John Kiriakou: CIA Whistleblower Freed, Would Do It Again

To date, John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee to go to prison in connection with the agency’s torture program. Not because he tortured anyone, but because he revealed information on torture to a reporter. In 2007, Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the agency’s use of waterboarding. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Under a plea deal, John Kiriakou admitted to a single count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing the identity of a covert officer involved in the torture program to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it. In return, prosecutors dropped charges brought under the Espionage Act. Supporters say he was unfairly targeted in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers.

A father of five, John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer, leading the team that found high-ranking al-Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in 2002. However, he has been released from prison, although he still isn’t exactly a free man, as he detailed in an interview with Amy Goodman ofDemocracy Now!

“I served 23 months in a low-security federal prison in Pennsylvania. I have three months of house arrest. And then, following house arrest, I am under what’s called supervised release, which is really probation, for another three years.”

As mentioned above, Kiriakou is the only CIA agent to be imprisoned in connection with the agency’s torture program. He also believes that it was torture, and not the whistleblowing itself, that led to his incarceration. He believes that had he blown the whistle on something other than torture, things may have played out differently, as he detailed to Goodman.

“Oh, I am absolutely convinced, Amy, that I was jailed because of the torture debate. People leak information in Washington all the time, whether it’s on purpose or inadvertent. We’ve seen—we’ve seen people like former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former CIA Director General Petraeus, leaking classified information with impunity. And that has convinced me that I’m right when I say that my case was never about leaking. My case was about blowing the whistle on torture.”

Before his release, the American government released a report which included the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation techniques; something which Kiriakou didn’t think he’d be able to see whilst he was still in prison, as he didn’t have internet access or physical access to the report. However, that changed when he was sent pages of the report by one of his cousins, and he detailed his surprise at the report to Andrew Jerrell Jones of the Intercept before his release.

“One thing that I think most everybody has missed is, we knew about the waterboarding, we knew about the cold cells, we knew about the loud music and the sleep deprivation. We knew about all the things that have been ‘approved’ by the Justice Department. But what we didn’t know was what individual CIA officers were doing on their own without any authorization. And I would like to know why those officers aren’t being prosecuted when clearly they’ve committed crimes and those crimes were well documented by both the CIA and the Senate Committee of Intelligence.”

As for what exactly John Kiriakou has planned for the future, and for whether or not he has asked for a pardon, he doesn’t seem to have much of a plan. He told Amy Goodman that he plans to get some form of pardon in the coming year or two, as he feels that there is support growing for it.

“I’ve not formally asked for a pardon, and I probably won’t this year. But there seems to be some support growing for it. I’m always on the lookout for congressional support. And I hope that I can develop that through 2015 and then maybe go to the president sometime next year and ask for a pardon.”

Kiriakou has also said that he doesn’t regret exposing the CIA torture the way he did, and has said that he would do it again if he had to.

[Image via The Intercept]