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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, again, these are techniques that we have condemned other countries for throughout history. The Japanese did this during the Second World War. The Belgians did it in Africa earlier in the century. The Chinese and the Vietnamese did it. This is—these are techniques that we have always said were crimes against humanity. And then it was the—it was though after September 11th everything changed, and we somehow had license to do the same things we had been condemning. I thought that was wrong. You know, Director Petraeus—former Director Petraeus made a statement in October when I agreed to take a plea to make these other charges go away, and he said that my conviction shows that we have to take our oaths seriously. Well, I took my oath seriously. My oath was to the Constitution. On my first day in the CIA, I put my right hand up, and I swore to uphold the Constitution. And to me, torture is unconstitutional, and it’s something that we should not be in the business of doing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: John Kiriakou, I want to play for you comments President Obama made four years ago, shortly before he took office, about whether CIAofficials involved in torture should be prosecuted. He appeared on the ABC News’ This Week.

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that—for example, at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So no 9/11 Commission with independent subpoena power?

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: You know, we have not made final decisions, but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that, moving forward, we are doing the right thing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was President Obama speaking four years ago to ABC. John Kiriakou, your response to what the presient said?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I supported the president’s response. I remember that interview, and I thought, "OK, he’s right. There are wonderful, talented, hard-working men and women at the CIA who need to be protected." But at the same time, it’s one thing to look forward; it’s another thing to look forward just for the torturers. It’s just not fair. It’s not fair to the American people. If we’re going to—if we’re going to make prosecutions or initiate prosecutions, those prosecutions can’t just be against the people who blew the whistle on the torture or who opposed the torture. You know, we haven’t—we haven’t even investigated the torturers, as Jesselyn said. We haven’t initiated any actions against the people who conceived of the torture and implemented the policy, or against the man who destroyed evidence of the torture, or against the attorneys who used specious legal arguments to justify the torture. If we’re going to move forward, let’s move forward, but you can’t target one person or two people who blew the whistle.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: John Kiriakou, you’ve also spoken about witnessing new Foreign Service officers being confirmed, Foreign Service officers who were previously with the CIA and participated in acts of torture. Could you explain what happened and explain its significance?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Yes. When I was a senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I was approached by a journalist who said that he had evidence that the CIA was misusing its cover agreement with the State Department to place people involved in the torture program under State Department cover so that their names could not be exposed in the press. And if those names were exposed in the press, the people giving the names would be subject to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. So, again, this was a violation of the CIA-State Department cover agreement. I sent a letter under Senator John Kerry—then-Senator John Kerry’s signature, asking the CIA for clarification. I got a response about six weeks later that was classified top-secret, so I was not permitted to see the response. I did not have a top-secret clearance at the time. And a colleague of mine told me that the letter essentially said, in very strongly worded language, to mind my own business.

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