‘He was a patriot and the CIA turned on him’: Poor medical care endangers Jeffrey Sterling in prison

© Rick Wilking
Prison officials have been reluctant to provide CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling with the necessary medical care. After a monthlong battle to allow him to see a cardiac specialist, the little treatment he has received is about to end.

It took an uphill battle against the Englewood Correctional Facility in Colorado for Jeffrey Sterling to receive outside medical treatment for a heart issue that he had before he arrived in the prison. But even after receiving it, he may have to keep fighting against the correctional facility that is responsible for keeping him alive.

Sterling is serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence after being found guilty under the Espionage Act in 2015. While incarcerated at the Englewood Correctional Facility in Colorado, he began experiencing heart issues that he described as feeling similar to atrial fibrillation (afib), a condition that left him hospitalized for four days in the past.

He described his current condition as “feeling a sudden very hard heartbeat with a sort of pause that emulates your entire body, breathing, moving, etc. being suddenly halted” and he also experiences “sharp pain” within his chest at the heart, lightheadedness and shortness of breath.

However, last month the Bureau of Prisons claimed that Sterling had fabricated his heart condition, according to a letter from Sterling. "There has been more effort to refute me than there has been to actually provide any care,” Sterling wrote.

In addition, Sterling and his wife, Holly, claim the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) have backtracked and delayed providing him with medical care. He described having an intense chest pain that required him to see the facility’s medical unit. While there, he learned “anything that has indicated a health problem that needed addressing has not been included in my records.

Sterling’s treatment is all too common within the prison system according to John Kiriakou, another CIA whistleblower and friend of Sterling, who said, “I don’t think they’re doing this just because he’s Jeffrey Sterling.” He continued: “This is the policy of the US Bureau of Prisons. It’s cheaper for them to deny medical care than to provide medical care, even if the prisoner dies while in custody.

He joined the CIA because he was patriot and the CIA turned on him and they’ve made him into a criminal,” Kiriakou said.

He explained that there is no way for the prison to have missed the fact that he had been hospitalized for heart problems in the past. “Before any prisoner is incarcerated, he undergoes a comprehensive background check and that background check for a pre-sentencing report (PSR),” he explained to RT.

In that PSR for Jeffrey Sterling, it would have documented his very long history of cardiac problems.” In fact, Sterling’s heart health history included being a candidate for a pacemaker, Kiriakou explained.

The prison would later allow him to see an outside specialist who gave him a prescription for beta blockers. It would take Sterling two more days to actually receive his medication. The treatment has been somewhat affective as Sterling said his symptoms, “continue though not as frequent and not as intense.

Sterling was given this treatment even though the outside specialist received none of his medical records from the prison which include a blood test that found he had elevated levels of Troponin, a protein that in some cases can be indicators of damage to the heart muscle.

His beta-blocker prescription is set to run out by Wednesday and no plans have been made for him to see anyone else.