March 27

2012: The great irony is that whistleblowers are charged while torturers go free”

Former CIA analyst, John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. He was officially convicted for leaking the name of a covert officer, but Kiriakou said he was really being targeted for being a whistleblower and revealing the details about post-9/11 torture tactics in the US. Kiriakou was a counterterrorism officer from 1990 to 2004; he was the first former official to confirm the use of waterboarding in an ABC interview in 2007, three years after he left the agency.

A criminal investigation that eventually led to Kiriakou began in 2009, under the Obama Administration, when government officials learned that defense lawyers for high-profile Al-Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo were identifying witnesses to their clients’ interrogations while in CIA custody.

“Personally I feel that the Justice Department is hypocritical to charge me for a crime, and not just me but other whistleblowers as well – [such] as Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and others – and then allow the torturers to go free. But what really bothers me, is that there is no prosecution of CIA officers who obviously violated the law; those CIA officers who were conducting interrogations in which prisoners were killed. I have no idea why there is no outrage, and why those officers are not being prosecuted.”

Kiriakou is not without support from former colleagues. His former boss, Bruce Riedel, sent a letter to President Obama, signed by other CIA officers, urging him to commute Kiriakou’s prison sentence. That did not happen. Kiriakou is a father of five children; he says the CIA asked his wife to resign from her job at the agency immediately following his arrest, and he is in major debt from his legal fees. He authored a book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA (2012) He is one of eight current or former government employees who were prosecuted by the Obama administration for disclosing secrets to reporters. Only three such cases were prosecuted under all previous presidents.

“No whistleblower really sets out to be a whistleblower. I saw a policy that I believed was not just wrong, but was criminal, and I decided to speak about it. I really didn’t think long-term about how the US government can bring its full weight against a whistleblower. The goal really of the Justice Department is to ruin the whistleblower personally, professionally, and financially. I hadn’t thought that through, and that’s exactly what happened to me. But again, it’s opened up a whole new world for me in the realm of human right and civil liberties.”

Daniel Ellsberg, who revealed the secret history of the Vietnam War when he provided the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, said: “The Kiriakou indictment for leaking” the identities of C.I.A. officers involved in a program that many people called torture, “is particularly disgusting in the context of zero indictments for actually torturing, or for directing torture, or for writing spurious legal justifications for it.” (Adam Liptak. A High-Tech War on Leaks, The New York Times, 2011) Indeed, the professionals who participated were immunized from prosecution; and their names have been permanently blacked out in the documented record.

When he got out of prison Kiriakou said, “No one went to jail but me. It’s a great irony that whistleblowers are charged while torturers go free.” (CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou speaks out, Veterans Today, Feb. 10, 2015)

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