Sterling was convicted in January on nine felony counts, including conspiracy, for giving classified documents to New York Times journalist James Risen concerning a failed 1997 US plot to subvert the Iranian nuclear program. In the article, Risen revealed how the US may have recklessly given a nuclear weapon to one of its enemies.
Sterling’s wife Holly told Democracy Now that, "The press conference today is to make people aware of what has happened, but most importantly, I have written a letter to President Obama asking for the immediate pardon of Jeffrey."
Sterling’s attorney, Norman Solomon, said that his client’s case "is significant for civil liberties and for freedom of the press and, really, the public’s right to know, with informed consent, in what’s supposed to be a democracy."
Solomon added that, "The challenge is for people to recognize that at many levels the Obama administration is continuing to wage an enormous war on whistleblowing and investigative journalism, in tandem with the tightening, even further, through technology and political choice, of the surveillance state and continued warfare around the planet…"
The lawyer pointed out that Sterling was convicted on a patchwork of circumstantial evidence stemming from legal actions taken by the whistleblower, including voicing his concerns on the ill-fated operation to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The lawyer suggested that Sterling is a whistleblower because he went through the proper channels, not because of any wrongdoing.
The operation called for a former Russian nuclear engineer to pass on defective Russian blueprints for a nuclear triggering mechanism to Tehran, after inducing them to purchase a nuclear weapon. In his book "State of War" Risen called the mission "one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA."
Sterling’s wife believes her husband was pursued by the government so intensely due to a lawsuit Jeffrey leveled against the CIA for racial discrimination, the first such suit in agency history. She told RT in September that her husband had been suffering profuse sweating, shortness of breath and chest pains, but officials at the Englewood Correctional Facility where he is being held will not allow him a doctor.
Sterling has suffered from an irregular heartbeat in the past and his wife fears these symptoms "could potentially be cardiac arrest," and that "my husband might die."
In the documentary "Invisible Man", released by ExposeFacts.Org, a site run by Solomon, Sterling explained, "They already had the machine geared up against me. The moment that they felt there was a leak, every finger pointed to Jeffrey Sterling. If the word ‘retaliation’ is not thought of when anyone looks at the experience that I’ve had with the agency, then I just think you’re not looking."