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Checkpoint Washington
Posted at 10:13 AM ET, 10/17/2011

Trial of former CIA officer postponed

A federal court was scheduled today to have opened the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information to a reporter. Instead, a judge has postponed the trial because of a dispute over her decision to bar two witnesses.

Prosecutors say they plan to appeal U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema’s decision to strike two witnesses from the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, who was arrested in January on a 10-count indictment that accused him of leaking classified information.

There was no indication from a brief docket entry posted Friday as to when Brinkema would further explain her decision to bar two witnesses or postpone the trial. Many of the case’s proceedings have been conducted in secret because they involve classified information.

The case centers on allegations that Sterling leaked information about CIA efforts to degrade Iran’s nuclear program, which he believed were deeply flawed.

The recipient of that leak is not named in the indictment, but has been identified by former intelligence officials as New York Times reporter James Risen. Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War,” features details about a CIA plan code-named Merlin, designed to sabotage Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Peter A. Carr, a spokesman for federal prosecutors, said Friday that Brinkema made her decision during a closed hearing involving classified material and he could not comment on the nature of the witnesses. An attorney for Sterling, Edward B. MacMahon, said he could not comment “until the judge enters a public opinion.”

By  |  10:13 AM ET, 10/17/2011

 
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