CIA veteran John Kiriakou has been sentenced to over two years in jail for leaking the identity of an agent. Kiriakou argues he is actually being prosecuted for coming clean over torture practices in the CIA and “going against the grain.”
He was charged on January 23 for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists.
The former chief of counter-terrorist operations in Pakistan pleaded guilty to the charges set against him as part of a deal with prosecutors, “accepting responsibility for his actions.” In return, prosecutors dropped the charges of making false statements under a World War I-era Espionage Act.
"I want to start by saying I accept my sentence of 30 years in prison – oh my God – 30 months in prison," Kiriakou said, at press conference on Wednesday, prompting laughter from his audience. "Oh boy. It was the 30 years I was trying not to get."
The charges in question related to an email sent by Kiriakou in August 2008, revealing the name of a covert CIA officer involved in waterboarding to a freelance journalist.
However, Kiriakou and his defense claimed that the email is merely a pretext and the real reason for his sentence is an interview he gave ABC News in 2007, blowing the whistle on torture practices conducted by the CIA that he regards as "wrong and ineffective.”
"I'm headed to prison while the torturers and the lawyers who papered over it and the people who conceived it and the man who destroyed the proof of it, the tapes, will never face justice. And that's the saddest part of the story," Kiriakou said.
Prosecutors alleged that Kiriakou’s claims of being a whistleblowing anti-hero are unjustified and accuse him of embarking on a publicity stunt.
Jesselyn Radack, one of Kiriakou’s lawyers claimed that though initially her client also viewed torture in the CIA as “something the US needed to do,” he later changed his mind. As he became more vocal on the issue, publishing a book in 2010 on his experiences called “The Reluctant Spy,” he irritated the CIA, which then launched the “vindictive prosecution” against Kiriakou.
The court dismissed the claim of vindictive prosecution and says that the argument that Kiriakou is an anti-torture whistleblower lacks validity because he had previously supported the use of torture in public interviews.
The case against Kiriakou originally came about when authorities stumbled upon a security breach at Guantanamo Bay in which inmates were found in possession of photographs of their interrogators. The subsequent investigation led to the discovery of Kiriakou’s security leak and his indictment in April 2012.
Kiriakou had previously been praised for his role in the capture of Al-Qaeda’s third in command Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002. Kiriakou later spoke out about the torture practices used on the Al-Qaeda insurgent in an attempt to extract information.
Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times and was also subjected to other forms of torture, all of which were ineffective. Kiriakou did not participate in the insurgent’s torture.
Kirikou’s supporters have styled him as a whistleblower and an American hero for going public on CIA torture tactics. Over 2000 people have already signed a petition calling for Kiriakou’s sentenced to be commuted.
“Instead of being rewarded for his courage and moral rectitude, he is currently the only person to be criminally prosecuted, and soon to be jailed, as a result of the Bush-era torture regime,” writes the petition.