ST. LOUIS (AP) - A former CIA operative agreed Monday to be returned to Virginia to face felony charges that he disclosed confidential documents to a New York Times reporter in retaliation for what he considered mistreatment by the spy agency.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Adelman ordered Jeffrey Sterling, 43, to remain held without bond pending a full detention hearing in Virginia once federal marshals escort him back there by commercial jet. He has been jailed since his arrest last week in St. Louis.
The indictment did not say specifically what information was leaked, but the dates and other details indicate the case centered on leaks to James Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. His 2006 book "State of War" revealed details about the CIA's covert spy war with Iran.
Risen's lawyer, Edward McMahon, has refused to discuss whether Sterling was a source. Risen did not cooperate with the investigation, and McMahon on Monday refused to divulge whether Risen was the recipient of any classified documents.
The indictment signaled the latest move in an aggressive Obama administration push to quell leaks, even as the administration has supported proposed legislation that would shield reporters from having to identify their sources. The administration recently arrested an Army private on charges of leaking a classified 2007 videotape of a helicopter attack in Iraq to the website WikiLeaks and charged a former National Security Agency official with leaking information about NSA mismanagement to The Baltimore Sun.
It was not immediately clear how quickly Sterling, of the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon, might get to Virginia to face the 10-count December indictment made public last week. He recently had one of his knees replaced and walked with a noticeable limp Monday in court. Adelman agreed with a defense request that Sterling not fly until it's deemed medically safe.
McMahon did not enter a plea on Sterling's behalf but has told The Associated Press that his client "always maintained he was innocent throughout this entire investigation."
"Now we're obviously going to prove it to a jury. We're certainly prepared to do that, no matter what it takes," McMahon said.
McMahon declined to comment to reporters in an elevator after Monday's four-minute hearing, during which Sterling appeared in shackles and orange jail garb. The defendant answered politely twice to questions from Adelman but otherwise sat silent. Before the hearing, Sterling sprawled his arms across the defense table, his head bowed, and conferred with McMahon.