How to Conduct Classified Discovery Interviews

05.12.11 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In preparation for the trial of Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former CIA employee who is accused of unauthorized disclosure of classified information, prosecutors this week wrote to the defendant’s attorney explaining how pre-trial interviews of potential witnesses in the case are to be conducted.

First of all, “If you intend to discuss classified information during an interview, the potential witness must possess the requisite security clearances.”  But “You may not rely on the representations of the potential witness as to the status of that person’s clearances,” wrote U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride (pdf) on May 9.  We will verify whether the potential witness has the requisite clearance.”

You may not ask “the true identity of covert employees.”  You may not discuss “the background of covert employees.”  You may not ask questions “about intelligence operations other than that which has been disclosed to you in the discovery materials.”

And so on.  “With these restrictions, which we have reviewed with intelligence officials, we believe that you may conduct interviews with potential witnesses consistent with the Protective Order previously entered by the Court,” the US Attorney wrote.