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CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Prosecute CIA Case Officers Who Flouted the Law & Tortured Detainees

Screen shot of John Kiriakou on “Democracy Now!”

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was released from a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, last week, after serving about 23 months in jail, called for CIA case officers to be prosecuted for “flouting” the law when they tortured detainees.

In an interview for “Democracy Now!”, Kiriakou addressed the shocking details in the executive summary of the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s torture program. He said he understood that President Barack Obama was not going to pursue the prosecution of CIA officials who carried out torture. Obama was not going to prosecute officers who carried out the “day-to-day torture program.” Lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department were going to get a pass too. However, there are officers, who clearly violated the law, when they carried out interrogations.

“What about the CIA officers who directly violated the law, who carried out interrogations that resulted in death? What about the torturers of Hassan Ghul?” Kiriakou asked. Ghul died while he was being brutally interrogated in Afghanistan.

He also said, “What about case officers who took the law into their own hands or who flouted the law and raped prisoners with broomsticks or carried out rectal hydration with hummus? Those were not approved interrogation techniques. Why aren’t those officers being prosecuted? I think, at the very least, that’s where we should start the prosecutions.

“Those people should not be above the law. They committed crimes, whether in the United States or overseas,” Kiriakou declared.

He suggested that James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who were architects of the torture regime, should be prosecuted.

But the Washington Post reported in December that the CIA agreed to a $5 million “indemnification contract” that covers the “costs of any criminal prosecutions.” The pair have a “prominent criminal defense lawyer,” who they hired in 2007 and bille the CIA “more than $1 million in legal expenses until 2012.” And, “under the indemnification contract, the CIA remains obligated to pay their company’s legal expenses through 2021.”

Confronted with remarks former Vice President Dick Cheney has made in defense of CIA torture, Kiriakou indicated his “personal belief” was that Cheney should be prosecuted too.

Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under President George W. Bush’s administration. In October 2012, he pled guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) when he confirmed the name of an officer involved in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program to a reporter. He was sentenced in January 2013 and reported to prison on February 28, 2013.

As highlighted during the interview, Kiriakou wrote several letters while he was in prison, “Letters from Loretto,” which were published at Firedoglake. The letters offered Americans rare insights into how the US government treats whistleblowers while they are in prison.

His first letter was written about six weeks into his sentence. Firedoglake posted it on May 29, 2013, and a few days later ABC News, The Guardian, Esquire, Huffington Post and various media outlets covered the letter. Though future letters would not receive the widespread media coverage that this letter did, it established a way for Kiriakou to remain connected to supporters.

[*Editor’s note: In the “Democracy Now!” interview, Kiriakou said the first letter was “only supposed to go to about 600 people” and that it was then picked up by Huffington Post and then from there it spread around and “got about a million hits.” The “600 people” must be the audience he thought Firedoglake had. By this time, well over a year had been spent closely covering Chelsea Manning’s trial and Firedoglake had a much, much larger audience following coverage of Manning, WikiLeaks, secrecy and whistleblower-related issues. It was pushed out and picked up by other outlets thanks to regular readers of Firedoglake.]

Asked about whether he would do what he did again, given what he went through, he said he would. He believes he played a role in the government “banning” torture in the United States. “If that cost me 23 months of my life, well, you know what? It was worth it.”

He made a larger and more significant point about Cheney and former CIA officials, who have appeared on news networks to defend torture.

…We’ve seen Vice President Cheney, we’ve seen former CIA directors, several of them, former senior CIA officers go on the network news programs and defend, defend, defend their actions during the torture regime. The reason that they’re doing that is because torture is their legacy. When their obituaries are written, those obituaries are going to say that they were instrumental in the torture program. And the only thing they can do at this point to save their reputations is to keep repeating this lie that torture worked and hope that the American people eventually believe it…

In fact, the CIA had a propaganda campaign, where officials leaked classified information to defend torture. Those who had served in head positions at the CIA had, for the longest time, been able to repeat a set of lies or fabricated talking points. The torture report made that much more difficult and now all they have left is their certitude and the pundits and news anchors, who accept that certitude as truthful and honest.

Kiriakou is on house arrest until May and will then essentially be on probation for three years. He has three little children, who are very happy he is home and they have been hugging, telling stories and reading books since he returned home.

Full interview which aired on “Democracy Now!” appears below.

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Video: John Kiriakou- for the hour, on Democracy Now

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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