"... the jury convicted Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence: there was not one shred of evidence showing Sterling handing Risen classified information on the operation, the Russian asset, or the letter that Risen found but FBI could not.
The evidence consisted of 57 phone calls between Sterling and Risen (some on their own phones, some on a phone Sterling had access to) between March 2003 and November 2005, the content of which we know nothing. It included a handful of emails, some of which indicate (in 2004, before Risen submitted his book proposal) Risen wanted to continue to talk to Sterling and wanted to send him something. One March 10, 2003 email, which Sterling deleted sometime in 2006, possibly after FBI subpoenaed him in this investigation, showed that Sterling had sent Risen the link to a CNN article claiming Iran had a very advanced nuclear weapons program. “All the more reason to wonder…” Sterling said in the email. The evidence showed that in March 2003, as the Bush Administration started a disastrous war based on claims of a dangerous nuclear program, Sterling used proper legal channels to raise concerns about the operation (citing “current events” to explain the timing of his concern) at the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Perhaps the most damning evidence, which was not submitted as a fact but as to the scope of the investigation, was CIA special agent Ashley Hunt’s revelation that in the initial leak referral CIA relayed a warning – from lawyers she would later learn were the lawyers handling Sterling’s Equal Opportunity complaint – that one of their clients had ”voiced his concerns about an operation that was nuclear in nature, and he threatened to go to the media.” In spite of this tip from the CIA, however, Hunt did not consider Sterling a likely candidate to be the leaker in the early stage of the investigation; she — and CIA press seretary Bill Harlow — thought Senate Intelligence Committee staffers were behind it. Marcy Wheeler