The charges against John allege that in answering questions from two reporters about suspicions that the CIA tortured detainees in its custody – the controversial Enhanced Interrogation Techniques that included waterboarding during the Bush-Cheney Administration – he violated this mostly obscure World War I-era law that aimed at punishing Americans who gave aid to enemies.
Most simply, the charges are that an American citizen answering questions from credible and mainstream American newspaper reporters somehow aided foreign enemies. While President Obama has since spoken out against and banned those techniques, no person who actually practiced torture will be punished, the only person even related with CIA led torture who might serve time in jail is John Kiriakou, the man who spoke out.
From the NY Times in August
Mr. Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture. His announcement closes a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department and brings to an end years of dispute over whether line intelligence or military personnel or their superiors would be held accountable for the abuse of prisoners in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The closing of the two cases means that the Obama administration’s limited effort to scrutinize the counterterrorism programs carried out under President George W. Bush has come to an end. Without elaborating, Mr. Holder suggested that the end of the criminal investigation should not be seen as a moral exoneration of those involved in the prisoners’ treatment and deaths.
While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former C.I.A. officer who helped hunt members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C. Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other C.I.A. officers who participated in the interrogations.
Journalist Peter Van Buren writes in the Tom Dispatch…
Many observers believe however that the real “offense” in the eyes of the Obama administration was quite different. In 2007, Kiriakou became a whistleblower. He went on record as the first (albeit by then, former) CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of al-Qaeda prisoners as an interrogation technique, and then to condemn it as torture. He specifically mentioned the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah in that secret prison in Thailand. Zubaydah was at the time believed to be an al-Qaeda leader, though more likely was at best a mid-level operative. Kiriakou also ran afoul of the CIA over efforts to clear for publication a book he had written about the Agency’s counterterrorism work. He maintains that his is instead a First Amendment case in which a whistleblower is being punished, that it is a selective prosecution to scare government insiders into silence when they see something wrong.
If Kiriakou had actually tortured someone himself, even to death, there is no possibility that he would be in trouble. John Kiriakou is 48. He is staring down a long tunnel at a potential sentence of up to 45 years in prison because in the national security state that rules the roost in Washington, talking out of turnabout a crime has become the only possible crime.
One of Kiriakou’s representatives, attorney Jesselyn Radack, told me, “It is a miscarriage of justice that John Kiriakou is the only person indicted in relation to the Bush-era torture program. The historic import cannot be understated. If a crime as egregious as state-sponsored torture can go unpunished, we lose all moral standing to condemn other governments’ human rights violations. By ‘looking forward, not backward’ we have taken a giant leap into the past.”
One former CIA covert officer, who uses the pen name “Ishmael Jones,” lays out a potential defense for Kiriakou: “Witness after witness could explain to the jury that Mr. Kiriakou is being selectively prosecuted, that his leaks are nothing compared to leaks by Obama administration officials and senior CIA bureaucrats. Witness after witness could show the jury that for any secret material published by Mr. Kiriakou, the books of senior CIA bureaucrats contain many times as much. Former CIA chief George Tenet wrote a book in 2007, approved by CIA censors, that contains dozens of pieces of classified information — names and enough information to find names.”
If only it was really that easy.
For at least six years it was the policy of the United States of America to torture and abuse its enemies or, in some cases, simply suspected enemies. It has remained a U.S. policy, even under the Obama administration, to employ“extraordinary rendition” — that is, the sending of captured terror suspects to the jails of countries that are known for torture and abuse, an outsourcing of what we no longer want to do.
Techniques that the U.S. hanged men for at Nuremburg and in post-war Japanwere employed and declared lawful. To embark on such a program with the oversight of the Bush administration, learned men and women had to have long discussions, with staffers running in and out of rooms with snippets of research to buttress the justifications being so laboriously developed. The CIA undoubtedly used some cumbersome bureaucratic process to hire contractors for its torture staff. The old manuals needed to be updated, psychiatrists consulted, military survival experts interviewed, training classes set up.
Videotapes were made of the torture sessions and no doubt DVDs full of real horror were reviewed back at headquarters. Torture techniques were even reportedly demonstrated to top officials inside the White House. Individual torturers who were considered particularly effective were no doubt identified, probably rewarded, and sent on to new secret sites to harm more people.
America just didn’t wake up one day and start slapping around some Islamic punk. These were not the torture equivalents of rogue cops. A system, a mechanism, was created. That we now can only speculate about many of the details involved and the extent of all this is a tribute to the thousands who continue to remain silent about what they did, saw, heard about, or were associated with. Many of them work now at the same organizations, remaining a part of the same contracting firms, the CIA, and the military. Our torturers.
What is it that allows all those people to remain silent? How many are simply scared, watching what is happening to John Kiriakou and thinking: not me, I’m not sticking my neck out to see it get chopped off. They’re almost forgivable, even if they are placing their own self-interest above that of their country. But what about the others, the ones who remain silent about what they did or saw or aided and abetted in some fashion because they still think it was the right thing to do? The ones who will do it again when another frightened president asks them to? Or even the ones who enjoyed doing it?
The same Department of Justice that is hunting down the one man who spoke against torture from the inside still maintains a special unit, 60 years after the end of WWII, dedicated to hunting down the last few at-large Nazis. They do that under the rubric of “never again.” The truth is that same team needs to be turned loose on our national security state. Otherwise, until we have a full accounting of what was done in our names by our government, the pieces are all in place for it to happen again. There, if you want to know, is the real horror.
Today, Jessylyn Radack, director of the Government Accountability Project which supports Kiriakou and other whistleblowers wrote the following in the Daily Kos.
We are reposting in full and repeat strongly her plea to Call Attorney General Holder (202) 514-2001) to express your displeasure at the Justice Department’s protecting torturers and awarding investigators who decline to prosecute torturers while prosecuting whistleblowers.
Daily Kos. MON OCT 22, 2012 AT 05:32 AM PDT
CIA Whistleblower to Spend Years in Jail for Revealing Torture
DO NOT let this become the headline.
As reported over the weekend, (here and here) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblowerJohn Kiriakou is inches from being put in jail for allegedly “outing” a torturer. (“Outing” is in quotes because the allegations are not that Kiriakou told the public the torturer’s name, just that Kiriakou allegedly confirmed the name and eventually Guantanamo victims of torture learned the name and defense attorneys put the name in a sealed court filing.)
One of EmptyWheel’s two must-read pieces on the Kiriakou case over the weekend:
I flat out guarantee the import of that is the court put the brakes on the entire case as a result of an off the record joint request of the parties to facilitate immediate plea negotiation. As in they are doing it as you read this… . What I hear is the current offer is plead to IIPA [Intelligence Identities Protection Act] and two plus years prison. This for a man who has already been broken, and whose family has been crucified (Kiriakou’s wife also worked for the Agency, but has been terminated and had her security clearance revoked). Blood out of turnips is now what the “most transparent administration in history” demands.
EmptyWheel drilled down on what the Kiriakou case is really about – covering up the CIA’s torture program:
The CIA panicked because the subjects of CIA torture were learning the identities of their torturers. DOJ did an investigation to see whether any crime had been committed, and determined it hadn’t. CIA then started politicizing that decision, which led to Fitzgerald’s appointment.Fitzgerald confirmed what DOJ originally determined: the defense attorneys committed no crime by researching who their clients’ torturers were.
But along the way Fitzgerald gave the CIA a head–John Kiriakou’s–based partly on old investigations of him. And, surprise surprise, that head happens to belong to the only CIA officer who publicly broke the omerta about the torture program.
This entire case was an attempt to punish someone to restore the omerta on CIA’s illegal activities.
Do not let Kiriakou take the fall for the entire torture program, a program which Kiriakou refused to participate in and helped expose.
Call Attorney General Holder (202) 514-2001) to express your displeasure at the Justice Department’s protecting torturers and awarding investigators who decline to prosecute torturers while prosecuting whistleblowers.
According to press reports, Kiriakou’s “to plea or not to plea” decision hinges on the never-litigated Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
To date, there have been no reported cases interpreting the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), but it did result in one conviction in 1985 pursuant to a guilty plea. In that case, Sharon Scranage, a former CIA clerk, pleaded guilty for providing classified information regarding U.S. intelligence operations in Ghana, to a Ghanaian agent, with whom she was romantically involved. She was initially sentenced to five years in prison, but a federal judge subsequently reduced her sentence to two years. That. Is. It.
The IIPA charge is based on Kiriakou’s allegedly confirming the name of one “Officer A” and that name eventually ending up in a SEALED Guantanamo defense filing.Who is this “Officer A” that the CIA and Justice Department are working hand-in-hand to protect? Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake writes:
The identity of this individual is “not so secret.” In fact, as the former government official informed Firedoglake, at least ten individuals in the human rights community have known of this key CIA official for years.These individuals in the human rights community have known that the agent allegedly ensured detainees were “properly rendered and tortured,” according to the source, who alleges they have known he took part in “sadistic acts of horrendous conduct against the detainees” and have engaged in what appears to be a “code of silence” protecting the individual while the Justice Department prosecutes Kiriakou.
The name of “Officer A” showed up on Cryptocomb last week:
Source Sends – The CIA officer listed as “Officer A” in the John Kiriakou complaint has been revealed to be Thomas Donahue Fletcher. Born in 1953. Fletcher is currently a resident of Vienna, VA.Further – source states journalists have known identity of this person prior to August 2008, when Kiriakou allegedly confirmed
the identity in an email to Matthew Cole, formerly of ABC News.
As Marcy Wheeler put it:
That’s the background of this plea negotiation. I realize in the normal world of legal representation, pleas look really great.At this point, however, DOJ has serially served not to achieve justice, but to cover up the CIA’s illegal torture program. John Kiriakou and his lawyers will decide what they will. But that doesn’t make this plea deal a legitimate exercise of justice.
To Support John Kiriakou, go here or “like” the Defend John K Facebook page.