What is the role of the state when “secrets” are revealed?

Leakers pay a price in American culture. The greatest fear of Washington is thinking individuals inside government who know some things are simply wrong; a moral conscience is the only way forward:

A former CIA officer has been indicted on charges of disclosing national security secrets after being accused of leaking classified information about Iran to a New York Times reporter.

Federal prosecutors charged Jeffrey Sterling with 10 counts related to improperly keeping and disclosing national security information.

The indictment did not say specifically what was leaked but, from the dates and other details, it is clear that case centers on leaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen for his 2006 book, “State of War.” The book revealed details about the CIA’s covert spy war with Iran.

Sterling, of O’Fallon, Mo., was arrested Thursday and was to make his initial appearance later in the day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry I. Adelman in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

Sterling served on the Iranian desk at the CIA and handled Iranian spies who had defected to the United States. In the book, Risen detailed how a CIA officer mistakenly revealed the CIA’s network in Iran.

Iranian security officials were able to “roll up” the CIA’s agent network in the country.

The Justice Department had twice subpoenaed Risen to force him to reveal his sources but he refused. After the book was published in 2006, the FBI focused on Sterling whom Risen had written about in 2003 for the newspaper.

The Dec. 22, 2010, indictment was unsealed Thursday in Alexandria, Va.

“The CIA deplores the unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” the CIA said in a statement issued Thursday. The New York Times declined to comment.

Risen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The indictment is the latest move in an aggressive Obama administration campaign to crack down on leaks, even as the administration has supported proposed legislation that would shield reporters from having to identify their sources.

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