In one of the country’s ongoing cases of leaked information, a U.S. federal judge has accepted the guilty plea from former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Tweet
Kiriakou, who served the agency from 1990 to 2004, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for leaking the name of an agent who participated in the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected terrorist and Osama bin Laden aide.
He pled guilty last October to one charge of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, a law signed by President Ronald Reagan that made the exposure of covert agents a federal crime under certain circumstances. The government originally sought to prosecute Kiriakou under the Espionage Act of 1917, a World War I-era law invoked at least six times by the Obama administration.
Kiriakou’s case was unique because he was the first CIA insider to acknowledge the agency’s use of waterboarding in its interrogations when he revealed it to a freelance reporter in 2007. Although Kiriakou’s lawyers admit that their client was once a supporter of the technique, they say that he had a change of heart and leaking the information was an act of whistleblowing. Tweet this quote: Tweet
Rebuking this effort, the sentencing judge, Leonie Brinkema said to Kiriakou, “This is not a case of a whistleblower.” In a sign that his conviction would have brought a harsher sentence, she continued, “I think 30 months is way too light.”
Waterboarding, the interrogation technique that creates the sensation of drowning, is labeled by many institutions as torture. Its use was officially banned by President Obama via an executive order upon taking office and is a procedure he has called torture on numerous occasions.
Like the case against U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, Kiriakou’s case highlights the tension that exists in modern warfare between executing the war on terrorism, its coverage in the media, and the rule of law. Manning is charged with, among other things, “aiding and abetting the enemy,” when he obtained hundreds of thousands of Army and State Department cables and leaked them to the pro-transparency website, WikiLeaks.
Although Kiriakou did not participate in any waterboarding activity, he is the first figure associated with the CIA to be imprisoned over its interrogation program, making his transgression more about revealing a secret government program than the activity itself.
With the imprisonment of ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou, the case also highlights the claim that although President Obama promised “an unprecedented level of openness in government,” the administration continues to prosecute individuals acting under the auspices of whistleblowing.