Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee convicted of leaking classified information about Iran’s nuclear program to a New York Times reporter, has been released after serving most of a 3.5-year prison sentence.
Sterling, 50, was freed from a federal correctional institution in Colorado early Tuesday and is scheduled to finish the remainder of his sentence at a St. Louise halfway house, tweeted Arn Menconi, a Colorado-based activist and former U.S. Senate candidate who advocated for his release.
A former case officer in the CIA’s Iran Task Force, Sterling was charged in 2011 in connection with leaking classified information that appeared in “State of War,” a 2006 book about the agency written by New York Times reporter James Risen. The book included details about a secret U.S. operation targeting Tehran’s nuclear program.
Sterling was convicted by a jury in January 2015 of nine felony counts, including multiple violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, and was sentenced that June to begin serving a 42-month prison sentence.
“I am excited my beloved husband Jeffrey is transitioning to a halfway house, while being anxious that he does not remain there until June,” his wife Holly Sterling said in a statement this week.
“We maintain hope that we can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding our life that the government vehemently destroyed. Jeffrey’s legacy is now branded with the scarlet letter of being a supposed traitor to his country — the country he still loves,” she said.
“His conviction was a breach of First Amendment protections,” added Margaux Ewen, the North America director of Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom group. “Simply being in contact with a journalist does not amount to espionage and should not incur imprisonment.”
Sterling’s release came just hours after another former CIA employee, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was arrested in New York City and charged with allegedly retaining national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act.
Mr. Lee, 53, was taken into custody upon arriving Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport and charged with hoarding classified information after leaving the CIA, including the true identities of covert employees. The suspect appeared in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday and is expected to be extradited to Virginia to face the charges.