Even since her husband, ex-CIA agent and whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, was handed to a 42-month prison sentence for sharing information regarding CIA’s covert Operation Merlin, Holly Sterling was been looking for ways to get him a presidential pardon.
Holly Sterling started a petition campaign with the help of social awareness groups like rootsaction.org and change.org in the pursuit of justice for her husband. Her petition drew national attention, effectively attracting the 100,000 signatures needed to elicit a presidential response.
On February 17, 2016 Holly Sterling finally came before White House officials to formally submit her petition, and now awaits a decision from the Obama administration.
Jeffrey Sterling was found guilty of nine criminal counts for violations under the Espionage Act after jurors determined he had shared sensitive CIA information to New York Times journalist James Risen.
Accusations surrounding Sterling stemmed from a book published by Risen offering details on CIA’s failed Operation Merlin. The operation was intended to use a Russian nuclear engineer to deliver inaccurate nuclear blueprints to Iran in 2000. However, the plot was irrevocably bungled when the scientist noticed said inaccuracies and notified Iranian recipients.
The Department of Justice immediately cast suspicion on Sterling as Risen’s source point since he had previous filed a discrimination lawsuit against the CIA, alerted the Senate Intelligence Commission about the mishandling of Operation Merlin, and had past correspondences with Risen. In fact, Risen had even reported on Sterling’s CIA discrimination case.
Yet, Sterling has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Risen has also refused to offer his sources pertaining to Operation Merlin, despite a subpoena issued by the Bush administration compelling him to do so. The Department of Justice eventually retracted the subpoena prior to Sterling’s trial in 2015.