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Kiriakou sentenced to 30 months for CIA name leaks at Guantanamo

John Kiriakou

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who had portrayed himself as a whistle-blower on the agency’s use of waterboarding, but had also leaked the name of a covert agent to a journalist, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Jan. 24.

Kirakou’s prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the eastern district of Virginia. Kiriakou, who had been a broadcast news consultant and print blogger, also admitted in court that he disclosed information revealing the role of one other CIA employee in classified activities. He is the first person in almost three decades to be convicted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

Kiriakou had portrayed himself as a whistle-blower on the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods, but according to reports from the Alexandria, VA, courtroom, prosecutors and the judge in the case said his actions were an egregious violation of trust.

Kiriakou’s disclosures had alarmed not only the intelligence community, but also congressional leaders. Last March, the chairman of the House homeland security committee, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) had urged the Defense Department to help identify who leaked the names of agents in documents in a court action involving detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

 “This is not a case of a whistleblower,” U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema reportedly told Kiriakou at his sentencing hearing. “This is a case of a man who betrayed a solemn trust.”

“John Kiriakou betrayed the trust bestowed upon him by the United States, and he betrayed his colleagues whose secrecy is their only safety,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. “In his own words to the FBI, John Kiriakou called actions such as his, ‘immoral’ and the potential damage done ‘terrifying.’ John Kiriakou put the life of a covert officer at risk; he put the officer’s family in danger; and he exposed our nation’s vital secrets. Oaths matter and today’s sentence should serve as reminder to those who are entrusted with classified information that damage done by leaks is not speculative or hypothetical—it is actual and substantial, and the Justice Department will hold them accountable.”

According to court records, the case is a result of an investigation triggered by a classified filing in January 2009 by defense counsel for high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The filing contained classified information the defense hadn’t been given through official government channels, including information about certain government employees and contractors. The investigation showed that on multiple occasions, one of the journalists to whom Kiriakou illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that information to a defense team investigator. This information was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel. The investigation concluded that no laws were broken by the defense team, said the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records indicate that the e-mails seized during the investigation revealed that Kiriakou disclosed information to journalists about dozens of CIA officers, including numerous covert officers of the National Clandestine Service beyond the one identified in the defense filing by lawyers for the high-value detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The government raised this with the court to demonstrate that the charged conduct was in no sense aberrational or reflective of an atypical lapse of judgment.

Kiriakou admitted that, through a series of e-mails with one journalist, he disclosed the full name of a CIA officer whose association with the agency had been classified for more than two decades. In addition to identifying the officer for the journalist, Kiriakou also provided information to the journalist linking the officer to a CIA counterterrorism program known as the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) Program and a particular RDI operation.

Addtionally, Kiriakou, admitted that he disclosed to two journalists the name and contact information of another CIA officer, along with his association with an operation to capture terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002. Kiriakou knew that the association of the second officer with the Abu Zubaydah operation was classified. Based in part on this information, one New York Times journalist subsequently published a June 2008 front-page story in that paper disclosing the CIA officer’s alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.


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