Kirkus Review: A CIA whistleblower tells his tale.


Jeffrey Sterling Unwanted Spy bookSterling, a lawyer who spent eight years in the CIA, relates his life story and the details of what he maintains was a phony conviction for espionage. “During the trial,” he writes, “the government did not present a shred of hard evidence to validate the charges against me. Even [the judge] summarized the case against me as being based on ‘very powerful circumstantial evidence’ rather than on hard proof.” Some readers—e.g., those who condemned Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden—may conclude that the author should not have exposed certain sensitive CIA secrets. However, given his coherent account, backed by copious details (other than a few redactions), most readers will believe that his revelations were warranted. Rather than coming across as a bitter former CIA agent seeking retribution for his imprisonment, Sterling comes across as a reasonable man with a persuasive case that after the CIA hired him, his white supervisors held back promotions solely because he was black. When he sued the CIA for racial discrimination, government officials, including Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, sought to discredit Sterling by alleging espionage. In the first 50 pages of the narrative, the author chronicles his upbringing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. While some schoolmates and family members considered him too “white” to comfortably hang out with other black students, many whites displayed prejudice against him as a black boy. After noting how he was determined to find a path that suited him, Sterling discusses his undergraduate studies at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and his law school years at Washington University in St. Louis. While working as a public defender, he jumped at the opportunity to join the CIA after reading a recruitment advertisement. Despite his initial enthusiasm while training at CIA headquarters, Sterling soon saw not only the racial discrimination, but also the strict conservative leanings of most agents and the sometimes damaging incompetence infecting the agency hierarchy.

A book that amply demonstrates grave flaws in the criminal justice system.