Long-delayed CIA leak trial begins in Virginia

In this Jan. 5, 2015 file photo, New York Times reporter James Risen leaves federal court in Alexandria, Va. After pushing for years to get testimony from a recalcitrant New York Times reporter in a CIA leak case, prosecutors now want to bar Risen from testifying at all. Federal prosecutors in Alexandria filed a motion Monday saying that neither prosecutors nor the defense should be permitted to call Risen at the trial of ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling, whose jury trial begins Tuesday. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – Prosecutors say a former CIA officer exposed one of the agency’s top assets by leaking details of a covert operation in Iran to a New York Times reporter.

The long-delayed leak trial of ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling of O’Fallon, Missouri, began Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria with jurors receiving a lesson in spycraft from CIA officers who recruited and managed a Russian nuclear expert nicknamed “Merlin.”

Prosecutors say Sterling divulged classified information to journalist James Risen about a plan to have Merlin funnel flawed blueprints to Iran to cripple that nation’s nuclear ambitions.

Defense lawyers say the government has no direct evidence proving Sterling was Risen’s source, and that the CIA focused its suspicions on Sterling because he had become an outcast for claiming racial discrimination at the agency.

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