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CIA Whistleblower: Biden Intel Pick Avril Haines Approved Obama Drone Strike Kill List, Hid Torture

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Avril Haines, Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence, began her confirmation hearing Tuesday. She was President Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 and CIA deputy director from 2013 to 2015, where she authorized using drone strikes to carry out targeted extrajudicial assassinations. “We know that in almost all cases that she said it was legal to put these names on the kill list, and people were subsequently killed by drone, including American citizens,” says CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed the Bush-era torture program and was the only official jailed in connection to it. He also discusses Haines’s handling of CIA agents who illegally hacked the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart its investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that used torture methods like waterboarding.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: John, I wanted to ask you about one of the confirmation hearings that are taking place, of Avril Haines. That began yesterday along with a number of others — the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, Department of Homeland Security. Avril Haines, Biden’s nominee to be director of national intelligence, she was Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 and CIA deputy director from 2013 to '15, where she authorized using drone strikes to carry out targeted extrajudicial assassinations. In 2015, when she was CIA deputy director, CIA agents illegally hacked the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart its investigation into the CIA's detention and interrogation program — many call the torture program — that used torture methods that were called “enhanced interrogation,” like waterboarding. She overruled, though, CIA’s own inspector general in failing to discipline the agents and even awarded them the Career Intelligence Medal.

John Kiriakou, you are a CIA whistleblower. Do you know about the history of Avril Haines? And what are your thoughts on her becoming DNI?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I was, frankly, very disappointed when President-elect Biden named Avril Haines as the DNI. There are so many questions that so many of us have about Avril Haines and the work she did at the White House, as well as the CIA, that really have to be answered.

We know that Avril Haines, at the NSC, was in charge of determining whether it was legal or illegal to place people on John Brennan’s kill list. We know that in almost all cases that she said it was legal to put these names on the kill list, and people were subsequently killed by drone, including American citizens, like Anwar al-Awlaki and his son. They were American citizens who had never been charged with a crime. They had never faced their accusers in a court of law. There was no due process for them. She’s never had to answer for that.

As you pointed out correctly, she was also the deputy director of the CIA when the CIA, under John Brennan, was hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computer systems in order to disrupt the investigation that led to the Senate torture report. And finally, another question that I have that I would like to see her answer is what her role was exactly in the redaction of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. Remember, that report was never released. What was released was a very heavily redacted version of the executive summary of that report. So we got a very heavily blacked-out 500 pages. Well, there are another 5,000 pages to that report that we have never seen.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, John Kiriakou, what about the situation with Julian Assange and what you would hope that the Biden administration might do in relationship to him?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I’ve been in very close touch over the last couple of weeks with people around Julian and people on his legal team, and we’ve been trying to read the tea leaves relative to the British court’s decision not to extradite him to the United States. That’s being appealed right now. And, you know, you hear things both ways. For example, when you read the judge’s ruling, until the very end, it looks like Julian is just getting clobbered in this ruling. The judge essentially agreed with everything that the Justice Department said, and then, at the very end of the ruling, said that because Julian suffers from depression and is suicidal, that sending him to the United States, where he would be subject to solitary confinement, which the U.N. has declared to be a form of torture, would push him over the edge. So, the ruling was great. The reasoning leading up to the ruling was not so great. And now the Justice Department is appealing.

The rumor that I heard was that perhaps the Biden people reached out to the British and said, “Look, we wouldn’t be terribly upset if this thing were to just go away.” And then we got the great ruling. Well, now it’s being appealed. So, what happens if he loses the appeal? Even if he wins the appeal, if there’s no pardon or commutation — and so far there isn’t — what’s to keep the British from expelling him to Australia and then the Justice Department just asking the Australians to extradite him all over again? So, really, the only way we can end this whole thing for Julian is through a presidential action. It has to be a pardon or a commutation.

AMY GOODMAN: And people can go to democracynow.org to see the speech of Nils Melzer, who was the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. He visited Julian Assange at the Belmarsh prison.

Finally, John Kiriakou, what happens to this money, the millions of dollars they are raking in? Is it Giuliani? Is it going to some bank account for Trump when he leaves, like the hundreds of millions of dollars he raised after the election lying about election fraud? Who tracks this money?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Ah, that’s a good question. And the answer is that nobody tracks this money. This money goes directly into the pockets of the lobbyists and the lawyers who charged it.

You know, there was a terrific article in The New York Times about six months ago talking about Rudy Giuliani’s fourth divorce. And in the course of discovery, The New York Times learned that Rudy is a member of 16 different country clubs. And he told the court that he needs $7 million a year to maintain his current lifestyle and to pay his dues at 16 separate country clubs.

And so, how’s he going to do that? He’s going to do it by gouging as many people as he possibly can. Rudy is not a stupid guy. He knew that the moment that Donald Trump walked out of the White House to get on that plane and fly back to Florida, that his career was finished, because now nobody is going to pay Rudy Giuliani anything. He’s done.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, we want to thank you for being with us, spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer, exposed the Bush-era torture program, was the only official jailed in connection with it. Kiriakou was reportedly told he could secure a presidential pardon from Trump for $2 million. His memoir is titled Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison.

It’s Inauguration Day. Next up, we speak to professor Michael Eric Dyson and Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats, who has drafted “A Blueprint for Social Movements During the Biden Presidency.” Stay with us.

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