CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Prison Broke Promise of Nine Months in Halfway House, Will Resume Letters
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is serving a thirty-month jail sentence in the federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has resumed writing letters from prison after the Bureau of Prisons failed to give him nine months in a halfway house to finish out his sentence.
Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under the George W. Bush administration. He was convicted in October of last year of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) when he provided the name of an officer involved in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program to a reporter and sentenced in January of this year. He reported to prison on February 28, 2013.
Firedoglake had been publishing Kiriakou’s “Letters from Loretto.” The last letter published, however, was in August of last year.
Now, in a new letter, thanking several groups and individuals who have supported him while serving his sentence in prison, he writes, “I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch so long. After my last letter, I thought I had come to an understanding with the prison administration: stop writing ‘Letters from Loretto’ and be put in for nine months of halfway house. Nine months would have seen me leave here on August 1, 2014. So I stopped writing.”
Halfway houses are often residences in communities where prisoners can go to serve all or part of their sentence. They are sometimes called “community corrections centers” or, more recently, “residential reentry centers.”
The goal is to help a person who has served time in jail make a transition back into society. They also afford prisoners more liberties than in a typical prison facility.
To guarantee he would get nine months in a halfway house, Kiriakou explains, “I withdrew two formal complaints against staff, and I turned down all press interviews.” But, “In the end, I was put in for six months of halfway house, not nine. And I was warned that the six months could be reduced to three or to nothing.
“Rather than twiddle my thumbs and hope for the best, I decided to start writing again. God bless the Constitution and its First Amendment,” he adds.
He spent some time wrestling with what to do next. “I thought that when I was denied the nine months that the easiest thing to do was to roll over and accept it. Maybe I would be released on November 1, 2014. Maybe February 1, 2015.”
“But as more time passed,” according to Kiriakou, “I realized that situation is political in nature. And I realized further that if I just give up, I’ll never forgive myself.”
Over the past months, friends and supporters have been contacting members of Congress to push them to write to the Bureau of Prisons and request he be given nine months in a halfway house. Congressman Jim Moran wrote a letter, where he said, “I believe Mr. Kiriakou is a patriotic American. I ask that you grant him at least nine months halfway house time so that he may resume his rightful place as a productive member of society and as a father to his five children, three of whom are under the age of nine.” (He even noted that 12 months in a halfway house would be reasonable.)
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic representative from Texas, sent a letter to the Bureau of Prisons and he also personally contacted Loretto to check on Kiriakou’s “well-being.”
Former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson penned a letter urging the Bureau of Prisons give him nine months so the “circumstances of his punishment” would make it possible for him to “see his five children on a regular basis — three of whom are under nine years old.”
John McCarthy, Bishop Emeritus of Austin, wrote a stinging letter to President Barack Obama where he condemned him for imprisoning a “highly decorated 15-year CIA counterterrorism veteran.” He said the worst part of it is that “he stands out as such an unjust exception to the way the United States government has handled the shame of torture.”
A final decision on whether he will be able to serve out the remaining nine months of his sentence in a halfway house will be made in January. He asks supporters in the letter to contact Erlinda Hernandez, who works in the Residential Reentry Office at the Bureau of Prisons in Butner, North Carolina. He also encourages supporters to write to Charles Samuels, who is the director of the Bureau of Prisons, and based in Washington, DC.
Firedoglake has been a supporter of Kiriakou and his First Amendment right to share what he is experiencing in prison with the public. If the Bureau of Prisons chooses to retaliate against him or punish him for speaking his mind, in addition to covering his letters from prison, Firedoglake will publicize incidents and build further support for him.
Below is the full letter from Kiriakou.
Hello, everybody. I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch so long. After my last letter, I thought I had come to an understanding with the prison administration: stop writing “Letters from Loretto” and be put in for nine months of halfway house. Nine months would have seen me leave here on August 1, 2014. So I stopped writing. I withdrew two formal complaints against staff, and I turned down all press interviews. In the end, I was put in for six months of halfway house, not nine. And I was warned that the six months could be reduced to three or to nothing. Rather than twiddle my thumbs and hope for the best, I decided to start writing again. God bless the Constitution and its First Amendment.
This letter is not a blow-by-blow of my negotiations for halfway house time. That’s a future letter. Instead, it’s a note of thanks to the people who worked so hard to help me get that time. They put their reputations on the line for me, and I will be forever indebted.
First, thank you to Bruce and Elizabeth Riedel and to Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). Bruce and Elizabeth worked closely with Congressman Moran on a letter to Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels asking for “at least nine months halfway house,” and saying, “I believe Mr. Kiriakou is a patriotic American. I ask that you grant him at least nine months halfway house time so that he may resume his rightful place as a productive member of society and as a father to his five children, three of whom are under the age of nine.” Congressman Moran pointed out that, “It is my understanding that 12 months of halfway house time is well within BOP guidelines.”
Thank you to Dr. Iris Diamond and to Billy Halgat, who contacted Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) on my behalf. Congressman Doggett wrote a letter to Director Samuels also asking for nine months halfway house. He also made a personal inquiry to the prison asking about my well-being.
Thank you to Jeremy Karaken and to former Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM). Gov. Johnson, the 2012 Libertarian Party nominee for President, wrote to Director Samuels noting that I am a “model prisoner” and saying that I belong with my family, not in prison.
Thank you to Bishop Emeritus John McCarthy of the Catholic Diocese of Austin, Texas. Bishop McCarthy wrote directly to President Obama, saying that he is “disgusted” with my imprisonment and adding that, “John Kiriakou is an anti-torture whistleblower who bravely spoke out against torture. He never tortured anyone, yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the Bush Administration. 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, much less charged with a crime. Please, Mr. President, how can you allow this terrible injustice to go on under your watch?”
Thank you to Lynn and Steve Newsom, the Directors of the peace group Quaker House, who wrote to Director Samuels asking for nine months halfway house and quoting Article 2 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a start of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.” They added that, “Mr. Kiriakou never tortured anyone, yet he is the only person to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program.”
Thank you to Dr. Stephen Bowers, Dr. Chuck Murphy, and Jenna Collins, my colleagues at Liberty University, who have worked tirelessly to lobby Republican members of Congress on my behalf. Thank you to Alex Patico, Alex Georgiades, and Jim Gregorakis, who have worked the Greek Orthodox community for me. Thank you to John and Amy DeSanti, who spoke to their old friend Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) for me. Thank you to Jim Tjepkema and Susan Schibler, who reached out to their elected officials on my behalf. Thank you to Rob Shetterly for lobbying Maine’s members of Congress. Thank you ot the Santa Fe, New Mexico chapter of Amnesty International for appealing directly to Attorney General Holder for my release.
Thank you to Jesselyn Radack and the Government Accountability Project, who worked with Ralph Nader on a letter to Director Samuels asking for nine months halfway house. Thank you to Jane Hamsher and the gang at Firedoglake.com, who have had my back from the beginning of this nightmare. Thank you to my attorneys Mark MacDougall and Karen Williams at Akin Gump, whom I trust more than I trust myself. Thank you to the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, CA for their confidence and support in giving me one of their Peacemaker of the Year awards, and for a personal hero, Daniel Ellsberg, for accepting it on my behalf. Thank you to my friend and former colleague, “Dave,” whose steady advice has kept me sane for the past 9+ months. And most of all, thank you to my wife and best friend Heather for, well, everything.
I thought that when I was denied the nine months that the easiest thing to do was to roll over and accept it. Maybe I would be released on November 1, 2014. Maybe February 1, 2015. But as more time passed, I realized that situation is political in nature. And I realized further that if I just give up, I’ll never forgive myself.
So I am asking you to help me. The final decision on my halfway house will be made by the end of January by Erlinda Hernandez at the Bureau of Prisons. She can be reached at:
Bureau of Prisons
Residential Reentry Office
P.O. Box 7000
Butner, NC 27509
Will you write to her to help me make my case for nine months? If you are able please copy:
Mr. Charles Samuels
Director of Bureau of Prisons
320 First St. NW
Washington, DC 20534
Thank you for all your help, support, and the more than 2000 letters I’ve received since I got to Loretto. I couldn’t make it through this experience without your kindness. More letters to follow.