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On Jeffrey Sterling: From the Filmmaker of “Invisible Man”

by Judith Ehrlich

This is a story with shocking elements. While most of us don’t quite understand what metadata is exactly, this case reminds us it’s time to get a grip on that. In fact Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in large part on the basis of metadata — not the content of his communication. That is, they don’t have to know what he said, just that he talked to or emailed  the New York Times reporter who leaked news of Operation Merlin to which Jeffrey was assigned while a CIA case officer. And that metadata, the where, when and whom is not protected as the conversation might be.

The most shocking element of this story is that  Jeffrey Sterling seems to be punished because he “pulled on Superman’s cape” first with a racial discrimination suit they were able to squash and then by reporting what he considered a dangerous CIA operation to the proper government channels for hearing such a concern.

I wanted to make a film that captured this couple’s deep commitment and belief in one another in the face of a decade of Kafkaesque uncertainty at the hands of the CIA. Ellsberg followed the same initial trajectory as Sterling, going to Congress with his concerns about the Vietnam War and being ignored by the oversight committees. CIA veteran Ray McGovern calls them “overlook committees.”

I was thrilled to collaborate with Norman Solomon and Expose Facts to reach an audience with this story that exposes deep problems in our justice system.

Judith Ehrlich is director of the just-released short doc “The Invisible Man: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.” Her past films include “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.”