Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, left, and his attorney John Hundley, leave federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Jan. 23. (photo: NBC news)

Ex-CIA Officer, Torture Whistleblower to Be Sentenced for Leak

Whistleblower advocates say prosecution of John Kiriakou sends message that torturing is OK, speaking about torture is prosecution-worthy

Common Dreams staff

Former CIA officer and torture whistleblower John Kiriakou plead guilty on Tuesday to a charge of revealing an undercover operative's identity, a case that whistleblower advocates say shows continued immunity for torturers while those who expose the torture are prosecuted.

Kiriakou, who served in the CIA from 1990 to 2004, "is best known," Democracy Now! reports, "for a 2007 ABC News interview detailing how Zubaydah was waterboarded in CIA custody."

NBC News reports on the plea bargain Kiriakou accepted Tuesday:

Kiriakou, who initially pleaded not guilty to five federal charges, pleaded guilty to a single count at a hearing at U.S. District Court in Virginia. Under a plea bargain, he is expected to serve 30 months in prison when he is formally sentenced on Jan. 25. Prosecutors, in return, agreed to ask that the Bureau of Prisons let him serve his time at a minimum security camp in Pennsylvania.

Kiriakou, 48, was accused of furnishing classified secrets to a New York Times reporter -- and lying to the government -- about another CIA officer's role in the capture of Abu Zubaydah, the former high-ranking al-Qaida leader who was waterboarded more than 80 times after his capture.

RT explains that "Kiriakou was originally charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 after he went public with the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of waterboarding on captured insurgents in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. On Monday morning, though, legal counsel for the accused former CIA agent informed the court that Kiriakou was willing to plead guilty to a lesser crime."

Jesselyn Radack of whistleblower advocate organization Government Accountablity Project wrote Tuesday: "Let's be clear, there is one reason, and one reason only that John Kiriakou is taking this plea: for the certainty that he'll be out of jail in 2 1/2 years to see his five children grow up."

Radack adds that the prosecution of Kiriakou is an example of continued torture cover-ups: "The only person to be criminal prosecuted, and now likely jailed, as a result of the Bush-era torture regime is John Kiriakou, who refused to participate in torture, helped expose the program, and said on national television that torture was wrong."

In a similiar comment on twisted sense of judgement of such prosecutions, State Department whistleblower Peter van Buren recently wrote that "no one except John Kiriakou is being held accountable for America’s torture policy. And John Kiriakou didn’t torture anyone, he just blew the whistle on it."

The message Kiriakou's prosecution sends is clear, Van Buren writes: "Do the country’s dirty work, kidnap, kill, imprison, torture, and we’ll cover for you. Destroy the evidence of all that and we’ll reward you. But speak out, and expect to be punished."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·


40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo