August 9, 1964 |
Sharon, Pennsylvania, USA
|Occupation||Intelligence officer, author|
|Known for||First to describe the CIA's use of waterboarding|
John Kiriakou (born August 9, 1964) is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies, and blogger for Huffington Post.
He was a CIA analyst and case officer, senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and counterterrorism consultant for ABC News. and author. He was the first U.S. government official to confirm in December 2007 that waterboarding was used to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture. On October 22, 2012, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to disclosing classified information about a fellow CIA officer that connected the covert operative to a specific operation. He was the first CIA officer to be convicted for passing classified information to a reporter, although the reporter did not publish the name of the operative. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison on January 25, 2013, and served his term from February 28, 2013, until February 3, 2015, at the low-security Federal correctional facility near Loretto, Pennsylvania.
Early life and education
Kiriakou was born August 9, 1964, the son of elementary school educators in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and raised in nearby New Castle, Pennsylvania. Kiriakou's grandparents had immigrated from Greece. He graduated from New Castle High School in 1982 and attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Middle Eastern Studies and a Master's degree in Legislative Affairs. Kiriakou was recruited into the CIA by a graduate school professor who had been a senior CIA official. He is married and has five children.
Kiriakou was recruited into the CIA by a graduate school professor who had been a senior CIA official. Kiriakou spent the first eight years of his career as a Middle East analyst specializing on Iraq. He maintained a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance. He learned Arabic and from 1994-1996 he was assigned to the American Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, as an economic officer. He returned to Washington, D.C., and went back to work on Iraq until 1998 when he transferred to the CIA's Directorate of Operations. He became a counter-terrorism operations officer and worked in Athens, Greece, on Eurocommunist terrorism. In Greece, Kiriakou recruited foreign agents to spy for the United States, and was nearly assassinated by leftists. In 2000, Kiriakou returned to CIA Headquarters.
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Kiriakou was named Chief of Counterterrorist Operations in Pakistan. In that position, he claims to have led a series of military raids on al-Qaeda safehouses, capturing dozens of al-Qaeda fighters. Kiriakou claims to have led a raid on the night of March 28, 2002, in Faisalabad, Pakistan, capturing Abu Zubaydah, then thought to be al-Qaeda’s third-ranking official. Following a 2002-2004 domestic assignment, Kiriakou resigned from the CIA in 2004.
Life after the CIA
From 2004 until 2008, Kiriakou worked as a senior manager in Big Four accounting firm Deloitte & Touche's competitive intelligence practice. From September 2008 until March 2009, Kiriakou was a terrorism consultant for ABC News. Following Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009, Kiriakou became the Committee's senior investigator, focusing on the Middle East, international terrorism, piracy, and counter-narcotics issues. In 2011, he left the Committee to become managing partner of Rhodes Global Consulting, and an Arlington, Virginia-based political risk analysis firm. From April 2011 to April 2012, he resumed counter-terrorism consulting for ABC News. He speaks often at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
On December 10, 2007, Kiriakou gave an interview to ABC News in which he described his participation in the capture of Abu Zubaydah, who was accused of having been an aide to Osama Bin Laden. Kiriakou said he did not witness his waterboarding, but he had been told by CIA associates, it had taken only a single brief instance of waterboarding to extract answers.
- ...He was able to withstand the waterboarding for quite some time. And by that I mean probably 30, 35 seconds...and a short time afterwards, in the next day or so, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate.
Kiriakou's accounts of Abu Zubaydah's waterboarding, and the relatively mild nature of it, were widely repeated in 2007, and paraphrased,[Note 1] and he became a regular guest expert on news and public affairs shows, on the topics of interrogation, and counter-terrorism.
In 2009, it was reported that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded at least 83 times, and that little or no useful extra information may have been gained by "harsh methods". Kiriakou was under the mistaken belief that Zubaydah was waterboarded only once, and even that single instance he described as a form of torture and expressed reservations about whether the value of the information was worth the damage done to the United States' reputation.
Kiriakou has said that he chose not to blow the whistle on torture through internal channels because he believed he “wouldn’t have gotten anywhere” because his superiors and the congressional intelligence committees were already aware of it.
On July 3, 2013, Kiriakou published an open letter, on Firedoglake, warning former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to beware of being tricked by FBI officials. He warned Snowden to anticipate FBI officials wearing clandestine listening devices who may attempt to betray and entrap him into making comments that, heard out of context, would seem incriminating.
Founding member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Kiriakou is a founding member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. In September 2015 Kiriakou and 27 other members of VIPS steering group wrote a letter to the President challenging a recently published book, that claimed to rebut the report of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture.
Trial, sentence and imprisonment
On January 23, 2012, Kiriakou was charged with repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee, Deuce Martinez, in classified activities. In addition, Kiriakou was alleged to have lied to the CIA to get his book published. His lawyer was Robert Trout. Lawyer and whistleblower Jesselyn Radack helped him with the case. She had previously helped NSA official Thomas Andrews Drake in his espionage case.
On April 5, 2012, Kiriakou was indicted for one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, three counts of violating the Espionage Act, and one count of making false statements for allegedly lying to the Publications Review Board of the CIA. On April 13, Kiriakou pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on bail.
Starting September 12, 2012, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia conducted closed Classified Information Procedures Act hearings in Kiriakou's case. On October 22, 2012, he agreed to plead guilty to one count of passing classified information to the media thereby violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act; his plea deal spared journalists from testifying in a trial.
On January 25, 2013, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison, making him the second CIA officer to be jailed for revealing classified material of CIA undercover identities, in violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, after Sharon Scranage in 2007. New York Times reporter Scott Shane referenced the Kiriakou case when he told NPR that Obama's prosecutions of journalism-related leaking were having a chilling effect on coverage of national security issues.
General David Petraeus, former CIA director stated: "This case yielded the first IIPA successful prosecution in 27 years, and it marks an important victory for our Agency, for our Intelligence Community, and for our country. Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws." Ironically, General Petraeus would later be accused of having illegally disclosed classified information to his mistress, including code words, covert officers’ names and correspondence with the president. But although Petraeus revealed significantly more information than Kiriakou, he wasn’t charged under the Espionage Act or Intelligence Identities Protection Act and was sentenced to only two years of probation and a $100,000 fine.
In January 2013, Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence adviser to Barack Obama who turned down an offer to be considered for CIA director in 2009, sent the President a letter signed by eighteen other CIA veterans urging that the sentence be commuted. Kiriakou received a prison "send off" party at an exclusive Washington, D.C., hotel hosted by political peace activists dressed in orange jumpsuits and mock prison costumes. On February 28, 2013, Kiriakou began serving his term at the low-security Federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania. In June 2013, Kiriakou wrote an open "Letter From Loretto" to Edward Snowden expressing his support and giving advice, including "the most important advice that I can offer, DO NOT, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI".
On February 3, 2015, Kiriakou was released from prison to serve three months of house arrest at his home in Arlington, Virginia. Following his release, Kiriakou said his case was not about leaking information but about exposing torture, continuing, “and I would do it all over again.” The journalist has now expressed interest in campaigning for prison reform.
The CIA awarded Kiriakou with 10 Exceptional Performance Awards, a Sustained Superior performance Award, the Counterterrorism Service Medal, and the State Department's Meritorious Honor Award. Kiriakou won the 2012 Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, which is awarded to "national security whistleblowers who stood up for constitutional rights and American values, at great risk to their personal and professional lives". In November 2013, Kiriakou was awarded the "Peacemaker of the Year" by the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County. In December 2013, he received a 2013 Giraffe Hero Commendation, awarded to people who stick their necks out for the common good.
Related media works
In 2014 Silenced, a documentary by Academy Award nominated director James Spione featuring Kiriakou was released. The film explored the US government's response to whistleblowers who disclosed covert violations of constitutional privacy and terrorism laws. The film revealed in detail the personal toll on those three who had questioned or reported crimes within the NSA, CIA, military, and other organizations. The experiences of Kiriakou, military veteran Thomas Andrews Drake and attorney Jesselyn Radack were told, and showed that the integrity and courage to report criminal facts was not considered valuable to many officials in the US government, instead it was a dangerous and treasonous act. Silenced has won several film festival awards, even before its release to major cable networks in March 2015.
- Alfreda Frances Bikowsky
- Espionage Act of 1917
- Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly disclosing to a reporter that North Korea might test a nuclear bomb
- Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning), convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act
- Plame affair, CIA agent name leaked and Scooter Libby prosecuted from the investigation
- Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, charged with violating the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing details about Operation Merlin
- "...The waterboarding lasted about 35 seconds before Abu Zubaida broke down, according to Kiriakou, who said he was given a detailed description of the incident by fellow team members. The next day, Abu Zubaida told his captors he would tell them whatever they wanted... He said that Allah had come to him in his cell and told him to cooperate, because it would make things easier for his brothers..."
- "John Kiriakou". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
- Jeff Stein (2010-01-26). "CIA Man Retracts Claim on Waterboarding". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09.
Well, it's official now: John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative who affirmed claims that waterboarding quickly unloosed the tongues of hard-core terrorists, says he didn't know what he was talking about.
- "Colbert: Waterboard Kiriakou, CIA Faker". Politifi. 2010-02-06. Archived from the original on 2010-03-01.
John Kiriakou, the former CIA employee whose claims about waterboarding became an oft-cited defense of the torture practice, got the "Colbert Report" treatment this week.
- Warrick, Joby; Dan Eggen (11 December 2007). "Waterboarding Recounted". The Washington Post.
- Davis, Mark (12 December 2007). "His second guess is wrong". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
- Shane, Scott (January 5, 2013). "Ex-Officer Is First From C.I.A. to Face Prison for a Leak". New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- "Ex-CIA officer Kiriakou "made peace" with leak decision". BBC News. February 28, 2013.
- Savage, Charlie (January 25, 2012). "Ex-C.I.A. Officer's Path From Terrorist Hunter to Defendant". New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
- John Kiriakou, Michael Ruby (2010). The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror. Random House. ISBN 9780553807370. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- Coll, Steve (April 1, 2013). "The spy who said too much : why the Administration targeted a C.I.A. officer". The Political Scene. The New Yorker. 89 (7): 54–63. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "John Kiriakou LinkedIn Profile". Linked in. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
- Savage, Charlie (January 24, 2012). "Ex-CIA Officer's Path from Terrorist Hunter to Defendant". The New York Times.
- Rhodes Global Consulting. "Rhodes Global Consulting". Retrieved March 13, 2012.
- "How ’07 ABC Interview Tilted a Torture Debate", New York Times
- "Part One of the Transcript with John Kiriakou", ABC.com 7 December 2010
- "CIA waterboarded key Al-Qaeda suspects 266 times: memo", Agence France-Presse, 20 April 2009
- "Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots", The Washington Post 28 March 2009
- "My Tortured Decision", Ali Soufan, 22 April 2009, The Washington Post
- "Secret Sources: Whistleblowers, National Security and Free Expression" (PDF). PEN America. November 10, 2015. p. 24. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
- "CIA leaker warns Snowden of FBI agents". Press TV. 2013-07-03. Archived from the original on 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
"FBI agents will lie, trick, and deceive you," Kiriakou wrote in an open letter to Snowden published by FireDogLake on Tuesday. "They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not - supporters, well-wishers, and friends - all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s a part of the problem, not the solution," he said.
- Andy Worthington (2015-09-15). "28 Veterans of US Intelligence Fight Back Against CIA Claims That the Bush Torture Program Was Useful and Necessary". Archived from the original on 2015-09-28.
- Matthew Barakat (2012-01-24). "Ex-CIA man accused of leaking classified info". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Benson, Pam (January 23, 2012). "Former CIA officer accused of leaking classified info". CNN. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
- Savage, Charlie (January 24, 2012). "Ex-C.I.A. Officer Charged in Information Leak". New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
- "Ex-spy Kiriakou, accused in CIA leaks, played key role in public debate over waterboarding". Associated Press. January 24, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- Charlie Savage, "Former C.I.A. Operative Pleads Guilty in Leak of Colleague’s Name", New York Times, October 23, 2012
- Josh Gerstein, "Feds dispute CIA leaker's contrition", Politico, January 2013
- Former CIA Officer John Kiriakou Indicted for Allegedly Disclosing Classified Information, Including Covert Officer’s Identity, to Journalists and Lying to CIA’s Publications Board FBI Press release April 5, 2012
- "'Reluctant' CIA spy pleads not guilty to leaking charges, gets bail". Express Tribune. AFP. April 14, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- Van Buren, Peter (September 11, 2012). "Protecting Torturers, Prosecuting Whistleblowers". The Nation. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- Williams, Pete; Greenberg, Rich; Isikoff, Michael (October 22, 2012). "Ex-CIA agent pleads guilty to leaking identity of covert operative". NBC News. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- "Ex-Officer for C.I.A. Sentenced to 30 Months in Leak Case". The New York Times. January 25, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- Toby Harden (June 7, 2007). "The spies who loved. . . and lost their jobs". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-12-11.
Scranage was a lowly secretary in the CIA's Accra station in the 1980s who betrayed the names of American informants in Ghana after being seduced by her boyfriend, who turned out to be a Ghanaian intelligence agent. ...
- Fresh Air, WHYY (Philadelphia Radio), Interview of Scott Shane by Terry Gross, February 12, 2013
- Message from the Director: Former Officer Convicted in Leak Case October 23, 2012, David H Petraeus, cia.gov (Archive)
- Montgomery, David (February 22, 2013). "CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou gets posh send-off to prison". Washington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
- Kevin Gosztola (July 2, 2013). "CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou's Open Letter to Edward Snowden". Firedoglake. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
- "John Kiriakou on Twitter". February 3, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
- Shane, Scott (9 February 2015). "Former C.I.A. Officer Released After Nearly Two Years in Prison for Leak Case". New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
- Fabrikant, Mel (October 12, 2012). "National Security Whistleblowers Honored with Callaway Award". The Paramus Post. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- Blaylock, Dylan. "Kiriakou Honored Yet Again: Wins 'Peacemaker of the Year' Award". Government Accountability Project. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Medlock, Ann. "Letter to John Kiriakou" (PDF). Giraffe Heroes Project. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- "Silenced 2014". IMDB. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
- "screenings schedule". Silence Documentary Film. James Spione, et al. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
- "Silenced, movie: about information". Facebook. James Spione, et al. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
- Silence Documentary Film. James Spione, et al http://silencedfilm.com/. Retrieved 28 March 2015. Missing or empty
- Coll, Steve (April 1, 2013). "The spy who said too much : why the Administration targeted a C.I.A. officer". The Political Scene. The New Yorker. 89 (7): 54–63. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- Radack, Jesselyn. "Feds ready whistleblower trial." Salon. April 13, 2012.
|Silenced: trailer Audience Original Documentary, Jan 30, 2015|
|Exclusive: Freed CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Says "I Would Do It All Again" to Expose Torture, Democracy Now, February 9, 2015|
|I Believed America Could Do No Wrong - John Kiriakou, Former CIA Official, on Reality Asserts Itself at The Real News Network|
- John Kiriakou on Twitter
- "Letter to Loretto". Institute of Policy Studies. May 5, 2015.
- USA v John Kiriakou: Selected Case Files from the Federation of American Scientists
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Douglas Valentine (March 27–29, 2015). "A Conversation With CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou". Counterpunch.
- IMDB: Silenced 2014 documentary's listing on Internet Movie Database
- The VICE News Interview: John Kiriakou, April 3, 2015; Interview conducted by Kaj Larsen
- CIA Whistleblower John C. Kiriakou: the Gonzo Today Interview