US

Ex-CIA officer convicted of leaking secret Iranian operation; verdict could chill future leaks

  • Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, after being convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, after being convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)  (The Associated Press)

  • Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, second from right, attorney Barry Pollack, right, and attorney Edward MacMahon, after he was convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, second from right, attorney Barry Pollack, right, and attorney Edward MacMahon, after he was convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)  (The Associated Press)

  • Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, center and attorney Barry Pollack, after being convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

    Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, center and attorney Barry Pollack, after being convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified details of an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions to a New York Times reporter. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)  (The Associated Press)

Prosecutors won their case against an ex-CIA officer accused of leaking details of a classified operation to a reporter, and they did it without any help from the reporter who received the leak.

The conviction Monday of former CIA man Jeffrey Sterling of O'Fallon, Missouri, showed that prosecutors can win those cases even if reporters refuse to divulge their sources.

For years, prosecutors tried to force New York Times journalist James Risen to reveal whether Sterling had been a confidential source for his 2006 book, "State of War." The book details an operation to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But Risen refused to talk and prosecutors were forced to build a circumstantial case.

Some free-press advocates say the verdict will scare potential sources from talking to reporters.