A long-time former CIA official and case officer, John Kiriakou became an anti-torture whistleblower and activist when he told ABC News in December 2007 that the CIA was torturing prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy, and that the policy was approved by the President. John was driven to ruin by the Justice Department because of these revelations.
Immediately after John’s interview, the Justice Department initiated a years-long investigation, determined to find something—anything—to charge him with. This was his payback for blowing the whistle on the torture program.
John eventually was charged with three counts of espionage, one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and one count of making a false statement as a result of the 2007 ABC News interview. Finally, in order to avoid the risk of spending forty-five years in prison, John accepted a plea to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. All other charges were dropped. Even though he had no criminal intent and there was no harm to the national security, accepting the plea resulted in a sentence of thirty months in prison.
What did the case and prosecution entail? In court John explained that a reporter who was working on a book about rendition asked if he could recommend a former colleague who might sit for an interview. John could not recommend anybody, but when the reporter mentioned the first name of a former colleague, John responded with a last name and said he believed the former colleague was retired. This is the conversation for which John Kiriakou was prosecuted.
To be clear, John’s case was not about leaks. It was a case about whistleblowing. John spent most of his career protecting American security and served honorably in the CIA, while helping to achieve major counterterrorism successes that made the world safer. In total, John received ten Exceptional Performance Awards, a Sustained Superior Performance Award, and the Counterterrorism Service Medal, as well as the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award.
The CIA officers who actually tortured detainees in custody have never been charged. A CIA executive who destroyed more than ninety videotapes of the torture—tapes that could have been used as trial evidence—was not charged. Why has he been given a free pass by the Justice Department? Those answers are difficult to find. But John, who never tortured anyone, went to prison for thirty months because of a reporter’s simple question.
The government made a decision to target John Kiriakou and intended to destroy his career, his reputation, and his ability to provide for his family, all in the attempt to prevent future disclosures about CIA interrogation programs by anyone. In the process, John racked up legal bills of more than $1 million and exhausted his savings.
John was released from prison on February 3, 2015. He was under house arrest until May 1, 2015. As a result of this experience, John is determined to become a force for change and is rebuilding his life. There is a long way to go, but step-by-step, John will fulfill that mission. He is now working as an associate fellow with the highly-regarded Washington DC-based think tank Institute for Policy Studies (www.ips-dc.org).
John Kiriakou is a humanitarian with values so deeply entrenched in love of country and truth that nothing will stand in his way. With respect, we ask that you consider helping this family recover from the disaster imposed by our government against man who gave fifteen-plus years of his life in often dangerous service to our country. The sad truth is that anyone of us could be faced with ruin simply because of ending up on the wrong side of people working to cover up and downplay any of the government’s decisions that go against policy or law.
John Kiriakou will not be silent. He will speak out on whistleblower rights, prison reform, torture policy and practices, and transparency in government.