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Who will dare talk to the media after another whistleblower is jailed in the U.S.?

Reporters Without Borders is disturbed to learn that former FBI agent Donald Sachtleben was sentenced to three and a half years in prison yesterday for revealing to an Associated Press reporter how the CIA foiled a plot to blow up an airliner flying from Yemen to the United States.

After the AP published a report based on Sachtleben's information in early 2012, the Department of Justice secretly seized the records of 20 of the news agency's phone lines as part of its efforts to identify the source of the leak.

“The aim of the US government's use of mass surveillance and its pursuit [of] whistleblowers it to prevent the leaking of information about national security even when there is a clear public interest in this information being made known,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Who will now dare talk to the media on such a crucial subject? And, after this, how could journalists covering this subject count on the limited protection offered by a federal shield law? Sachtleben's conviction is part of a global intimidation strategy that obstructs freedom of information and the public's right to know.”

An explosives expert who worked for the FBI from 1983 to 2008, Sachtleben pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing and disclosing secret information. The federal court also sentenced him to an additional eight years in prison on an unrelated charge of distributing pornographic images of underage girls.

Sachtleben is the third whistleblower to be convicted and sentenced this year, following Bradley Manning in August and former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison on 25 January on a charge of revealing classified information for telling about the use of torture against terrorism subjects during the Bush administration.

Click here to read Reporters Without Borders' written submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council about whistleblowers.

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