John Kiriakou, a CIA agent of 14 years, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, the same statute used to prosecute people like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of The Pentagon Papers to The New York Times was a seminal moment in ending the war in Vietnam. This is not a case about spying or espionage – John is not accused of sharing anything with a foreign government, selling information or enriching himself.
The charges against John allege that in answering questions from two reporters about suspicions that the CIA tortured detainees in its custody – the controversial Enhanced Interrogation Techniques that included waterboarding during the Bush-Cheney Administration – he violated this mostly obscure World War I-era law that aimed at punishing Americans who gave aid to enemies.
Most simply, the charges are that an American citizen answering questions from credible and mainstream American newspaper reporters somehow aided foreign enemies.
We have covered this story from the very beginning, there is a now a website offering the facts and a way to support Mr. Kiriakou. Please support him and know, in doing so, you are protecting your right to justice, information and those who wish to protect it for us all.
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971, revealing a long history of government duplicity over the Vietnam War, said it was brazenly hypocritical to prosecute Kiriakou for leaking information related to waterboarding while those who performed it were granted immunity.
“You’re criminalizing the revelation of illegality and you’re decriminalizing the illegality — the torture,” Ellsberg said.
Ellsberg added that there had been no prosecution of the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, who admitted ordering the destruction of 92 videotapes of brutal interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in Thailand.
“Is that person prosecuted?” Ellsberg said. “Absolutely not.”
Another damning summary…
“Whistle-blowers who work in national security or intelligence do not have a place to go,” she said, adding that they are driven to using the media by the few other options to expose wrongdoing.
The repeated use of a broad, draconian measure like the Espionage Act also is having a chilling effect on news organizations’ ability to do their job, Mr. Aftergood said.”
More from Andrew Rosenthal in the New York Times
That may seem simple: CIA officer, classified information disclosed, prison. But take a closer look. He’s been charged with revealing that two men accused of organizing the Sept. 11 attacks, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, were tortured. So the man who reveals the torture may go to jail, but nothing is going to happen to the people who cooked up corrupt legal opinions to justify torture, who ordered torture, or who actually tortured
And from the pages of Antiwar.com
“The fetid odor, the thing that really stinks about this case is that CIA officers had been immunized for committing waterboarding, for committing torture,” said Radack. “Now, the only person being prosecuted in connection with torture is John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on waterboarding being torture. And the only person to be prosecuted in connection with warrantless electronic surveillance is Tom Drake, a whistle-blower who blew the whistle on warrantless surveillance.”
We write to ask you to join us in supporting, protecting and materially helping our friend and colleague, John Kiriakou, a long-time former C.I.A. official and case officer. Incredibly, John has been accused by the Department of Justice of crimes under the 1917 Espionage Act, a charge historically reserved for persons who betrayed their country to foreign governments for money.
Why? The prosecutors have not claimed that John talked to any foreign government, passed any government documents or accepted funds from anyone hostile to the United States. Instead, according to the facts asserted in the indictment, he committed the “crime” of responding honestly to a query from the New York Times related to the agency’s interrogation program under the Bush Administration, which included waterboarding.
We know the government wants to send a signal to the lawyers representing prisoners at Guantanamo that the U.S. is intent on protecting its secrets from disclosure in cases relating to torture, and wants to chill further disclosures by anyone. But this is a case that should never have been brought anywhere – let alone in a country that values free speech and the protections of the First Amendment.
Journalists covering national security issues understand the stakes here, and what this case represents. A recent New York Times column described how the White House press secretary opened a briefing by honoring Marie Colvin and Anthony Shadid for having sacrificed their lives “in order to bring truth” while reporting in Syria. Referring to John Kiriakou, the White House correspondent for ABC News asked in response how the administration could square supporting journalism in distant lands while “aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistle-blowers to court?”
While no one involved in the waterboarding of terror suspects has ever faced criminal charges, John now stands in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice for the “crime” of having talked honestly to journalists about what happened and who did it.
If convicted, John could be sentenced to as much as 30 years in prison. The irony is extraordinary. For more than 14 years, John worked in the field and at home, under conditions of great peril and stress and at great personal sacrifice, dedicating himself to protecting America and Americans from harm at home and abroad.
The Justice Department’s actions have created huge pressures on John and his family. John and Heather have five children – the youngest less than a year old - and face the challenge of raising them while simultaneously fighting the people at the CIA, FBI and Justice Department who are determined to send John to prison.
John’s defense will cost more than half a million dollars, even as John and Heather struggle to hold onto their home and maintain their family. To help them, we have established a trust for the John Kiriakou Legal Defense Fund. Every contribution is a gift — please consider making a contribution today. All donors and donation amounts will be kept strictly confidential.
Every penny of your contribution will help make it possible for John Kiriakou to defend himself and to stand up for the principle that in the United States, no one should go to jail for answering questions from a New York Times reporter about torture.
Friends of John Kiriakou
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