CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday for what critics of his prosecution are calling trumped-up charges by the Department of Justice for his exposure of the spy agency's torture program established by the former Bush administration.
In a letter urging President Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower, several high profile civil rights defenders including Ralph Nader and retired CIA officer Raymond McGovern stated:
[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. He never tortured anyone, yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the past decade. [...]
The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, and the CIA officers who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable.
Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.
"He [was] prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama's," added Robert Shetterly, an artist and activist who pointed to the fact that President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, despite pledges during his first presidential campaign to protect whistleblowers.
"The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me..." – John Kiriakou
Such protections, then Senator Obama said, were vital "to maintain integrity in government."
In October, Kiriakou was charged by the DoJ for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for releasing the name of an officer implicated in a CIA torture program to the media. Federal prosecutors had originally charged Kiriakou for violations against the Espionage Act—which held a sentence of up to 35 years—but a plea agreement saw those charges lessened.
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Kiriakou was the first employee of the CIA to publicly acknowledge and describe details of the torture program that thrived under the Bush administration.
“There is a legal definition of whistleblower and I meet that legal definition,” Kiriakou told Firedoglake in an interview Thursday.
I was the first person to acknowledge that the CIA was using waterboarding against al Qaeda prisoners. I said in 2007 that I regarded waterboarding as torture and I also said that it was not the result of rogue CIA officers but that it was official US government policy. So, that’s whistleblowing. That’s the definition of whistleblowing. [...]
The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me from December 2007...They found their opportunity and threw in a bunch of trumped up charges they knew they could bargain away and finally found something with which to prosecute me. [...]
I don’t think I am overstating this when I say I feel like we’re entering a second McCarthy era where the Justice Department uses the law as a fist or as a hammer not just to try and convict people but to ruin them personally and professionally because they don’t like where they stand on different issues... they can convict anybody of anything if they put their minds to it.
On the eve of the sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project unveiled a portrait of Kiriakou by Shetterly, the latest in the AWTT portrait series. Kiriakou was heralded for his opposition to "this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use."
RT provides footage from that evening's event: