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BOP Office Rejects Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower’s Complaint Over Guard’s Threatening Conduct

A complaint by imprisoned CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling submitted to a Bureau of Prisons regional office was rejected.

Sterling informed Shadowproof that he filed the complaint after an officer threatened him, and he was put in solitary confinement.

The North Central Regional Office claimed in May that the issue Sterling raised was “not sensitive,” and therefore, it should be rejected.

As previously reported, Sterling claimed he was falsely accused of threatening a corrections officer and defying an order. Officials at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, moved him to isolation, where he was denied medication for his heart condition.

Not long after he was put in solitary confinement, Sterling endured a cardiac-related episode. He was in a solitary confinement unit from the late afternoon on April 21 to the afternoon on April 24. During this time, the prison would not provide information to his wife, Holly, about his health or well-being.

The prison later carried out a disciplinary hearing and took away his phone and commissary privileges for 30 days.

Sterling said he does not feel safe at FCI Englewood.

“The corrections officer that threatened me with physical violence is still here, and I still have to interact with him. In fact, during Holly’s most recent visit, he happened to be working in the visiting room which made the visit obviously tense for me,” Sterling shared.

“At the end of the visit, he positioned himself to be the officer to strip search me, but I refused to allow him to do so. The man had threatened me, and I was not going to put myself in a very vulnerable position where he could make good on his previous threats.”

Sterling concluded, “Evidently, staff members threatening inmates with physical violence is of no concern to the BOP.” He included witness statements from inmates who took a risk by backing him.

Somehow, Sterling said the officer who he says threatened him found out about the complaint filed with the regional office and tried to talk to him about his complaint.

Before Sterling requested this particular officer not administer his strip search, the officer did apparently speak to him.

The officer said “he can’t just let the other inmates see him being disrespected. He then said that I’m in a sort of in-between area (or something to that effect) unlike the other guys and then something to the effect that I have a lot of people advocating for me, etc,” according to Sterling.

He indicated he rarely hears from staff about those advocating for him. “There has been the occasional comment about seeing Holly on the news and one staff member told me that calls were being received demanding that I receive medical care, but in general none of the staff here talk with me about things going on outside.”

Sterling, who is African American, is currently on the last leg of a 42-month sentence. He stood up to the CIA and pursued a racial discrimination lawsuit against the agency in 2002. It was dismissed after the government invoked the “state secrets privilege” when it was before the Supreme Court in 2005. He also informed the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had knowledge of waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality related to “Operation Merlin”–a botched operation which involved passing flawed nuclear blueprints to the Iranians.

During a trial in January 2015, the government convinced a jury, with largely circumstantial evidence, that Sterling leaked information about “Operation Merlin” to New York Times reporter James Risen, who published details on the operation in a chapter of his book, “State of War.” The former CIA officer was convicted of multiple Espionage Act offenses and other crimes.

Oral argument in Sterling’s appeal took place in December. Six months have passed, and there is no decision by a federal appeals court yet.

On June 16, Sterling will mark his second year in prison. He was supposed to be officially referred to a halfway house or home confinement in May, but the Bureau of Prisons made an error. They had Sterling returning to Virginia when he lives in Missouri.

A status meeting is scheduled to take place on June 20, where arrangements will be made for his release in the coming months.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."