Ex-CIA officer convicted in New York Times leak case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former CIA officer was convicted in federal court in Virginia on Monday of leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran's nuclear weapons program, the U.S. Justice Department said. Jeffrey Sterling was found guilty of nine counts, including six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of obstruction of justice, the department said. Sentencing for Sterling, who was indicted in 2010, is scheduled for April 24. "This is a just and appropriate outcome,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security," Holder said. "The disclosures placed lives at risk. And they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it." The trial came after the reporter, James Risen, fought for years to avoid testifying in the case as prosecutors had sought. Risen appeared in court earlier this month before the trial began and answered a few basic questions about his book that discussed the program, but he declined to discuss specific information about his sources. The conviction is a victory for the Justice Department, which under the Obama administration has prosecuted a record number of unauthorized leaks by government employees. Holder came under fire in 2013 over the Justice Department's decision to seize telephone records of the Associated Press, a move denounced by critics as a gross intrusion into freedom of the press. Earlier this month, Holder revised the department's policy to require the attorney general to authorize any subpoenas to members of the news media. (Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Additional reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Toni Reinhold)