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US charges CIA officer allegedly behind Iran revelations

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READ MORE: Obama administration ‘on its way to setting a record for leak prosecutions’

WASHINGTON — A former CIA officer was arrested on Thursday on charges of illegally disclosing national defense information about Iran to a New York Times reporter who wrote a book.

The U.S. Justice Department said Jeffrey Sterling, 43, was charged with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawfully keeping national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstructing justice.

The arrest marked the latest case brought by the Obama administration charging current or former U.S. officials with leaking classified information to the news media.

It also has been investigating the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, for leaking hundreds of classified U.S. diplomatic cables that have embarrassed the White House.

Sterling, a lawyer who worked at the CIA from 1993 to 2002, was arrested in St. Louis near where he lives.

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From 1998 through mid-2000, he was assigned to a classified clandestine program that conducted intelligence activities about the weapons capabilities of certain countries, the Justice Department said in announcing the indictment against Sterling.

A legal source familiar with the case said one of the countries involved was Iran.

In the same time period, Sterling also was an operations officer who handled a human asset associated with that program, according to the indictment.

Beginning in mid-2000, Sterling complained of employment-related racial discrimination at the CIA and challenging CIA decisions about his efforts to publish his memoirs.

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CIA ACTIVITIES

The indictment alleged that Sterling, retaliating for the CIA’s refusal to settle on favorable terms his discrimination claims, disclosed information about the program.

It said he discussed the information with the reporter in early 2003 and later in connection with a book published in January 2006.

The Justice Department did not identify the reporter.

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But the dates and other details in the indictment make clear it involved New York Times reporter James Risen, whose 2006 book “State of War” revealed details of the CIA’s intelligence activities involving Iran.

The source familiar with the case confirmed that the reporter in the indictment was Risen.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 or 20 years in prison.

In other cases, Stephen Kim, a foreign policy analyst who worked at the U.S. State Department, was charged in August with leaking a top-secret intelligence report to a news reporter last year.

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Also last year, a former high-ranking official at the National Security Agency was charged with illegally possessing classified information that he allegedly gave to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

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New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

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New Zealand opened a gun buyback scheme Thursday aimed at ridding the country of semi-automatic weapons similar to those used in the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed in the hours after the March 15 killings that New Zealand's gun laws would be tightened and her government has expedited the change in just three months.

"The buyback and amnesty has one objective -- to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al Noor and Linwood mosques," Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

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Convicted on all seven counts: US sex cult leader Keith Raniere who attracted the rich and famous

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A US jury on Wednesday convicted a "self-help" guru of racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes for his leadership of a cult-like organization of sex slaves he branded like cattle.

Keith Raniere, 58, coerced a string of women into having sex with him as the charismatic leader of a life-coaching group he founded in New York state.

Nxivm -- pronounced Nexium -- had proved a huge draw since its 2003 launch, attracting a coterie of rich and famous devotees such as the "Smallville" actress Allison Mack, and spreading into cities across the United States.

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Pompeo ups pressure on Russia over four MH17 accused

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Moscow must ensure that those charged with murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 face justice, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, after international investigators accused three Russians and a Ukrainian over the disaster.

The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.

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