A retired CIA agent who blew the whistle on the agency’s Bush-era torture program has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. John Kiriakou admitted to a single count of revealing the identity of a covert officer under a plea deal that saw prosecutors drop charges brought under the Espionage Act. Kiriakou was the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the Bush administration’s torture program, describing the waterboarding of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in a 2007 interview with ABC News. He also is the first CIA official to be jailed for any reason relating to the torture, even those who carried it out. Outside the courthouse, prosecutor Neil MacBride called Kirakou’s sentence a warning to other whistleblowers.
Neil MacBride: “As the judge just said in court, today’s sentence should be a reminder to every individual who works for the government, who comes into the possession of closely held sensitive information regarding the national defense or the identity of a covert agent, that it is critical that that information remain secure and not spill out into the public domain or be shared with others who don’t have authorized access to it.”
The judge in the case, Leonie Brinkema, told Kiriakou she would have sentenced him to more jail time if not for the limits imposed by the plea deal. Kiriakou’s supporters, meanwhile, say he has been unfairly targeted in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers. In a statement urging President Obama to commute Kiriakou’s sentence, a group of signatories including attorneys and former CIA officers said: “[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. … Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.” Speaking after his sentencing, Kiriakou thanked what he said were a number of intelligence officials who supported his cause.
John Kiriakou: “I would like to thank the dozens of former and active-duty CIA officers and FBI agents and assistant U.S. attorneys who rallied to my side, although most of them had to do so privately. I thank them for their cards, their emails, their donations to my defense fund. It was their friendship and the support of my friends and family that really got me through this.”
Kiriakou will remain free until ordered to begin his 30-month sentence.