Ex-CIA officer Kiriakou, who fought torture, sentenced in leak case

John C. Kiriakou, a former CIA officer whom the government spent five years trying to convict for disclosing classified information, was today sentenced to 30 months in jail.

He is the first CIA officer in history to face prison for a leak.

From the NYT report by Michael S. Schmidt:

The judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, said that in approving the sentence, she would respect the terms of a plea agreement between the former C.I.A. agent, John C. Kiriakou, and prosecutors, but “I think 30 months is way too light.”

The judge said “this is not a case of a whistle-blower.” She went on to describe the damage that Mr. Kiriakou had created for the intelligence agency and an agent whose cover was disclosed by Mr. Kiriakou. Before issuing the sentence she asked Mr. Kiriakou if he had anything to say. When he declined, Judge Brinkema, said, “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”

And the Justice Department's War on Whistleblowers steamrolls ever forward.

On the support website for Kiriakou, who has also worked as a consultant for CBS News, a statement explaining the guilty plea:

Last month I decided to plead guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in exchange for the government dropping all other charges against me. The decision to plead guilty was the most difficult decision of my life. I am glad to now have the certainty of being home with my children in 30 months. Thank you for your support at this difficult time for me and for my family. I wish I could thank each and every one of you individually, as your support has meant the world to me. Knowing I had supporters like you saved me at the most difficult times.

Ex-Officer for C.I.A. Is Sentenced in Leak Case - NYTimes.com (HT: @kgosztola.)


  1. Sad that he gets punished for being a whistleblower. But was he really so naive to think that the CIA, of all government agencies, wouldn’t eat him alive the minute he crossed them? Working with large institutions (government ones in particular) is like working around a big CAT D-9 dozer. The guy behind the controls is wearing hearing protection and can’t hear a word you’re shouting. He’s focused on the controls and what’s in front of him. He will not feel it when he backs over you and crushes you like a bug. When working around heavy equipment you always assume the guy at the controls can’t see or hear you and will crush you the moment you forget it. A healthy way to view large agencies (government or corporate). Add to that giving the guy at the controls a reason to not like you and want you gone…. Or in the case of the CIA, you are probably doing something illegal/unethical with that heavy equipment so don’t expect the person running to put your health and safety first…

    1. I’m curious about the rhetorical question in your 2nd sentence.  What is your answer to it?  What is the answer I should be assuming?  Something about it reminds me of the “Is anybody really surprised?” comment people will make in stories about some injustice or another.

    2. CIA officers have traditionally leaked tons of information to the press and there has never been an administration intent on “eating them alive” until this one. All the foreign policy scandals that come to mind from the last 40 years have CIA sources at or near the root and the CIA has largely had autonomy in dealing with it. People leaking the most egregious practices have generally not been openly prosecuted.

      So the answer to your question, is that no, he should not necessarily have seen this coming.

      Your conception of “government agencies” is a recent and hopefully temporary one.

    3. Yeah, what kind of idiot puts his life and career on the line in the hopes of reforming terrible wrongs committed by the government to which he is loyal and for which he works just because his conscience told him to?


      1. Well, you’ve all certainly cast me in the role you wanted, so I’ll just jump to the last one here and give it a go. I admire this guy for doing what he did. I don’t apologize for any evil here, I just made the point that if you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised if you get up with fleas. Is the CIA suddenly BB’s model of Truth, Justice, and the American Way? My one question to all of you in this thread, have you applied to work for the CIA? If no, why not? It’s all just spies and satellite photos and cloak and dagger fun, right? I believe that no matter how much we try to have oversight, agencies like the CIA will by definition be up to dirty tricks (abuses of power, torture). If the CIA came to me and asked me to work for them I would politely decline. Their reputation tells me all I need to know to make that decision. The rest of my comment had to do with why I don’t trust ANY large group of people to look out for me or my interests. Governments and corporations are like giant, cranky, hungry, babies that will lash out at whatever displeases them. Just my opinion. 

        But if it make you feel better, Antinous, I get about $5 per apology for evil. It’s been a busy month so I’m looking forward to a big check this month, yay! 

        1. My only point with the “Did he really expect?” or “Is anybody really surprised” style of questions is that at the very least they assume that the person dumbly had no idea of what the consequences could be, when we don’t know that one way or the other.  Those questions portray the subject of the story as a naive fool, rather than someone taking a knowing principled stand at that point.  Both are possible, or something in between, but I don’t see the value in assuming someone is a naive fool when they have done something that, regardless, seems to have been a positive thing.

          Your point about why I wouldn’t apply to the CIA, yeah, you have the correct intuition about my reasons at least.  Mr. Kiriakou did not see it that way.  Maybe we could say that means he was naive about the workings of the CIA back in the days he entered it, or perhaps he is a person who just had less developed moral concerns.  Once his point of view changes, though, we don’t know what he may be naive or not about.

          1. Agreed. I asked the rhetorical question because what I read (here and elsewhere) lead me to believe that his is not naive. My point was not to paint him as a naive fool, quite the opposite, but to question BB painting him as hero/martyr.

      2. “…appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly.”

        And apparently Mr. Kiriakou is quite the apologist for evil. I wonder how much he gets per apology? Maybe I’m not charging enough.

  2. “She went on to describe the damage that Mr. Kiriakou had created for the intelligence agency”

    Seriously? Kiriakou is to blame?

    I’m so mad at this government.

  3. The NYT account you cite differs significantly from the account offered by Steven Aftergood on his FAS blog:

    According to Aftergood’s quotation of defense documents, the defense team itself acknowledged that the so-called “freelance reporter” of the NYT account was in fact an investigator directly hired by counsel to detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

    Given Aftergood’s impeccable reputation (EFF Pioneer award winner, for example), I’m quite inclined to follow his version of events. It paints a completely different picture of the situation.

    1. Amen to this.  Aftergood is a constant and ethical new-source in the minefield of intelligence and secrecy.  

      I would suggest anyone who has an interest in these subjects to read his blog (or subscribe to the newsletter, I know, ancient tech).  Aftergood comes at this difficult subject with an academic’s references and proof, pushed by a reporter’s zeal for more information.

  4. Unfortunately, this seems to have fallen down the memory hole:


    Kiriakou wasn’t just a torture whistleblower. He was an avid promoter of torture, and — according to his account — he was there when the torture happened. Now he claims not to have been, but “guy, possibly torturer, who lied to promote torture, and was later sent to jail for leaking” is no Bradley Manning, whose motives were pure even if his methods were questionable.

  5. Whistleblower or not, there are a lot of torturers and the officers they worked for who need to be in jail first.

  6. Does anyone here have any idea how long he could have spent in jail, sans incredibly light plea bargain?

    Buller?  …Buller?

    A lot f***ing longer, by several lifetimes.  

    Get a grip y’all.

  7. After reading the NYT piece, the way it’s introduced here appears pretty darn misleading – This guy did not do much to fight torture at all, as far as I can tell, except make some comments condemning it years after the fact, and his incarceration is for disclosing the identity of a covert agent (a pretty clear no-no that endangered a former colleague), which was not done as any kind of protest against torture, but apparently just out of sloppiness. The implication that he’s being punished for speaking out against torture is just hard to support based on a reading of the facts.

    Anyway, the current CIA and Justice Department don’t support or defend enhanced interrogation/torture, so the idea that they’re persecuting Kiriakou in order to silence him doesn’t even really make that much sense – let’s save the outrage and paranoia for a worthier target, shall we? Like drone strikes against civilians, or something.

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