ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - The government's case against an ex-CIA officer charged with leaking classified documents to a reporter may not make it to trial because of potential issues with a witness, a federal prosecutor said Friday.
Jeffrey Sterling of O'Fallon, Mo., who worked for the CIA from 1993 to 2002, is accused of leaking secrets about Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen. A 2006 book by Risen, "State of War," revealed details about the CIA's covert spy war with Iran.
But many details of the government's case remain secret and classified. While it is clear from details in the indictment, for instance, that Risen is the alleged recipient of Sterling's disclosures, the indictment refers to Risen only as "Author A." Iran is referred to only as "Country A."
At a pretrial hearing Friday in U.S. District Court, prosecutor William Welch told the judge that "potential witness issues" will determine "whether the case goes to trial or not." He did not elaborate.
Neither the judge nor Welch divulged the witness who posed a problem, talking around the issue in open court because the issue has apparently been addressed to some extent in proceedings that remain under seal. But it seems clear that testimony from Risen, who has not cooperated with the investigation, is key to the government's case.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had quashed a pre-indictment subpoena demanding Risen's testimony. And the Justice Department has stringent internal rules for seeking subpoenas from journalists, who enjoy some protection under the First Amendment