Today, the only person prosecuted because of the CIA torture program is going to prison. Justice at last. Finally we’re seeing some accountability for heinous and detestable acts committed in our names.
Well, no. Quite the opposite.
The man who’s going to prison today did not torture or instruct anybody else to torture. Instead, he’s the man who blew the whistle and exposed the CIA torture program.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA agent who spoke publicly about the agency’s policy of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding. He reports to the low-security federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania to serve a 30-month sentence.
He avoided five charges under the anachronistic and punitive Espionage Act by agreeing to a plea deal. He’s only the second person charged under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the first for passing along classified information to a reporter.
In this respect, Kiriakou’s case invites comparison with the Valerie Plame affair. Kiriakou revealed the identity of a covert CIA officer to a reporter as a possible source, unaware that the officer was still undercover. The reporter did not publish the name of the operative. In contrast, Robert Novak did publish the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. The Bush administration, who leaked her identity, intended to out her to get back at her husband, Joe Wilson. Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and other counts and was later pardoned by George W. Bush before serving his sentence.
But make no mistake, Kiriakou is going to jail for being a whistleblower. At a send-off at the Hay-Adams Hotel, he said, “My case was about torture. The CIA never forgave me for exposing the torture program and saying it was U.S. government policy.”
“What you were convicted of was your conviction,” added Tom Drake, an NSA whistleblower, who was also charged under the Espionage Act in 2011. The ten charges against him were eventually dropped.
Kiriakou did not start out as a whistleblower. The CIA lied to him too about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, and he repeated that lie in a 2007 interview, thereby supporting the argument that enhanced interrogation techniques were effective in getting terrorists to crack. The truth was that Abu Zubaydah never provided useful information after being waterboarded 83 times in one month.
Later he recanted this statement and became critical of the CIA. He didn’t just single out a few rogue agents who tortured but showed that torture was policy instituted by CIA higher-ups. In his book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror, he’s made other truth-telling disclosures of inestimable value to the public: revelations that invading Iraq in 2003 was due to “the ascendance of rank deception” and that the FBI failed to pursue valuable leads in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Instead of being sent to jail, Kiriakou should be acclaimed as a hero. Dan Froomkin nails the perverse reality:
Had John Kiriakou actually engaged in torture, he wouldn’t be in any trouble at all — he never even would have been investigated. But because he talked about torture with reporters, he’s going to prison.
The torturers and those who implemented torture are not going to prison. President Obama granted them blanket immunity as part of his “no looking backward” policy. They are still in government and intelligence, advancing in their careers, while the whistleblower who exposed the systematic practice of torture by the U.S. had his career destroyed and will be separated from his five children for two and a half years.
It’s unlikely that Obama will pardon Kiriakou as Bush did Scooter Libby. After all, it’s Obama’s aim to put whistleblowers in jail, not torturers.
Where’s the justice in that?
UPDATE: Ironically, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell just restored Scooter Libby’s voting rights. Yesterday, the Governor’s office released a list of 1,000 felons who had their voting rights restored in 2012. Scooter Libby was among them.
Virginia makes it particularly difficult for those convicted of felonies to regain their voting rights, and the state legislature is resistant to change the law making it any easier. Last month, a House of Delegates subcommittee once again blocked a bill allowing felons to vote. 350,000 Virginians are barred from voting.
Scooter Libby is one of 4,000 that Governor McDonnell has pardoned.
You can contribute to the John Kiriakou Support Fund to help defray his legal expenses.