NYT profile of John Kiriakou: first CIA officer to face prison for classified leak

A long-read you may have missed in the New York Times by Scott Shane, on the story of John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst and case officer who is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25 to 30 months in prison for leaking classified government info to a reporter. With this sentencing, the Obama administration reaffirms its role as one of the most staunchly anti-leak administrations in history.

The imminent sentencing, writes Shane, is part of "a plea deal in which he admitted violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by e-mailing the name of a covert C.I.A. officer to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it."

That law was passed 20 years ago, in response to "radical publications that deliberately sought to out undercover agents, exposing their secret work and endangering their lives."

Other CIA officers may have been responsible for killing innocent civilians in drone attacks, or torturing detainees, but those crimes aren't crimes our nation considers worth pursuing. Disclosing classified information to a reporter is.

Read the rest of the story here.

Attorney Jesselyn Radack, who represents Kiriakou, writes here about "what's left out."

A NYT op-ed by Ted Gup responding to the Shane piece is here.

Steven Aftergood's Project on Government Secrecy site has a collection of case files here. A "Defend John K" site maintained by Kiriakou and his supporters is here. There's a petition to Obama here, to commute or pardon. You can follow Kiriakou on Twitter.

Funny how the CIA official who evidently leaked info to the "Zero Dark Thirty" filmmakers won't be in any trouble.


  1. Fuckin-a.  He’s a spook, he knows what he signed up for.  Betraying information is the same as abandoning a post: risking the lives of your crewmates for personal gain.  He’s lucky he’s not getting hanged.

    1. If he could have known what he was signing up for before becoming a spook, how is it possible for things to be leaked?! We already know everything!!!!! Right?!?!?!

    2.  Do you think CIA agents should be loyal to the company or loyal to the USA?

      This is a completely serious question.  It sounds like you think CIA agents should be loyal to the CIA and have no regard whatsoever for the people of the USA who they ostensibly serve.

  2. Well, someone connected to the Bush torture scandal is finally going to prison. It’s too bad it’s the person who blew the whistle on torture and other illegal government acts, than any of the people who actually carried out the crimes.

  3. Those drone pilots and interrogators? Doing their job. If anyone should be charged over any perceived crimes it would be their superiors or those who approved the missions. When drone strikes are ordered, the possibility of civilian casualties is considered, and signed off by someone higher up the chain – *that* person is who is “responsible” for whatever “crime” lefty, feel-gooders think may have been committed.

    The idiot who could have put an operatives life at risk? He broke an actual law and deserves to face the music. He knew what he was doing was not only “wrong” but actually illegal. He knew that his actions could have very led to the imprisonment, torture and/or death of the operative(s) he named.

    The crimes you think that your nation doesn’t consider worthy of pursuing? Most of them are probably not actual crimes – just because you don’t think an action is right, doesn’t make it illegal. Nor is it okay to ignore laws just because they don’t fit with your idealised way the world should work. If you think the law is wrong, protest and agitate to get it changed, but don’t break it simply because you think it shouldn’t apply.

    1. Torture and killing innocent civilians are war crimes.  Just because the current admin chooses not to pursue those charges doesn’t mean they’re not crimes, it just means that Obama doesn’t want to be charged with war crimes when he leaves office.  The excuse that they were just ‘following orders’ doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for their actions, and they’re still culpable for the crimes they committed.  

    2. Those drone pilots and interrogators? Doing their job.

      Do please read about the Nuremberg Trials.

    3.  Our society decided about 70 years ago that “just following orders” is not a valid excuse.  When you are ordered to commit what you know to be a crime the fact that you were ordered is not sufficient to get you off the hook.  That doesn’t absolve the person doing the ordering; both parties bear the responsibility.

      Sometimes laws need to be broken.  In fact, that’s at the crux of your argument — you think the laws against torture need to be broken apparently.  This guy disagreed — he obviously thought that breaking the torture laws was a more serious wrongdoing than breaking the laws against whistle-blowing.  He performed a moral calculus, he decided on the basis of his own conscience what the right thing to do was.

      Perhaps he was wrong from your perspective but you’re doing a terrible job of making a case that he was wrong.  “The law is the law!” should apply to torturers if it applies to whistleblowers — and it’s fucking ridiculous anyway as demonstrated by various unjust laws from Jim Crow to marijuana prohibition.  “Orders is orders” just isn’t any kind of argument after Nuremburg. 

      I don’t understand folks like you who would rather see people in the government get away with wrongdoing and breaking the law and punish anyone who tries to stop this sort of thing.  I don’t think I ever will.

    4. So white folks shouldn’t have helped black slaves escape, but rather protested and agitated to get the laws changed?

      Homosexuals shouldn’t have had sex but protested and agitated to get the laws changed?

      I could go on…

  4. whoa Scooter Libby is finally going to jail for leaking the covert identity of a CIA officer?

  5. Um, wasn’t Obama supposed to have been elected – at least the first time ’round – on a platform including more openness and accountability?  Yet, Obama and crew (and his puppet masters) have some startlingly bad performance in protecting whistle blowers, punishing real government wrong-doing and, ah, openness.  

    “…Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss…”
    “…and Pray, We Don’t Get Fooled Again!  YEAH!”

    1. I had no illusions. I think there was many of us that were simply hoping for a lesser evil by voting in Obama, and thank fricken gawd, we got one for the most part.

      At least from here there’s a tiny light at the end of tunnel instead of absolutely spiraling backwards into republican hell.

      That said, I do wonder if McCain would have ended these treasonous, dangerous, shameful, unAmerican, criminal acts of torture in our name by now.

  6. “With this sentencing, the Obama administration reaffirms its role as one of the most staunchly anti-leak administrations in history”

    This is a joke right? Team Obama has let WAY to many high profile leaks out and has done nothing about it.

    1. No, it’s not a joke.  The Obama administration like every administration since at least Reagan “allows” information to “leak” when it makes the Obama administration look good.  But this administration has been harder on whistleblowers trying to expose government wrongdoing than pretty much any other ever.

      If you want to assert otherwise it would help to marshal some evidence.  I typically don’t believe things just because they’re the opinion of some dude on the internet even if he does have a pretty sweet name/handle.

  7. This is certainly relevant.

    “…the Obama administration is not interested in punishing the disclosure of classified information generally. It is interested in punishing – and deterring – only those leaks which reflect poorly on the US government by disclosing its bad acts. Bob Woodward is a servant-journalist for US government officials, and his continuous unauthorized disclosures of highly sensitive secrets advance the agenda of those officials, and are therefore not viewed with disfavor, even though they are just as arguably criminal, if not more so.”


  8. On Jan. 25, CIA agent John Kiriakou will be sentenced to 30 months in prison as part of a plea deal in which he admitted violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by e-mailing the name of a covert C.I.A. officer to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it. However, John Kiriakou is not associated with radical publications and, in fact, is a CIA hero. I realize that “zero tolerance” is needed in this era of intelligence leaks, but sometimes “0 tolerance = 0 intelligence”. How can such a hero turn on his country, as the government charges? Prosecutors admitted that they can’t prove his error was to harm America…or that it did. Please sign the Petition to Urge President Obama To Grant Kiriakou A Pardon“. Why? Because pardons are granted when individuals have demonstrated that they have fulfilled their debt to society or at least are considered to be deserving of one. I offer this article I wrote free to boing boing readers. Also, please sign the petition in the upper right-hand margin of the site. There is also a POLL to vote on if you believe he shouldn’t be pardoned. I will share the result here.

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