Since Tuesday and continuing for the coming three weeks, an amazing trial is happening in U.S. District Court at 401 Courthouse Square in Alexandria, Va. The trial is open to the public, and among the upcoming witnesses is Condoleezza Rice, but — unlike the Chelsea Manning trial — most of the seats at this somewhat similar event are empty.
The CIA drew up plans for a key part of a nuclear bomb (what a CIA officer on Wednesday described in his testimony as “the crown jewels” of a nuclear weapons program), inserted flaws in the plans, and then had a Russian give those flawed plans to Iran.
During the trial on Wednesday morning, the prosecution’s witnesses made clear both that aiding Iran in developing a part of a bomb would be illegal under U.S. export control laws, and that they were aware at the time that there was the possibility of what they were doing constituting just such aid.
The trial is being covered here at ExposeFacts. (Many nes articles are just reprints of these blog posts).
Some of the case files are here at FAS, and Cryptome has exhibits, and Marcy Wheeler has some documents, like the CIA response.
Over at POLITICO is Josh Gerstein’s Under the Radar blog, see here and here and other articles as well.
CourthouseNews is also covering the trial.
Ray McGovern wrote about MERLIN here and why the case is so important.
The federal government claims it is prosecuting former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for leaking information to a journalist about a risky covert operation in which the spy agency funneled flawed nuclear-bomb schematics to Iran. But the opening days of the trial suggest that the government may be using the case more to overcome its reputation for shoddy intelligence work.
the real subtext of the Sterling case is how the politicization of the CIA’s analytical division over the past several decades has contributed to multiple intelligence failures, especially efforts to “prove” that targeted regimes in the Middle East were amassing weapons of mass destruction.
the two issues – the bogus Iraq-WMD intelligence and the pressure to create another casus belli on Iran – are inextricably linked, as Risen himself explained in his affidavit submitted in connection with the Sterling case.
Risen wrote, “I believe I performed a vitally important public service by exposing the reckless and badly mismanaged nature of intelligence on Iran’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, so that the nation would not go to war once again based on flawed intelligence, as it had in Iraq.”
The most definitive study of a post-Iraq “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent” nuclear weapons program, this time in Iran, is presented in Gareth Porter’s Manufactured Crisis published a year ago (and viewed as untouchable by reviewers in the fawning corporate media). Porter brings together the results of his many years of research into the issue, including numerous interviews with former insiders.
He shows that the origins of the Iran nuclear “crisis” were not in an Iranian urge to obtain nuclear weapons but, rather, in a sustained effort by the United States and its allies to deny Iran its right, as guaranteed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to have any nuclear program at all.
Here is Iran’s news agency PressTV’s quick report.
The State Department said in its daily brief on Thursday that the trial isn’t affecting continuing bilateral talks, because no one there seems to be following the trial.
QUESTION: We’re watching the Jeffrey Sterling trial on the – in that trial that’s going to come out about CIA Operation Merlin, where they were trying to give, essentially, incomplete nuclear weapon plans to Iran to kind of slow down their development of a nuclear weapon. Could the information coming out in this trial at all affect the ongoing talks between Kerry and Iran?
MS. HARF: Well, given I’m not familiar with the specifics of that trial, and I’m not sure our team that’s talking right now in Geneva is either, look —
QUESTION: It’s just kind of out in the public.
MS. HARF: We’re —
QUESTION: Anyone can pick it up, and I just (inaudible).
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, so look, I’ll check with our folks. But broadly speaking, we are moving forward with these nuclear negotiations, with the P5+1, and with us, with our partners. Their teams are meeting right now with Wendy Sherman and the other negotiators for a couple days of bilateral talks, and then with the rest of the P5+1. That process is moving forward, and hopefully we can continue making progress. Obviously, there’s a lot of history here. We all are well aware of that. What we’re focused on now is what happens going forward.
While they seem not to be aware of the Jeffrey Sterling/James Risen trial, they are aware of the journalist that Iran has in prison, Jason Rezaian.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran?
MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’m going to go to you. Yes, we can.
QUESTION: The case of Jason Rezaian.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any more information about what he’s been charged with? Have the Swiss been able to meet with him? Does he have a lawyer? What’s – what is his situation right now?
MS. HARF: Well, during the meetings yesterday, Secretary Kerry raised U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian’s case. They discussed the report stating that his case had been referred to a court. The Secretary reiterated our call for his immediate release, as well as for the immediate release of detained U.S. citizens, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, and of course, for the Iranian Government to work cooperatively with us in locating Robert Levinson, as we always do.
This is a discussion we have with them very frequently. I don’t have many more details than that. Of course, we continue to monitor the situation closely and are seeking further information about what might come out of this move to refer the case to the court. I know The Washington Post – one of their editors also said they hope this is a way the judicial process can be moved forward and Jason can be returned to his family. We certainly share that sentiment.
QUESTION: But you’re not aware of whether there have been any contacts between Jason and Swiss officials?
MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not aware of any, but I’m happy to check for you.
Reporters without Borders is relieved to see that James Risen will not be called to testify at the trial, and even The Intercept reports that DOJ is pulling back (a little bit) from its attacks on journalists and whistle-blowers, revising its media guidelines policy on gathering information from journalists.
Many news outlets covered Condoleezza Rice’s testimony where she said that publishing the story could have endangered Americans’ lives, which made some of us laugh out loud at the irony of that statement.
That’s especially nice coming from Condi Rice, who is a world class expert on making the world a more dangerous place.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) January 16, 2015
Here is the Google News RSS feed for “Jeffrey Sterling” if you want to keep up with future articles.
And now for the Youtube.