An ex-CIA agent was convicted of espionage after allegedly exposing an American covert operation against Iran’s nuclear program.

An ex-CIA officer was convicted in a Virginia federal court on Monday on charges of espionage for leaking details of a CIA operation against Iran’s nuclear program to Jim Risen, a New York Times reporter.

The officer, Jeffrey Sterling, claimed he was not the source of the leak, but he was convicted on all nine counts with which he was charged. He will be sentenced in April.

The case revolved around an operation in which a CIA agent nicknamed “Merlin,” a former Russian nuclear engineer, provided Iran with intentionally flawed blueprints for a nuclear reactor. Risen revealed this scheme in his book, “State of War,” written in 2006.

The prosecutors acknowledged a lack of direct evidence against Sterling, but said the circumstantial evidence against him was overwhelming.

Defense lawyers acknowledged that the journalist and the former officer had a relationship, which was exposed through phone calls and emails, but claimed there was no evidence implicating the agent or pointing to the fact that the men had discussed anything classified.

Risen, on his part, refused to testify and reveal his source, even if threatened with prison.

A Lost Opportunity

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified that what Risen had received was one of the US’s most closely guarded secrets as well as one of the best chances to thwart Iran’s nuclear-weapons ambitions.

The BBC points out that this is the first time in 30 years a jury has convicted a former official of leaking classified information, testifying to the seriousness of Sterling’s crime.

By: United with Israel Staff

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