How “Progressive Media” Go Wrong: the Case of Jeffrey Sterling

I just helped organize a news conference with Holly Sterling, the wife of jailed CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling and a number of press freedom advocates and whistleblowers.

Just prior to the news conference this morning, Democracy Now was good enough to have Norman Solomon (my boss) and Holly Sterling on the program.

The problem is how Democracy Now introed — and therefore, framed — the segment: “Sterling is serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Risen later exposed how the risky operation could have actually aided the Iranian nuclear program.”

That is a very benign way to describe what Operation Merlin (the program in question) was about.

There’s real evidence that the intention of the operation was not to forestall Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, but rather, the program may have been to give Iran — and Iraq — nuclear weapons information that could then be used as a pretext to attack those countries for having such information.

I had some suspicions along these lines, and had been cautioning people from accepting the Keystone Kops narrative without definitive evidence, but David Swanson is the person who really moved the ball on this. His piece “In Convicting Jeff Sterling, CIA Revealed More Than It Accused Him of Revealing,” which analyzes a secret cable that was made public in the course of the Sterling trial.

Swanson writes: “During the course of Sterling’s trial, the CIA itself made public a bigger story than the one it pinned on Sterling. The CIA revealed, unintentionally no doubt, that just after the nuclear weapons plans had been dropped off for the Iranians, the CIA had proposed to the same asset that he next approach the Iraqi government for the same purpose.”

Swanson wrote back in January: “CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran,” which states: “The stated motivation for Operation Merlin is patent nonsense that cannot be explained by any level of incompetence or bureaucratic dysfunction or group think.

“Here’s another explanation of both Operation Merlin and of the defensiveness of the prosecution and its witnesses … at the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling which is thus far failing to prosecute Jeffrey Sterling. This was an effort to plant nuke plans on Iran.” (I featured David and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern — and noted some interesting insights from Marcy Wheeler in “Operation Merlin: Did CIA Seek to “Plant a Nuclear Gun” on Iran and Iraq?

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Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

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