Why You Should Listen to Jeffrey Sterling

Millikin alum Jeffrey Sterling is coming to Millikin. Here’s who he is and why you should see his lecture in Kaueper Hall at 7 p.m. on January 28.

The winner’s point of view usually becomes the history books, but Jeffrey Sterling offers the victim’s side.

The first few words you will hear about Sterling are “Whistleblowing,” “CIA,” and “James Risen.” What links all of these words together is a story about racial discrimination, a disastrous trial, and a nation that did everything it could to convict a man that did not fit the mold.

You can expect to hear an insider’s point of view about what it’s like to be a CIA agent—and what happens when the CIA becomes your enemy. Throughout all of this, race will also be a major discussion.

Jeffrey Sterling has a history of standing out, especially as the only black person in the room. This was even clear when he came to Millikin.

Sterling attended an overwhelmingly white Millikin in the late 1980s. Black Student Union, then called “For Souls Only,” had a solid presence on the campus but he had little connection with them, according to a 2013 interview with Millikin student Allyx Davison. He actually joined TKE, where he was the only black member. He spoke with Davison because of an overarching issue: race. Racial discrimination would play a devastating role in his profession and his life.

Sterling worked in the CIA after graduating. He was a spy trying to learn secrets about their countries. You cannot meet a spy every day.

He also isn’t just an ordinary spy. He was the first person to file a racial discrimination suit against the CIA in 2001. The CIA dismissed him shortly after that, but that was not the end of Sterling’s issues.

Though no longer part of the CIA, he was soon indicted for allegedly leaking information to reporter James Risen about “Project Merlin,” a botched mission that attempted to mislead Iran’s advances in nuclear technology. It involved a Russian spy giving Iranian scientists bad instruction on how to build a nuclear bomb.

Learning about the botched mission is a great way to learn about how the CIA isn’t all-powerful. They are a human organization that makes mistakes. However, they still act all-powerful, often in dangerous ways. Sterling is one of the best people to reveal this.

Sterling underwent a trial that stretched ten years for allegedly being a whistleblower. He has maintained his innocence in every interview and even refused a plea bargain. Still, Risen’s trial got all of the attention.

“I’m just a pawn,” Sterling once said in an interview with the St. Louis Beacon. “To the press, I’m nothing. This is all about James Risen to them.”

Sterling will offer more details about how the mainstream media overlooked his case and the reasons why. Part of this has to do with living in a country that is fighting to cover up its faults.

The government has been hunting down whistleblowers to an extreme extent for the past several years. In fact, Sterling was one out of six people charged for leaking evidence during Obama’s administration. Only three whistleblowers have ever been charged in all of American history before this. Few mainstream platforms have made this clear.

The news we see usually goes through a CNN or FOX-sized filter before it reaches our ears. After that, we are usually hearing a fraction of the truth. The big-name news networks ignored Sterling, so we should listen to him. His story is a rare example of the other side.

Sterling is returning to Millikin nearly 30 years after he graduated to give a lecture at 7 P.M., January 28 in Kaeuper Hall and discuss his book, “Unwanted Spy: The Persecution of an American Whistleblower.” Novel Ideas bookstore will be on-site selling copies of the book.