CIA whistle-blower sentenced to 30 months

John Kiriakou is now the only agent to be jailed over torture, and he never tortured anyone

By Natasha Lennard
Published January 25, 2013 10:45PM (UTC)
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Former CIA agent John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in jail Friday for leaking to a reporter the identity of a “covert CIA officer" engaged in the agency's torture program. Kiriakou, one of the first CIA agents to admit publicly that the U.S. had waterboarded detainees, pleaded guilty last year to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. He is the first person to be convicted under the law in 27 years.

Based on Kiriakou’s guilty plea, the prosecution dropped other charges including those filed under the Espionage Act. The 48-year-old had 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. Although he has been celebrated as a whistle-blower for his disclosures on torture, the judge presiding over his case rejected his whistle-blower defense.


As the New York Times reported, Judge Leonie Brinkema offered stern words to Kiriakou while approving the two and a half year sentence:

The judge said “this is not a case of a whistle-blower.” She went on to describe the damage that Mr. Kiriakou had created for the intelligence agency and an agent whose cover was disclosed by Mr. Kiriakou.

Before issuing the sentence she asked Mr. Kiriakou if he had anything to say. When he declined, Judge Brinkema, said, “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”

Meanwhile in an interview with Firedoglake's The Dissenter this week, the ex-CIA agent said, “I am wearing my conviction as a badge of honor":

I am proud that I stood up to our government. I stood up for what I believed was right conviction or no conviction. I mean they can convict anybody of anything if they put their minds to it, but I wear this as a badge of honor. I am not a criminal. I am a whistleblower. The thing that I blew the whistle on is now the law of the land. Torture is illegal and it’s officially abandoned in our country and I’m proud to have had a role in that.

As Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola commented, "the only CIA officer to go to jail for torture is now officially an officer who never tortured anybody."

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Cia John Kiriakou Prison Torture Whistleblowing