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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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But a more important bit of fallout from that interview was that every time I would write an op-ed, every time I would give a television interview or give a speech at a university, the CIA would file a crimes report against me, accusing me of leaking additional classified information. Each time, the Justice Department determined that I did not leak any classified information. In fact, I would get those op-eds and those speeches cleared by the CIA’s Publications Review Board in advance.

Then the CIA started harassing my wife, who at the time was a senior CIA officer, particularly over an op-ed I had written. They accused her of leaking classified information to me for the purpose of writing the op-ed. Well, I said I had gotten the information in the op-ed from two UPI reports and from a South American Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. And they would back off.

But this sort of became our life. We would be under FBI surveillance. She would be called into the CIA’s Office of Security. I would have trouble getting a security clearance when I went to Capitol Hill. It just became this pattern of harassment.

AMY GOODMAN: So, John, why didn’t you stop?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Because I think that—that torture is something that needs to be discussed. I said this in 2007. This is something that we should—about which we should be having a national debate. And frankly, I have a First Amendment right to free speech. And, you know, writing an op-ed is not against the law. Giving a speech about the Arab Spring or about torture is not against the law. And I felt that—that I didn’t want to be cowed. I didn’t want to be frightened into silence by theCIA.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, John Kiriakou, you said that in these instances that you’ve named, you were actually charged with espionage, is that right? Can you talk about the significance—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: —of the Espionage Act?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Yes, the government initially charged me with three counts of espionage. I’m—it sounds silly maybe, but I’m still personally offended by these espionage charges, which were dropped, of course. The espionage charge is used as a hammer by the administration to force people into silence. My espionage charge is related to a conversation that I had with a  New York Times reporter. A New York Times reporter approached me and said that he was writing a story about a colleague of mine, and would I grant him an interview. I gave him the interview. I said this colleague was a great guy, the unsung hero of the Abu Zubaydah operation, terrific officer. And the reporter said, "Do you know how I can get in touch with him?" And I said, "No, I’ve been out of touch with him for a while, but I think I might have his business card." So I gave the reporter the business card. Now, mind you, this is a CIA officer who had never, ever been undercover. His business card showed that he was involved as a CIA contractor, and it had his personal email on it and his cellphone number. I gave the reporter the business card and was charged with two counts of espionage. I later gave the same business card to another journalist who was doing an article and was charged with a third count of espionage.

AMY GOODMAN: What is it that you allege the CIA was doing for all of these years? Explain the torture program that you were trying to expose.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. There were—there were something like 10 different techniques that were used in the CIA’s torture program. They went from the benign, you know, where an officer would grab a prisoner by the lapels and give him a shake, all the way up to the really rough things that we’ve heard about, like waterboarding or, what I think is worse, sleep deprivation or the cold cell, where they’ll put a prisoner naked in a cell chilled to 50 or 55 degrees, and then every hour or two throw ice water on him. I actually think those last two are worse than waterboarding.

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