In 2000, Sterling leaked information about a secret plan to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to Times reporter James Risen. Risen never wrote about the program—called Project Merlin—for the Times, but he included information about it in his 2006 book, State of War. Sterling was fired from the CIA in 2002.
From the Times:
The Justice Department said that Mr. Sterling’s disclosures compromised an important C.I.A. operation and jeopardized the life of a spy. Prosecutors sought a sentence of 20 years or more in prison.
The case revolves around an operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Sterling was convicted in January of revealing the operation to James Risen, a reporter for The Times, who had revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War.” Mr. Risen described it as a botched mission that may have inadvertently advanced Iran’s nuclear program.
Prosecutors maintain that the program was successful, and said Mr. Sterling’s disclosure “was borne not of patriotism but of pure spite.” The Justice Department argued that Mr. Sterling, who is black, had a vendetta against the C.I.A., which he had sued for racial discrimination.
Sterling will be eligible for release in just under three years.