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A failed CIA plot against Iran that began under Clinton was exposed by reporter James Risen led to the recent trial and conviction of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. We get details and analysis from Norman Solomon and Gareth Porter.Solomon is a columnist, activist and author of many books, including War Made Easy: How Politicians and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He covered the Sterling trial and filed reports here.
Porter is a veteran independent journalist whose most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He detailed the publicly-known information about Operation Merlin in this recent article.
Sterling was once a case officer on Operation Merlin, which used a Russian scientist on the CIA payroll to pass intentionally-flawed nuclear weapons plans to Iran, starting in the late 1990’s. Sterling left CIA in about 2002, and sued the agency for racial discrimination.
Risen, whose editors at the NY Times acquiesced to the Bush administration and never published his reports on Merlin, revealed the botched plot in a 2006 book, State of War, and Sterling was CIA’s lead suspect as Risen’s source.
Solomon recaps the trial and its bizarre moments, including the government’s failed attempt to force Risen to reveal his sources and the lack of direct evidence. Sterling was found guilty based on telephone metadata, even though it showed that the two had talked for less than five minutes total. Porter adds important history about the CIA’s own findings that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapon, and asserts that CIA deceived the White House on key aspects of Merlin and the alleged Iranian threat.
In this Obama prosecution of minor matters from prior administrations, Solomon and Porter see a concerted effort to use Risen and Sterling as warnings to other journalists and spies that whistleblowers face full retaliation from the government.