WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - A former CIA officer was sentenced on Monday to 42 months in prison for leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran's nuclear weapons program, the Justice Department said.
Jeffrey Sterling, 47, was convicted of disclosing national defense information and obstructing justice in January in federal court in Virginia.
"For his own vindictive purposes, Jeffrey Sterling carelessly disclosed extremely valuable, highly classified information that he had taken an oath to keep secret," said Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The Justice Department said that in 2003, Sterling gave information about the clandestine program to a reporter for The New York Times.
The reporter, James Risen, fought for years to avoid testifying in the case, saying he could not discuss his sources. He eventually appeared in court but answered only basic questions about his 2006 book, "State of War," in which he had described the operation in Iran.
Sterling's conviction was a victory for the Justice Department under the Obama administration, which has come under criticism from journalists for aggressively prosecuting unauthorized leaks by government employees.
The Justice Department said that in 2000, Sterling, at the time a CIA employee, tried to take administrative and civil actions against the agency. When those moves were unsuccessful, he leaked information about the weapons program in retaliation, the DOJ said. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Eric Walsh)