“The Petraeus and Sterling cases have highlighted another disparity in the government’s handling of leak cases: powerful officials like Petraeus are treated leniently while mid-level ones like Kiriakou, Kim and Sterling go to jail. In the Petraeus case, the government claims no harm was caused by his leak, because none of the information he leaked to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and onetime lover, was published, whereas the information published by Risen had caused “substantial damage” to national security.
However, this characterization was called “overwrought hyperbole” by a former CIA official in a letter of support for Sterling released today by his lawyers. David J. Manners, a former station chief in Prague and Amman as well as chief of the agency’s Iran task force, described as “not credible” the prosecution’s claim that Risen’s book severely hurt the CIA’s ability to recruit spies. Manners, who first met Sterling when both worked at the agency, noted that the government itself has often disclosed the role of intelligence operatives.”