S1: The following recording may contain explicit language I can’t get more explicit than May with literal say it may.
S2: It’s Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 from Slate’s The Gist. I’m Mike PESCA. Your loved ones. They lift your spirits when you’re down. They’re there to support you in times of uncertainty.
S3: They’ve shared laughs and hugs and kisses and kindness, but also heartbreak and sorrow.
S4: But is there a way to say you care? You really care. This holiday season gives the people you care about most the gift that says I love you. Here is celebrity endorser Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas.
S5: Nothing says you care more than sending Javelin anti-tank missiles when you give the gift of Javelin anti-tank missiles.
S4: You give peace of mind. And if the anti-tank missiles are properly operated, you might give pieces of a TNT for a Russian tank flaming and scattered across the Russian steppe. It’s an expression that you know and value your loved ones beating Saudi, Phillipino or a certain robust people who hate corruption and who recently elected an improviser president. Again, celebrity endorser John Radcliffe.
S5: Nothing says you care more about the Ukrainians than sending Javelin anti-tank missiles.
S4: And if you’re a feller who’s just starting a relationship with a special lady friend and you want to say I care for you, but are ready to go all the way with the expression of love and commitment, that is a Javelin anti-tank missile. How about a shoulder launched anti-tank projectile? The RPG? Nothing says I heart you like RPG. Oh, my God! He went on. He went to Raytheon. Don’t you love your family? Like the Trump administration loves the Ukrainians. Don’t be like their last boyfriends who just gave them blankets. That leaves them cold for a real gift that shows you care.
S6: Bring out the big artillery, literally big artillery. Every kaboom begins with K.
S1: On the show today. Seeing is believing. But these hearings are quite frequently not to be believed. And in the case of Gordon sunland’s testimony, I do mean that literally. But first, he was a CIA agent who didn’t come in from the cold but was put on ice. Jeffrey Sterling was imprisoned for almost two years for violations of the Espionage Act after he was found to have leaked information to a New York Times reporter. Sterling is out of prison and out with a new book.
S7: Now with his side of the story, Jeffrey Sterling, author of Unwanted Spy The Persecution of an American Whistleblower. Up next.
S2: After almost 10 years of working for the CIA, Jeffrey Sterling became the first black case officer to sue the agency for racial discrimination. A prominent journalist wrote about this newsworthy event. The journalist was James RIES and he wrote it in The New York Times. A few years after that, Rising comes out with a book called State of War The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. In that book, he writes about a program that Sterling had been working on. It’s called Project Merlin. Prosecutors investigated risin who would not give up his sources, but nevertheless charged Jeffrey Sterling with being that source without direct evidence. Sterling was convicted under the Espionage Act for mishandling national defense information. He served two and a half years. He is out of prison. He is out with a book. Its name is Unwonted Spy The Persecution of an American Whistleblower. Thanks for coming in. Mr. Sterling, thanks for having me on. So before we get to the facts that landed you in prison, that put you in touch with James Risin. I want to get as your book spends the bulk of its time doing a little bit of background that I want to ask you some ins and outs of being a CIA case officer. So look what drew you to the CIA.
S8: I was in my third year law school sitting at lunch, reading the newspaper one day, and I saw an ad join the CIA. It was great. It was a guy was drawn picture and he was looking over a canal and growing up in small town America. I wanted to get out there at some point and see the world. Yeah. And I thought they were hape Girardeau Day Girardeau, which is where Rush Limbaugh’s. Yes, that’s how we know. Usually when I ask people I mentioned Cape Girardeau, I get blank looks. But then I say I’ll also Rush Limbaugh’s hometown. When the lights go on. So I also wanted to serve because I had brothers who served in the military. So that desire to serve was instilled in me, seeing them as I was growing up. And I jumped at the opportunity when I saw the ad. And I just thought that was a great, unique way to serve. And give me the opportunity to get out and see the world.
S2: Now, you write about some postings in Africa. But you also write about how you learned Farsi. Why Farsi of all the languages?
S8: It was fascinating to me when I joined the agency, there really wasn’t that much emphasis put on learning a language. We didn’t make pre 9/11. Yeah. But I had made it known I wanted to learn a language. And growing up nerdy kid that I was, I stayed home and watched the news. And one of the biggest stories then was the Iran hostage crisis. And I was glued to the TV all the time, read everything I could about it. When that opportunity came, which language to choose? I mean, I was heading towards the Iran task force. And so you. Absolutely. I want to learn Persian and Farsi. It was all culminating for me as a dream come true. And as everything with the agency, I leapt at the opportunity and gave it the best, most I could.
S2: Now there’s too much to get into and the book gets into it. But your suit, your racial discrimination suit against the agency. You know, in a nutshell, it seemed to me that they didn’t know what to do with you as a black man, though you would think that that would be a benefit to them since they had so few African-Americans or someone who looked like an African as someone who could maybe look Middle Eastern in in the agency. And yet they would tell you time after time that you being a black guy, really limited how they could deploy you. And you wouldn’t fit in here. You wouldn’t fit in there. And oftentimes your retort was like, you just noticed I’m a black man.
S8: Yeah, they’re telling me about their nervousness, I guess was not as gracious as the way you. OK. So what are we blunter? Yeah. When I was asking why I wasn’t receiving the same tools, the same support, same opportunities as others, an agency being what it is had no qualms and looking me in the face and saying, well, you kind of stick out as a big black guy speaking Farsi. And yeah, I am. I am will say when you realize I was black. Yeah. And why does that matter? I mean, I had proven myself my abilities even prior to that, being able to go places, I mean, flat out. I don’t look like Jack Ryan. Nobody ever expected CIA when they met me. Right.
S2: And things like do all the I ran hands look Persian. Jack Ryan doesn’t look Persian. Right. You could be Moroccan. You could be a number of different ethnicities. A little.
S8: I mean, when I joined Iran Task Force, I was the only face of color in that organization. And again, I had proven myself, but I think all along they kind of saw all that was cute. But yeah, you you still we still have worries about you, even though they talked me Farsi. Yeah. Trained me. I did quite well within the agency and the work that I did there. But when it comes time to promotion and moving up, they saw the color of my skin.
S2: Finally, let’s talk about Operation Merlin. Give us give me the broad sketches of what it was and what you did in this part of it.
S8: Yeah. The operation was, as you mentioned earlier, was to thwart the Iranian nuclear program by instilling plans for components of a nuclear weapon. That would be flawed. And so and they wouldn’t know that they were flawed, so they would use them in their development. And when they didn’t work, the idea was that, OK, it would slow their program down by a number of years. I was in charge of the Russian asset, the Russian scientists that we used to play intermediary to get the plans to the Iranians. So my job was to train him in how to approach Iranians where what avenues he could try.
S9: And I felt good about it because I was given assurances that they would no one would detect the flaw. They had been worked as a indicated again in a trial. They worked with the national labs and no one would detect the flaw. Right.
S2: And you’re not a nuclear physicist and you have to take them at their word. Your job was the interpersonal relationships. You put this piece of hardware in the hands of the person. The hardware has to work. Yet like they say.
S9: Yeah. And I was assured that the program had been vetted and approved by the highest levels in government. So I’m going I’m enthusiastic about it. Made sense to me. Then the troubling aspects came up in. The first one was when we first gave those plans to show to the asset deal. So he should be familiar with them to hand them off to the Irani. Right. He’s presenting himself as an expert. Yes, absolutely. He is an expert. He. The moment he looked at the plans is out. This won’t work. It’s broken. And I. Bells and alarms went off when me and my direct supervisors were there. And I talk about it in the book. But I said, well, wait a minute. This has changed the whole scenario. Yeah, he wasn’t supposed to know that they were flawed. He took one glance at and he saw that they were flawed. And if he knows someone and I ran for I got. If a scientist gets a hold of it. Yeah. They’re gonna notice. Oh, this is broken and a scientist being a scientist, I’m gonna fix it. Right. So the response from my supervisor, then a lot others was, shut up. I raised my concerns with others with an agency as well. And the same response. I didn’t know what I was talking about or if I didn’t know what I was talking about. OK, then let’s go through the process with this and see why he knew it was flawed and exactly where it was flawed.
S8: That was rebuked and eventually kicked out of New York and out of Operation Merlin.
S2: Right. So at this point, where were you with your lawsuit? Your discrimination suit against them?
S8: I had. And the moment that I. Complained about Merlin. There was all prior to that there were some signs that, OK, I’m had enough of this, but once I start to complain about Merlin, things just kind of went off the scale. Yeah, I was being leveed requirements again three times more than any one else threatening to send me home look bad on my record and things like, oh wait a minute, you give me the proper tools, I’ll be able to do this job better than you ever expect. So they were just coming a lot of pressure and I’d had enough. That was it. Merlin was the last straw. That was the last straw. Yeah. And I started the eel internal process, equal employment opportunity commission process internally. And that pretty much I didn’t know it at the time signaled the end of my career.
S2: You didn’t know at the time you’re the first black person to sue the CIA for racial discrimination. I did not.
S8: There may have been other internal processes, but as far as going federal court think I was one of the few. When did James Risin write about you? That was. I filed suits early after 9/11. I believe the article he wrote came out in 2002. Yeah. And I had met him through a mutual contact and is gone. He wanted to hear about the discrimination, you know. He was listening. I was running into walls. Nobody wanted. You say CIA people sort of go the other way. Yeah, but he wrote the article. It came out. And since the agency, of course. But there was no classified information revealed in that article. Right. And that was certainly expressly noted during a trial that I did not reveal classified information to him. But I think that just having that relationship with him signed the death knell for me, essentially.
S2: Then you go to Senate staffers, you go to the Senate, which was at the Intel Committee. Yes. Okay. And this was after you had talked to Rise and and after that article was published. Yes. Okay. Did you seek formal whistleblower status? What was your status when you were talking to the Senate Intel staffers?
S8: My status at that time, I was on administrative leave that they concluded the internal process and of course, ruled against me. And so who was close to actually, I was fired. By this time. But that was when we were going into Iraq. And I thought that that was something that, well, the CIA wouldn’t let. I wasn’t able to serve with the CIA. Maybe I can serve my country in one way. You know, the dangers of at least bring it up to the attention of our policymakers. And that’s why I decided to go to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now, I had previously actually gone to the House Intelligence Committee about the discrimination, and I necessarily had to give them details about Operation Merlin, because that was part of, you know, if they’re saying I’m inadequate, but I was involved in this important operation and I helped launch it credibly since. So I did go to the Senate Intelligence Committee with my concerns on Merlin.
S2: So you met with two staffers there. Donald Stone and Vicki DeVol, they took your information. Yes. You had a lawyer, Mark Zaid. Yes. And he is the lawyer. I think he’s the lawyer of the whistleblower who is involved in this trial now. He’s the big whistleblower lawyer, right? I believe so. Did you have official whistleblower status where you protected?
S8: I knew from my years in the agency and I even had worked in our office of general counsel at the agency because I am a lawyer. Yeah. So I knew the process and what was allowed, especially regarding classified information that I was allowed to go through. So but I didn’t show up there saying I want whistleblower status. I went through the process I knew was available for me. Right. To file complaints. And when I went in to meet with them, Mark couldn’t be in the meeting because he didn’t have proper clearances to hear any of it. I pointed out to them that I’m not here to talk about my discrimination suit. It was still going on. It’s like I’ve already done that aspect with you. I’m talking about my concerns, the real concerns of dangers to our troops. And I disclosed to the two of them every detail I knew about Operation Merlin is literally the next time you see them at your trial, they’re testifying against you. Yes. What was revealed to me at the trial? Yeah. Was that. And I didn’t know this at the time either visit. I had to either committee that both of them had an affiliation at some point or in some capacity with the CIA. So essentially, I was talking to the CIA and they took my concerns, whatever I was saying, right to the agency, because as was revealed in a trial, he didn’t even write a report anything. After my meeting with him, it was only months later when the FBI was investigating, he wrote something. And I think it was only for an hour and a half meeting, maybe two small paragraphs that he wrote.
S2: Were they alleging at the trial that that very act of going to the Senate Intel Committee was a violation of the law or ethics or something like that?
S8: I don’t think they were presenting it as a violation of law. They did point out that this was a proper channel for me to take. OK. Yeah, but I think they were using it as bolstering their point and the basis of the charges against me that I was a disgruntled employee. Look at look at what he’s doing. He was asked how many years had passed and he had gone. He had and complained to anybody else. And that wasn’t true. And I think with the two of them on the stand, it was more of the. OK. These are people who may have known about it, but then the final questions, all of them, including the current former CIA employees. Did you ever leak this information to Jim Marisa? No, of course they would all say no.
S2: Right. So they kind of narrowing the at least in the jurors or the judge’s mind who couldn’t possibly have been.
S8: And yet none of these employees had any qualms with the CIA.
S3: Yeah, but that guy did. Right. So stone and devil, do you blame them? Were they did they have to do that? Could they have refused to testify?
S8: Yeah, I have no blame for them. I mean, and that’s what they were doing. That’s what they did. They testified is up to the prosecutors, of course, how to use that or anything like that. But again, what was revealed in the trial, which was just incredible, was that one of them had been subsequently fired from the Senate Intelligence Committee for leaking classified information. Yeah. Yet that didn’t mean anything to the judge or the jury or anything like that.
S2: So I want to ask you a little bit about the process of writing the book and getting the book published. Did you literally write it in prison?
S8: No, actually, I wrote this book shortly after I filed the suit and I went through the whole process with the Publications Review Board for clearance. And then they put up, as was demonstrated in the trial, every possible obstacle in my way as I was trying to put this book together. I actually got an agent put a proposal together that was cleared through the Publications Review Board. I was hopeful. But the agent was unable to sell it. So I put it on the shelf for many years because I was living in Virginia at that time. Lost everything. Yeah. I ended up moving back to Missouri, got a new career, a new life. And then, you know, the FBI came to my door and the nightmare continued just before sentencing. I was introduced to my agent. She liked it, signed me. And I said, I have a complete book, but it certainly now needs to be updated. Just before leaving for prison, I signed on with the publisher. And in prison I was thinking, oh, I can write on this. I can do this. But it was so draconian there. There were things that were called computers when they worked. It wasn’t able to save anything. So I just went to handwriting. I would handwrite my notes of what I felt would be an update for the book mailed them home. When I got home, I was going through all of them and it was tough, you know, emotionally going through everything that was there already in the book, but then adding things to it. And I finally got it together.
S9: Are you on parole? Actually, I just came off probation. Parole this past July.
S2: All right. And congratulations. That’s if that’s proper, I don’t know. Yeah.
S8: And I was thinking that actually, I will take it as a congratulations, because just looking back, it is it’s it’s been almost 20 years that I’ve either been under some sort of investigation on trial, in jail and prison related to, you know, the start of it, which was filing, you know, saying no to discrimination, CIA. So it was really like a tremendous weight that had been there for a long time, had been lifted off this past July.
S2: Yeah, well, listen, good luck with everything. The book lays bare your psychological states at times. It’s very honest, it’s very raw and it’s an insight. I mean, you’re pretty much the only American that I can think of who can write a book like this. So it’s fascinating. The name is Unwonted Spy The Persecution of an American Whistleblower. Jeffrey Sterling is the author. He’s been with me. Thank you, Jeffrey. Thank you very much.
S3: And now the schpiel. I know guys like Gordon Sunderland, outgoing, but not as fun as he thinks. Clever, but not clever enough, eager to be in the middle of things and then can’t find a way out, a sense of humor. But not, you know, actually funny.
S10: Now, supposedly, you’re one amigo. Nobody on this side of the aisle that you were one amigo. I lost my amigos. Not from us. Not from us.
S3: No, no, no. Gordon, you do not get to make the jokes. Take a clue from Ambassador Voelker yesterday.
S2: Much has been made of the term three amigos in reference to Secretary Perry, Ambassador SOLMAN and myself. I’ve never used that term. And frankly, I cringe when I hear it.
S1: That is the proper response because it is stupid. And because this whole thing this isn’t a joke supposed hilarity aside, the fact that you made Devin Nunes laugh stand in testament to the fact that this is not a joke. Today before the House Intelligence Committee, however, Sandlin, for the most part, confirmed the Democrats version of Ukrainian dealings.
S11: As I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo.
S1: But even though he was essentially the point man on a lot of this, he delivered the news. He conducted the negotiations. He was the quid pro. No Silver Messenger service, if you will, someone saying it wasn’t him.
S11: He didn’t know if I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings or his associations with individuals, some of whom are now under criminal indictment. I personally would not have acquiesce to his participation. Still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong.
S1: Well, to Colonel Venkman, it did to Jennifer Williams, it did to George Kent and Ambassador Taylor, it did. How was it that things just seemed very much on the up and up to Gordon Sunland? Ah, on this, he and Voelker agree. When he was asked to pressure and investigate Barrys more, they both say they thought it was just an investigation into this company by prisma Sunland. Our ambassador to the EU never made that connection, never put two and two together, although several times in his testimony he did agree that when you do, it equals four. Here is Saarland questioned by Republican staff attorney Steve Kastor.
S11: Did Ambassador Voelker ever relate that to you?
S12: No. We just talked in generic terms about, quote, investigating. Okay, but had nothing to do with Vice President Biden. I had never heard Vice President Biden come up until very late in the game.
S3: Got that. All right. Here it is even more explicitly.
S12: I can’t recall the exact date the light bulb went on. It could have been as late as once the transcript was out. But it was always Brisman of me. And I didn’t know about the connection between Brisman, Biden.
S3: The Hotel Yei keeps his corridor’s a bit dim. No, he thought that folks back home. We’re just really into making sure this Ukrainian natural gas company was operating at their natural list. I guess maybe it was just a huge quality control effort from thousands of miles away. Maybe this was an investigation to see if the Ukrainian equivalent of Energy Star stickers when they tell you that Brisman natural gas saves you an average of 50 her veena per month over the next leading brand to see that that was accurate. Can you imagine the moment that Gordon Sundlun learned that charisma meant the Bidens maybe chewed out his staff for maybe I don’t. He seems like the kind of boss he wants you to believe. He started off cool. So he gets in a room with David Holmes over at the U.S. Embassy and he’s all like Holmes.
S13: What’s up, Holmes? Holmes Slice. You gotta keep. Gordo in the loop.
S1: I appreciate the heads up like Gordo. Zelinsky is an improv actor. That was great because he’s going to. Yes. And us with the aid. And when you said it’s Khedive, not Kiev, I cannot believe it. huh-huh. See what I did there?
S14: Holmes But why didn’t you or anyone else? Why did no one tell me? But prisma means Biden.
S1: Here I am going around. Yeah. Gotta get Baris mas gas up to snuff. Also, maybe we should look into Baris MHAs acquisition of not drogas VW your Vania.
S3: I mean, once one company acquires another company as Verismo acquired Nagra guys $v. Your Vanya. I mean we got to look into it. That makes sense. But no one ever says borís mas biden. That’s all I needed.
S13: Heads up prisma equals Biden. Who know?
S3: Who freakin knew? But I’ll tell you who knew he knew. I’m gonna say it right now. He knew, I guess is fine. I guess I understand why he’s denying knowledge. Lack of knowledge.
S1: Seems to be a if not the main get out of jail free card when it comes to this administration last night on CNN. Rick Santorum, dessicated Trump defender, was asked yes to defend Trump. He uncorked quite a theory of the case.
S15: Hell, go back to a president who is prone to saying erratic things and things that are problematic.
S3: So exculpatory evidence. He’s erratic and problematic. But Santorum went further, claiming the president was also, in fact, quite infantile.
S15: I’d like to compare this to really the obstruction case against the president and the Mueller report. What you had in the stretching has yet a bunch of adults around there. And you have the president spouting off saying, oh, I wish we should go after this guy. We should go after this guy. They never did. Why? Because he has adults in the room who put up with his wild ideas and then they do the right thing.
S16: That’s exactly what happened here on the way. We got off and say, I want to go after that. No, no, no, no. That’s not to say you’re okay.
S1: You hear the other CNN panelists objecting on facts, and that’s correct. It’s not a good comparison. But if it were a good comparison, it would also be a very not good defense. The erratic baby defense will not work in this case. The erratic baby defense might work if the erratic baby had an inkling to punish a rival, but was talked out of it. Right. But if the erratic baby actually is so erratic that he offers a bribe or if the erratic baby tries to extort. And if you’ve ever had an angry toddler on your hand, you know, they do tried to extort. When the erratic baby does extort, that’s extortion. There is no. Doulton the room back on this one, so to acknowledge that the president gave in to his infantile impulses is to acknowledge that the president used his office. Let us call it the Oval playpen, used his office to pressure a foreign power to give him what he selfishly and childishly wanted done. Deal. Game over. Time out. No dessert. Someone didn’t know he was just ignorant. Sure. Whatever. The president didn’t know.
S14: He’s just immature or uninformed, or has no impulse control or prone to tantrum or wets himself.
S3: All right. I mean, now we understand the motivation behind his guilty actions, but they are guilty actions because fun fact. President Trump’s actually not an infant. He’s a 73 year old president. And I think it would be better for everyone if he spent some time in the naughty chair.
S17: And that’s it for today’s show. Daniel Schrader produces the gist. He knew Barrys, mermen Biden, but he had no idea that la la means I love you. Cristina de josÃ also produces the gist. Yeah, yeah. Biden shorthand for Brisbane, no doubt.
S18: But did you know when someone text you? Yup. It means are you up for making what B? And when someone says make an whippy, that means sexual relations.
S17: Where does one get the translation guide for such things? The gist, of course, Peresman means Biden. But you know, when they say Trump often exhibits a lack of impulse control, what they really mean is pants wetting literally wet himself. That’s what the poor desperate to prove. Thanks for this.