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CIA whisteblower John Kiriakou as depicted in portrait artist Robert Shetterly's "Americans Who Tell the Truth" series. (Credit: Robert Shetterly)

Only CIA Agent Jailed for Torture Program Is Whistleblower Who Confirmed Its Existence

Former operative John Kiriakou, currently in prison, was charged with a crime after helping expose widespread abuses conducted by agency

Sarah Lazare

There is only one U.S. government employee who has gone to jail in connection with the widespread torture program by the CIA documented in the executive summary (pdf) of the Senate report that was partially released Tuesday: the man who helped expose it six years ago.

John Kiriakou, who worked for the CIA between 1990 and 2004, stepped forward in 2007 and confirmed to press outlets some of the first details about the agency's widespread use of torture.

Among Kiriakou's revelations was an account to ABC News of the repeated water-boardings of Abu Zubaydah—a man currently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay without charges whose 12 years of torture and abuse at the hands of the U.S. were further exposed in the Senate report.

In 2013, Kiriakou—a father of five—was prosecuted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing classified information to a reporter. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, which he is still serving. His incarceration came after the Obama administration refused to prosecute any of the higher-up government officials who designed, authorized, or otherwise took part in implementation of the torture program.

Kiriakou is widely considered a victim of the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, in which the president's administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined.

The Senate report released Tuesday reveals that, as the Obama administration locked up Kiriakou, the CIA was actively spreading lies and misinformation about the agency's vast torture program, including deliberate leaks and false narratives to the media.

Jesselyn Radack, the lawyer who represented Kiriakou, wrote Tuesday in Salon, "The newly released Executive Summary of Senate Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report lays bare that the CIA makes propaganda its business, and the propagandists and perpetrators of torture are enjoying their freedom. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has made truth-telling a crime, and truth-tellers are in jail."


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