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Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou speaks out just days after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

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NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jesselyn Radack, let me just bring you into the conversation to explain what the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is. Your client, John Kiriakou—it’s been invoked in his case for the first time in 27 years?

JESSELYN RADACK: That’s correct. In fact, there have only been two convictions under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which was enacted to prevent cases like Philip Agee, not things like John Kiriakou. It was to prevent the revealing of covert identities for profit or to aid the enemy. In this case, John confirmed the name of a torturer to a journalist, which makes Neil MacBride’s statement all the more hypocritical, because the biggest leaker of classified information, including sources and methods and undercover identities, has been the U.S. government.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, explain what it is that you were trying to expose. Explain what you were involved with. Talk about Abu Zubaydah, your involvement in the finding of him, and then the course you took, where your conscience took you.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. In 2002, I was the chief of counterterrorism operations for the CIA in Pakistan, and my job was to try to locate al-Qaeda fighters or al-Qaeda leaders and capture them, to turn them over to the Justice Department and have them face trial. That was the original—the original idea, not to have them sit in Cuba for the next decade.

But we caught Abu Zubaydah. He was shot three times by Pakistani police as he was trying to escape from his safe house. And I was the first person to have custody of him, to sit with him. We spoke to each other extensively, I mean, talked about everything from September 11th to poetry that he had been writing, to his family. And then he was moved on to a secret prison after that. Once I got back to headquarters, I heard that he had been subject to harsh techniques, then euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation techniques," and I was asked by one of the leaders in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center if I wanted to be trained in the use of these techniques. I told him that I had a moral problem with them, and I did not want to be involved.

So, fast-forward to 2007. By then, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had reported that al-Qaeda prisoners had been tortured, and ABC News called and said that they had information that I had tortured Abu Zubaydah. I said that was absolutely untrue. I was the only person who was kind to Abu Zubaydah, and I had never tortured anybody. So, they asked me to go on their show and defend myself. I did that. And in the course of the interview, I said that not only was the CIAtorturing prisoners, but that it was official U.S. government policy. This was not the result of some rogue CIA officer just beating up a prisoner every once in a while; this was official policy that went all the way up to the president of the United States.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, what happened after that, in 2007, once you gave this interview? Can you explain what happened to you and to your family?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. Within 24 hours, the CIA filed what’s called a crimes report against me with the Justice Department, saying that I had revealed classified information, which was the torture program, and asking for an investigation with an eye toward prosecuting me. The Justice Department decided at the time that I had not revealed classified information, that the information was already in the public domain. But immediately, within weeks, I was audited by theIRS. I’ve been audited by the IRS every single year since giving that interview in 2007.

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