CIA Whistleblower Kiriakou Joins Anti-War Activists To Write Letters To Political Prisoners

He spent 30 months in federal prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s government-sanctioned torture practices. Now John Kiriakou joins activists from the anti-war group Code Pink to write letters to other activists, dissenters and perceived political prisoners.
By @seannevins |
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    John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks at Code Pink’s Pink House in Washington DC on May 20 in support of activists writing letters to political prisoners, who were incarcerated for whistleblowing and other activities.John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks at Code Pink’s Pink House in Washington DC on May 20 in support of activists writing letters to political prisoners, who were incarcerated for whistleblowing and other activities.

    WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou joined activists at Code Pink’s brightly painted “Pink House” in northeast Washington, D.C., to write letters to imprisoned activists, dissenters, and people who are sometimes viewed as political prisoners.

    “The first one I wrote to Chelsea Manning and the second one I’m writing to is James Williams,” said Katie, 19, an intern for the anti-war group Code Pink, who helped organize the gathering. Williams is a federal inmate, who Kiriakou maintains has mental health problems and is having a difficult time in prison.

    Prisoners’ names and addresses, such as Jeremy Hammond, Mutulu Shakur and Oscar Lopez Rivera, were printed onto a list and spread out on a coffee table. Nalini, another 19-year-old intern for Code Pink, sat on a pink sofa, mulling over whom to write to.


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    “The people that we have on the list isn’t just whistleblowers – some of them are. Some of these people are people that have been denied parole, like five times, or something like that, people who are being wrongly accused or have harsh sentences or something like that,” Nalini told MintPress News.

    “I’m writing to Jeremy Hammond, and I wrote to Chelsea Manning,” reported Jim, 54, a retired engineer and a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a group of peace activists involved in nonviolent actions to promote peace and justice.

    Jim, 54, an engineer and part of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a group of peace activists involved in nonviolent actions to promote peace and justice, writes a letter to Jeremy Hammond  on May 20 in Washington DC.Jim, 54, an engineer and part of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a group of peace activists involved in nonviolent actions to promote peace and justice, writes a letter to Jeremy Hammond  on May 20 in Washington DC.

     

    “Jeremy Hammond is kind of a whistleblower cyber-activist, and so he’s kind of prominent,” Jim explained. “The government seems to have this love-hate relationship with hackers. They want them to sign up and do their cyber operations for them, but when they’re too independent we tend to throw the book at them.”

    Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst and case officer, who affirmed the existence of government-sanctioned torture, told the activists gathered at the Pink House that he was really grateful to have received letters of support while he was in prison. He received over 7,000 letters of support from 643 people and 1,187 postcards, during his 30-month sentence.

     

    The case against John Kiriakou

    John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks at Code Pink’s Pink House in  Washington DC on May 20 in support of activists writing letters to political prisoners, who were incarcerated for whistleblowing and other activities.John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks at Code Pink’s Pink House in Washington DC on May 20 in support of activists writing letters to political prisoners, who were incarcerated for whistleblowing and other activities.

    Kiriakou was charged by the Justice Department in 2012 for giving the names of CIA officers and classified information to journalists. He accepted a plea deal. He was the first CIA officer to ever be convicted for such an offense, and he accepted a plea deal for a 30-month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institute in Loretto, Pennsylvania. He was released on Feb. 3, 2015.

    The case is significant because Kiriakou was the first CIA officer to publicly confirm the agency’s involvement in torture using waterboarding techniques, and to confirm that torture was official government policy approved by the president of the United States. He has since become a celebrated whistleblower, although held in disdain by some in the CIA and defense communities.

    Kiriakou’s website describes the incident for which he was prosecuted:

    “What did the case and prosecution entail? In court John explained that a reporter who was doing a book on rendition asked if he could recommend a former colleague who might sit for an interview. John could not recommend anybody, but when the reporter mentioned the first name of a former colleague, John responded with a last name and said he believed the former colleague was retired. This is the conversation for which John Kiriakou was prosecuted.”

    Speaking with MintPress, Kiriakou said he was prepared to fight out his case in court. He says he took a plea agreement because the Eastern District Court of Virginia is particularly harsh, and he feared spending years in prison.

     

    A wide-ranging discussion

    Code Pink activists and organizers, Nalini, 19, Doug, 51, and Alli, 26, look on as John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks about political prisoners on May 20 in Washington DC.Code Pink activists and organizers, Nalini, 19, Doug, 51, and Alli, 26, look on as John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks about political prisoners on May 20 in Washington DC.

    While discussing the prisoners he learned about while incarcerated, Kiriakou also offered up anecdotes about the CIA, torture, foreign policy and how the world works.

    At one point in his career, he spent six months as part of the American mission to the United Nations. He told the room full of activists that the U.N. Security Council’s real dealings and proceedings are not carried out in the official chamber in the U.N. conference building in New York.

    “The action that you see on the TV at the [United Nations] Security Council is all pre-planned. It’s all scripted. There’s a conference room off to the side, and that’s where everything’s really hashed out. It’s like a quarter of the size so usually they have to limit attendees. So it’s all the ambassadors and then you’re allowed, like, two or three aides,” he explained.

    In response to a query by MintPress about Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA and President George W. Bush’s personal intelligence briefer prior to the invasion of Iraq, Kiriakou said he believes Morell needs to explain his role in and knowledge of the torture program to the American public. (Morell is currently working as a contributor to CBS News.)

    Morell appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews on Tuesday night and revealed that the Bush White House knowingly used flawed intelligence to mislead the public into war with Iraq.

    “Mike Morell was in up to his neck in the torture program,” Kiriakou said on Wednesday. “I’m not saying he was the father of it. [But] he was in such positions of leadership that he had to be fully, completely briefed on what the agency was doing, and he did nothing to stop it.”

    Kiriakou added:

    “I think he owes people an explanation as to exactly what his position has been on torture. And if he claims to have been anti-torture, why he did do nothing to stop it? If he claims that he didn’t know about it, how could that be possible having been in the senior most positions in the CIA?”

    Doug, 51, a photographer and former Navy aircrew, chimed in, proposing his own notion about the origins of the American torture program.

    He related to the room that when he was in the Navy he went through a program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) in 1987. It is a program in which soldiers and other military personnel are trained in survival skills, evasion of capture, and other techniques. They’re also subjected to torture.

    Doug, 51, a photographer, looks on as John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks at Code Pink’s Pink House in Washington DC on May 20. Doug, 51, a photographer, looks on as John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and operations officer, talks at Code Pink’s Pink House in Washington DC on May 20.

    “It’s an intense kind of real-world type of training, where you actually survive in the wilderness, and are put into these survival situations, and finally you’re incarcerated and put into a POW [prisoner of war] camp,” he explained.

    “They subjected you to these enhanced interrogation techniques, long time kept awake, loud noises, ice cold baths, and water-boarding, [and] confinement in tight spaces.”

    He said it was the only school in the military where trainees could be physically attacked. “They could throw you against the wall and slap you around. And they did… They would pull weapons on you and threaten your life.”

    At this point, Kiriakou, who had been through the same training, added, “Lots of slapping and punching.”

    Doug said when he first heard about the American torture program he said to himself, “It’s SERE school.”

    Kiriakou immediately echoed him: “It’s SERE.”

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      • Whiteguy

        A little bit late in the game to have a long career getting paid in the game then divulge classified info as a way to seek absolution for your sins.

        Could have quit or taken a different job if he didnt like the tactics but no instead he had to betray his sworn duty. Good to see his name will always be connected to the words felon and traitor.

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