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 US District Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, 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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