Desmond Tutu Calls for Justice for Jeffrey Sterling, Citing Petraeus Deal

President Obama greets Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2013.

President Obama greets Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2013.

Last month, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote a letter to Leonie Brinkema, the judge in the Jeffrey Sterling trial, calling on her to prove cynicism wrong in her sentencing of Sterling. The letter was docketed this week.

Tutu explained his letter by pointing to the importance of proving cynicism about justice wrong.

The ideals that we share for the rule of law and equal justice are often confronted by the cynicism that says such virtues are not to be fulfilled in the real world. So we are challenged to prove such cynicism wrong. It is in that context that I am respectfully writing to Your Honor about the sentencing of Jeffrey Alexander Sterling.

He then appealed to equality before the law.

Equality under the law, as a cornerstone of justice, is significantly at stake in the sentencing of Mr. Sterling. While I realize that no two cases are identical, the fact remains that charges akin to those for which Mr. Sterling was convicted have in recent years resulted in extremely disparate penalties.

Tutu then cited a Los Angeles Times editorial comparing the treatment of David Petraeus with Stephen Jin-Woo Kim and John Kiriakou (the editorial did not mention Sterling). “The editorial concluded that vastly harsher punishments for those who have divulged classified information while lacking the high rank and power of former CIA Director Petraeus ‘may be the way of the world, but it’s not justice.'”

He then appealed to Brinkema to bring a sense of equity to Sterling’s sentencing.

Your Honor, I appeal to you to provide the sentencing of Mr. Sterling with a sense of equity that can help to move the way of the world closer to real justice, nurturing belief in the law as a guardian of justice and not a violator of it. I hope that you will pronounce a sentence for Mr. Sterling that is consistent with our aspirations for equal justice under the law.

Without once mentioning race, a living symbol of the struggle for equal justice got to the even bigger questions of inequity in the Obama Administration’s treatment of leakers, the unequal treatment of insiders like Petraeus, who leaked to fluff his own ego, and that of those who tried to alert the public to government misconduct.

Whatever else this letter does, I wonder if it will get the President to take notice?


About Marcy Wheeler

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler wrote the "Right to Know" column for ExposeFacts. She is best known for providing in-depth analysis of legal documents related to "war on terrorism" programs and civil liberties. Wheeler blogs at and publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon and the Progressive. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. Wheeler won the 2009 Hillman Award for blog journalism.