Former CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty Tuesday to leaking to a reporter the identity of a “covert CIA officer.” Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the agency’s program of extraordinary rendition and the use of waterboarding, will serve two and a half years in prison, but was only charged for revealing the identity of interrogation program chief Thomas Donahue Fletcher.
Based on Kiriakou’s guilty plea, the prosecution dropped other charges including those filed under the Espionage Act. Kiriakou, 48, worked as a CIA operative during George W. Bush’s first presidential term and took part in operations to capture al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan. In 2007 he spoke to ABC, revealing information about his former agency’s Rendition, Detention, Interrogation (RDI) program.
The ex-agent originally faced four charges including leaking the name of the RDI program chief and the role of another CIA employee to a journalist and “two counts of violating the Espionage Act for allegedly illegally disclosing national defense information to individuals not authorized to receive it,” the January FBI report on the case noted.
According to the AP, CIA director David Petraeus sent a memo to the agency calling Kiriakou’s conviction “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.”
Activists and a number of legal experts are less celebratory. Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer with the Government Accountability Project, noted on the Daily Kos, “An effectively-forced plea from John Kiriakou will be the tragic bookend to the torture narrative: Kiriakou will be going to jail, while Fletcher happily enjoys retirement in Vienna VA, safe with protection from ‘the most transparent administration in history.’”
Radack noted, in alignment with a recent report by Firedoglake, Fletcher’s name was already “not so secret” before Kiriakou’s leak, fueling accusations that the whistle-blower’s punishment has more to do with his revelations about U.S. torture programs.