In a CIA Torture Case, the Only Person Punished is the Whistleblower

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Two months ago, the Justice Department announced that it would not charge any of the CIA agents  who tortured detainees during the Bush administration. But they did prosecute one agent: John Kiriakou, the man who blew the whistle on the interrogation procedures. Earlier this week, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to leaking the identity of one of his colleagues. He will be sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou leaves U.S. District Courthouse in Alexandria, Va. on Oct. 23, 2012 after pleading guilty, in a plea deal, to leaking the names of covert operatives to journalists. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

This is the first time in 27 years that the Intelligence Activities Act has successfully been used  to convict. Charges also were filed under the World War I era Espionage Act of 1917, but dropped.

In 2007 Kirakou gave an interview to ABC News in which he described waterboarding as torture, but also suggested it was necessary.

“Like a lot of Americans, I’m involved in this internal, intellectual battle with myself weighing the idea that waterboarding may be torture versus the quality of information that we often get after using the waterboarding technique,” he said, “and I struggle with it.”

In March 2002, Kiriakou was part of the CIA team that made the first capture of a major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah. Kiriakou said waterboarding Zubaydah helped the agency get valuable information.

The AP reports that CIA Director David Petraeus applauded Kiriakou’s conviction. In an email to agency staff, he wrote:

“It marks an important victory for our agency, for our intelligence community, and for our country. Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”

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  • Anne

    Petraeus’s comment is only credible when Dick Cheney and his cohorts are also convicted on the same charges for naming Valerie Plame and the Administration is equally “outraged” in that case. Until then, “do as I say, not as I do” is still the organizing principle for the military and the militarized civilian agencies that increasingly seem to forget that we are still a democracy with civilian leadership of the military.

  • MIke

    Amen! Thank you.

  • Jo Ann Lewis

    The state of our democracy is on a fast and furious slide into becoming an oligarchy. Thank you to Bill Moyers for continuing to bring truth to American citizens and thanks to Mr. Kiriakou for following his conscience and telling the truth.

  • bea

    Thank you for this article and thank you for the Reckoning Torture project. This is a remarkable project and I truly, wholeheartedly applaud it. Anyone who visited me in the last few months ‘had’ to watch it.

    What has happened to Mr Kirakou or Pfc. Bradley Manning is putting enormous shame on US government and justice system. Sometimes I do not know whether to laugh or to cry…

    The same when I try to observe (as they make it very difficult) this painful bitter comedy show executed by the Military Commission… This is not a trial and they swear the oath of truthfulness… If so – why the prisoners cannot mention torture??? Why are they still treated worst than animals? Secrecy always smells the with some kind of dirty proceeder or crime! Judge Pohl disgusts me from the very beginning and he is the one who should be persecuted for preventing the course of justice.

    When we discover Guantánamo prisoners, we discover mostly innocent people that include children and wounded, bought by the US for $5000 (isn’t it involvement in trading of human beings?), but even those allegedly(!) ‘the worst ones’, when we consider the barbaric treatment they have been through, we should ask ourselves WHAT have we become? How much lower can we fall?

    Guantánamo is not just a bad dream, it is not only a damage. Guantánamo rips apart any sense of humanity. It shatters any human dignity. It takes you nowhere and leaves there – starving with unbearable pain and madness, facing striking questions… Is death the only true way to freedom? Is death the only way to a better world beyond the pain?… Is death coming to save broken life?…

    Guantánamo is truly insane, truly terrifying, truly unthinkable… Until the REAL ACCOUNTABILITY happens no one in the world is save and anyone who tolerates this nonsense or pretends they know nothing about it, is morally guilty of this extraordinary (they like this word) brutal experiment on human beings.

    In my eyes, and I reckon that also in the eyes of any person who understands the meaning of the human rights or justice, US government looks like the barbaric oppressors from the middle ages. And this disgust will not go away easily, this will be dragged as US shadow for the centuries…

    Guantánamo prisoners should not be considered as terrorists but as victims of terror. They should be given immediate amnesty, meaningful apology and support. World is mad by blindly ignoring the truth that US government is a brutal war criminal.

    Make true accountability a priority!

    Prosecute war criminals! Free political prisoners!

  • Anonymous