one of the U.S. government's primary aims in putting whistleblowers like Sterling in prison lest others get the idea they can blow the whistle and get away with it.

With his Sam Adams award, Sterling brings to five the number of award recipients imprisoned for exposing government abuse (not counting 2013 Sam Adams laureate, Ed Snowden, who was made stateless and has been marooned in Russia for over six years). Worse still, Julian Assange (2010) and Chelsea Manning (2014) remain in prison, where UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer says they are being tortured.

The Sam Adams Award recipient in 2016, John Kiriakou, having served his own two-year prison term for speaking out against U.S. torture, will be among those welcoming Sterling at Wednesday's award ceremony. Both were subjected to the tender mercies of Judge Leonie Brinkema widely known as the "hanging judge" of the gallows-friendly Eastern District of Virginia, where Assange has also been indicted under the same World War I Espionage Act used to convict Sterling.

Not a Miscarriage; an Abortion

Sterling's trial has been wrongly called a "miscarriage" of justice. It was not a miscarriage, it was an abortion. I am an eyewitness to it.

Five years ago, with Kafka casting a long shadow, I sat through Sterling's trial with a handful of colleagues painfully aware of the Queen-of-Hearts kind of "justice" Brinkema was likely to apply. Sadly, she exceeded our expectations, gloomy as they were. As for Sterling, he knew he was innocent. He had followed the rules by going to congressional oversight authorities cleared for classified information in order to expose a covert operation what was not only feckless but also dangerous. Thus, he was confident he would be vindicated despite the "hanging judge," the all-white jury, and the draconian Espionage Act.

He knew he was innocent, but these days knowing you are innocent can create a false sense of security as well as self-confidence. Sterling assumed correctly, it turned out, that the government could come up with no persuasive evidence against him. In these circumstances it would make little sense for him to accept the kind of plea bargain customarily offered in such cases. Clearly, his ultimate trust in our judicial system was misplaced. How could he have known that he could be tried, convicted, and sent to prison with no more evidence than "metadata"; that is, content-less, circumstantial evidence.

The good news is that Sterling's prison time is now behind him. He and his intrepid wife Holly will be back this week in Washington, however briefly, with friends and admirers who are eager to celebrate the integrity that he and Holly have shown over these past five painful years.

"Unwanted Spy: The Persecution of an American Whistleblower"

Kafka.
Kafka.
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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 
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