Jeffery Sterling’s Position On The ‘Pardon Season’
(Interjection – Jeffery Sterling, author of “Unwanted Spy,” a whistle-blower prosecuted similar to Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden, and unlike the list in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_whistleblowers) AND the article on this website “Nearly 100,000 Pentagon Whistleblower Complaints Have Been Silenced” (https://militarytruth.org/nearly-100000-pentagon-whistleblower-complaints-have-been-silenced/) AND a soon-to-be-posted article from the October 27, 2014 issue of The Nation, “The Government’s War On Whistleblowers” was sent to prison for his “crime.” Also, being black, he had many “strikes” against him. This is his personal account and conundrum: his position on a potential presidential “pardon” and (as I see it) living to a FAR higher moral standard than the recent ex-president of the United States who could have effected that “pardon.” ~ Don Chapin)
PS from the RootsAction Education Fund:
Jeffrey’s refusal to knuckle under to illegitimate power has come at a very steep personal cost. That’s the way the CIA leadership wanted it. His enduring capacity to speak truthfully and his emergence as a national voice can help strengthen a wide range of whistleblowers — past, present and future.
You can help make that happen with a tax-deductible donation of any amount.
Please do what you can to support Jeffrey’s work as coordinator of The Project for Accountability.
the RootsAction team
And now, here’s what Jeffrey has written for sharing with supporters of the RootsAction Education Fund and The Project for Accountability.
The Trump presidency is coming to an end and much like previous outgoing administrations, the topic of pardons has come to the fore. This time around, the presidential pardon has a bit more of an odd if not distasteful tinge about it that casts an even dimmer pall on the routine. I can’t recall another presidential pardon season that was more focused on what and who will receive a pardon and for what reason. I wonder if the entire process should be done away with, but that is a discussion best suited for another occasion. What this pardon season has done for me has awakened a painfully personal and long-simmering introspection, mainly, would I want or accept a pardon?
The prospect of a pardon is wonderful, a potential wiping clean of one’s slate. What a gift that would be for anyone and it is not lost upon me the fact that the pardon season is typically staged during the holiday season. And even though the chances have always been and most likely will always be slim for a pardon to be placed under my Christmas tree, every pardon season I find myself wondering, what if? Every time I wonder about receiving such a gift, I confirm my resolve that such a present is nothing I would ever want or accept.
By definition, a pardon means to be forgiven for a crime; in the case of Presidential pardons, that forgiveness extends only to federal crimes. My January 2015 conviction for violating the Espionage Act, unjust as it was, certainly amounted to a federal crime, thereby making me eligible to receive such presidential benevolence. But, merely being eligible for grace doesn’t necessarily make receiving it a good thing.
My personal difficulty with a pardon is the acceptance of which is an admission of guilt. A pardon is not a reversal, not a real cleaning of the slate. When you look at it, a pardon is more symbolic than anything because it will not erase or expunge the record of a conviction. Some rights are restored via a pardon, but the conviction and admission of committing a crime remain. Is this really such a wonderful gift? Not to me. A pardon in my case would strip all semblance of truth and veracity from who I am as a person. A pardon for me would be the antithesis of my overall life ambition, to be true to myself. I could not in good conscience admit to a crime I did not commit, nor knuckle under to a biased criminal justice system. In much the same way, I could not and will not accept a pardon from this president nor any other. The years and years with my life on hold living with the specter of being persecuted by the government and country that I tried to serve and being unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned for taking a stand in furtherance of that service cannot be wiped away by an ultimately symbolic presidential gesture.
But, I will admit I had visions of some sort of relief dancing in my head during Mr. Obama’s pardon season. I was in prison, away from my loved ones and friends, cast away like so much garbage. I was desperate for that situation to change, to do anything to return home. I put my faith in the law and filed an appeal to the unjust conviction. There was also the herculean effort by my dear wife Holly, independent of my legal team, to petition the president for a pardon; she was also desperate to change an injustice and have me returned home. I had some rather mixed feelings on the subject at the time because I knew what a pardon would ultimately mean and I had doubts Mr. Obama would do anything to change the victory against truth and whistleblowers he and his Attorney General Eric Holder worked so vehemently for and relished in. Regardless, I was focused on anything that would get me out of that prison. Through her efforts, thousands upon thousands of supporters signed the petition and I was moved beyond measure at the outpouring of support. I found encouragement in both the appeal and the petition.
Like a child who writes a letter to Santa, I was filled with anticipation for both the appeal and prospect of a pardon, either could mean getting me out of that prison, the only immediate present I wanted. I was a mainstay in the prison television room and had my radio constantly tuned in to NPR for any news of what pardons Mr. Obama would hand out. There was nothing but coal for me from Mr. Obama, I was not one of the chosen to receive a gift of his presidential benevolence. He summarily ignored the petition from my wife and supporters without so much as a response.
The appeal would also ultimately fail as the appellate court perfunctorily rubber-stamped the conviction allowing it to stand forever. I was to remain in prison for the length of my sentence and continue to wear the scarlet letter of being convicted of a crime. To say I was disheartened would be an understatement. I was crushed. The disappointment was more pointed at the appeal than the prospect of a pardon. The legal system had once again failed me. The lack of a pardon also stung, not so much that I did not receive one, but I felt I had in some way let down Holly and my supporters. But, I did receive something wonderful and unexpected. Though the petition effort failed, the effort gave me much more than any pardon ever could, it helped me maintain my dignity and belief in myself.
I want it to be understood that despite my feelings on pardons, I was and remain extremely proud and thankful of the effort put forth on my behalf. Had I refused a pardon at that time, it would not have been an expression of dismissiveness at my wife and supporters. A very real thought for me at that time, in moments of clarity, was that accepting a pardon would actually mean turning my back on all the wonderful people who were supporting me. A pardon may have removed me from that prison, but I would have remained forever confined, bounded by a lie. That was a personal and general betrayal I knew I couldn’t live with. I could not have in good conscience accepted anything that would have compromised who I was and am. The ordeal fighting against discrimination at the CIA, bringing official attention to a dangerous operation, and the tremendous struggle against false accusations of violating the Espionage Act could not have been in vain. All the loss and pain associated with those many years had to mean something.
While of no consideration for me, I do believe that pardons should be on offer to Edward Snowden, Reality Winner, Terry Albury, John Kiriakou, and the many other patriots who chose to take the ultimate stand and bring to light government wrongdoing and abuses of power. Their ordeals are no less unjust, and my position in no way is meant as a statement on their stance. Much like the decision to take a stand, whether to ask for or accept a pardon is a personal choice. For me, nothing is going to take away the experiences of being tried, convicted, and imprisoned for a crime I did not commit. That I have not received a pardon and will adamantly refuse one if so considered is the best gift I can continue to give to myself during any pardon season and the rest of my life. I have been through hell and I continue to hold my head high, I don’t want a pardon to ever take that away from me.