Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Blowing the Whistle on Operation Merlin

When the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling got underway Tuesday in Northern Virginia, prospective jurors made routine references to “three-letter agencies” and alphabet-soup categories of security clearances. In an area where vast partnerships between intelligence agencies and private contractors saturate everyday life, the jury pool was bound to please the prosecution.

In a U.S. District Court that boasts a “rocket docket,” the selection of 14 jurors was swift, with the process lasting under three hours. Along the way, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema asked more than a dozen possible jurors whether their personal connections to the CIA or other intel agencies would interfere with her announced quest for an “absolutely open mind.”

From what I could tell, none of those with direct connections to intelligence agencies ended up in the jury box. But affinities with agencies like the CIA seemed implicit in the courtroom. Throughout the jury selection, there was scarcely a hint that activities of those agencies might merit disapproval.

Just how familiar was the jury pool with critiques of the CIA? Hard to say, but here’s one indicator: When Brinkema asked for a show of hands among the prospective jurors — nearly 100 in the room — to indicate how many had read James Risen’s bestselling book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, a grand total of zero hands went up.

That book, with its tough investigative reporting that exposed malfeasance, incompetence, cruelty and mendacity in the CIA’s leadership, is at the core of the case against Sterling. He’s charged with giving the author classified information — about the CIA’s Operation Merlin, a dangerous maneuver that provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to the Iranian government in 2000.

Sterling was one of the few African American case officers to work for the CIA. He is now faced with a jury of his ostensible peers that includes no African Americans. (Twelve of the jurors are white. Two others appear to be of Asian and Middle Eastern ancestry.)

From the outset, in January 2011, when the Department of Justice announced an indictment against Sterling with ten counts — seven under the Espionage Act — the official attack on his character was classic defamation of a whistleblower. The government denounced Sterling for “underlying selfish and vindictive motivations,” and unsuccessfully tried to persuade a judge that he should be jailed pending trial because it was “incomprehensible to believe that [Sterling] will not retaliate in the same deliberate, methodical, vindictive manner.”

Fast forward four years, to Tuesday afternoon, when prosecuting attorney James Trump told the jury in the government’s opening statement that Sterling had committed crimes of betrayal due to his “anger, bitterness, selfishness.”

The Obama Justice Department’s theory of the case is that Sterling — one of the very few African American case officers in the CIA — became vengeful against the agency when he failed to win a legal complaint against it for racial discrimination.

A lot of smoke will be blowing through the U.S. District Court in Alexandria during the next few weeks. The Obama administration remains in overdrive, tanked up to send Jeffrey Sterling to prison for a long time. The CIA hierarchy, now operating with enormous impunity, is clearly eager to see him punished in a big way.

The CIA’s allies in the Justice Department are insisting in the courtroom that Sterling could not possibly have had valid concerns when he blew the whistle on Operation Merlin by going to the Senate Intelligence Committee about it in 2003. Along the way, the government is eager to throw mud at Risen’s reporting, which concluded that Merlin “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”

Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

This article originally appeared on ExposeFacts.

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail