“We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.” – Hunter S. Thompson.
Daniel Ellsberg made history when as a top Pentagon official, he released the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam War, which exposed government lies going back 20 years. His act of resistance helped galvanize opposition to the war and triggered the events leading to Watergate and the downfall of Richard Nixon. “Confronted with the examples of people who were doing all they could non-violently, and truthfully, to end a war they knew and I knew was wrong — that example I found contagious, and courage is contagious, and it did change my life.” “Courage is Contagious” is now the maxim used by Julian Assange for Wikileaks.
“Courage is Contagious” but the Obama administration seems to be immune to it as last week President Obama brought more shame on his administration and again proved that his campaign promise to run the most open, transparent and accountable administration in history was just lip service. Last tuesday, he indicted former CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. The indictment though was left unsealed for days to avoid press coverage of the Obama administration’s 6th Espionage Act prosecution of a whistleblower. Two of the more famous are Thomas Drake, who exposed that the NSA was conducting warrantless wiretapping and Bradley Manning, now on trial for giving damning information about US operations in Iraq to WikiLeaks. More and more Obama shockingly resembles Richard Nixon in his paranoia and demand for control over information that may be potentially damaging, even if the information is about crimes committed by the US. Kiriakou has pled not guilty to all the charges against him and has turned down various plea bargains.
We have written extensively about John Kiriakou and, full disclusure, one of our writer-editors is related to him. We knew him as a boy, knew how as a boy he questioned why the Shah of Iran was driven from power and wrote him a letter of support. This led to him being fascinated by global politics, wanting to live a life of public service, and eventually his induction into the CIA. This is all covered in his 2010 book The Reluctant Spy, where we learn of the sacrifices he made for his country and how he slowly became disillusioned by seeing the Bush White House build the case for war with Iraq using false intel a full year before the CIA knew about it. The administration later implemented the procedure for waterboarding, which to John Kiriakou was clearly torture.
As I touched on earlier this week, Kiriakou blew the whistle on waterboarding and exposed torture as policy rather than the actions a few rogue agents. But waterboarding was not Kiriakou’s last disclosure. In his book, “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror”, he writes critically of the CIA’s torture program, the deception leading into the war in Iraq, and the FBI’s failure to pursue potential leads in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. For those wondering why Kiriakou’s disclosures in his book did more than ruffle a few feathers in the intelligence community, here are a few key quotes:
- On Iraq: “The answer to why we’re still in Iraq to this day has almost everything to do with the failures of leadership in 2003 and 2004 and, in some cases, the ascendance of rank deception—deliberate distortions of the facts on the ground.”
- On FBI waste: After raiding a Taliban “embassy” in Pakistan in early 2002, Kiriakou’s colleague “found something interesting and provocative. A file of telephone bills from the Taliban embassy revealed dozens of calls to the United States . . . For ten days leading up to September 11, 2001, the Taliban made 168 calls to America. Then the calls stopped. The file, amazingly, was in English . . . The calls ended on September 10, 2001, and started up again six days later, on September 16.” Years after sending the phone records to the FBI, Kiriakou followed-up and his FBI contact “replied that it was like a scene out of that Indiana Jones movie. The files were still in those [original] boxes, in an FBI storage facility in Maryland . . . What a waste.”
- On CIA’s deception about waterboarding: “Now we know that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied. . . it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the arts of deception even among its own.” (Previously, the CIA told Kiriakou that Zubaydah was waterboarded only once and cracked, which fiction Kiriakou repeated in a television interview because his own agency lied to him.)
- On Torture: “But even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. . . . There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security.”
Remember, these are the words of the only person to be criminally prosecuted in connection with the CIA’s torture program. These are the words of the glaring exception to Obama’s mantra of “looking forward, not backward” when Americans demand accountability for torture, extraordinary rendition and illegal domestic spying. These are the words of an Espionage Act defendant—of someone facing 50 years in prison, who the Obama administration will argue in court “intended to harm the United States or assist a foreign nation.” All things considered, perhaps it is no surprise Patrick Fitzgerald avoided tarnishing his impeccable reputation by making an appearance at the arraignment this morning.
There’s a big difference between the unmasking of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame and Kiriakou’s case. Kiriakou did not “leak.” He made valid disclosures revealing clear illegality, ranging from America’s torture program to its use of specific “coercive interrogation techniques” like waterboarding, which even Attorney General Eric Holder agrees is torture. Even if the allegation that he revealed the identity of an undercover office, the nameSuch disclosures are clearly in the public interest. In contrast, when Richard Armitage, Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State, outed undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, he was not trying to disclose evidence of wrongdoing; in fact, quite the opposite. He put at risk national security and people’s lives to undermine a critic. He was trying to punish former Ambassador Joseph Wilson by exposing his wife. Libby was leaking, not whistleblowing. His disclosure to the media had no intrinsic public value whatsoever.
Perhaps Patrick Fitzgerald is distancing himself from the Kiriakou case because he is too smart not to get this distinction.
In the Huffington Post, Daniel Ellsberg is quoted and says…
…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.”
Now John is being betrayed by his country and by a president who condemned Bush, the War, and waterboarding. The president is betraying John for the sole purpose of protecting the former administration –protecting their own at all cost, even at the cost of betraying their own principals. Ironically, Kiriakou, a man trained to read everything about a situation and a person, believed and supported Obama, making this betrayal all the more painful.
Radack also added in a great deconstruction of the indictment in the Daily Kos
Even though plea negotiation are supposed to be in good faith, the government increased the charges and penalties in the Indictment because, like NSA whistleblower Tom Drake, Kiriakou rejected a handful of plea offers because he refused to plea bargain with the truth.
Two of the Espionage Act charges stem from Kiriakou’s alleged communications with New York Times reporter Scott Shane, for a story he wrote in 2008 and for which – Wheeler reports – Shane had “around 23 other sources (including former CIA Executive Director Buzzy Krongard).” Yet again, Kiriakou – who blew the whistle on waterboarding – is the only one to be charged, and 3 1/2 years after the article was published as a result of an investigation having nothing to do with the Shane article.
Don’t bother looking for any clarity in the Making False Statements charge, a typical add-on to intimidate defendants. The Justice Department struggles to explain the indictment in its own convoluted press release:
The indictment also charges him with one count of making false statements for allegedly lying to the Publications Review Board of the CIA in an unsuccessful attempt to trick the CIA into allowing him to include classified information in a book he was seeking to publish.
So, according to the Justice Department, Kiriakou has been charged with a felony for trying to trick the CIA but failing. Even if this is true – doubtful considering the Justice Department’s abysmal record prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act – doesn’t the Justice Department have more important crimes to prosecute? Certainly the Justice Department can’t indict everyone who’s tried to trick the CIA. And, even by Justice’s own admission, NO classified information was published and the CIA cleared Kiriakou book in its entirety. What the government really seems to be angry about is that Kiriakou’s book sharply criticized the CIA’s torture program and revealed embarrassing information about the FBI – namely that the FBI shelved potentially actionable intelligence in the aftermath of 9/11.
Like the Drake case before it, this case is about retribution and politics, not justice.
Adding to the case mounting against the Obama administration’s charges, Mother Jones released a memo from 2006 by Philip Zelikow, an adviser to then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, stating that many of the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques were likely illegal. Mother Jones reports.
Zelikow didn’t speak publicly about the memo—the smoking gun that the Bush administration was warned by its own staff about legal problems with its interrogation program—until 2009, when he revealed its existence in a blog post for Foreign Policy.But when Zelikow testified to Congress about his warning, his classified memo was withheld, and two unclassified documents were released in its stead. Zelikow told Mother Jones in 2009 that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had attempted to destroy any evidence of the classified memo, but that some copies might survive in the State Department’s archives.
It appears that Zelikow was right about the archives: the secret memo, which he called a “direct assault on [the Bush Justice Department's] interpretation of American law,” was finally released by the State Department on Tuesday, three years after the National Security Archive and WIRED reporter Spencer Ackerman (then at the Washington Independent) first requested it under the Freedom of Information Act.
In 2009, when Zelikow told Mother Jones that the “White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo” and that he suspected Cheney’s involvement, he noted that the vice-president’s office was not officially allowed to do such a thing. “They didn’t run the interagency process. Such a request would more likely have come from the White House Counsel’s office or from NSC staff… It was conveyed to me, and I ignored it,” Zelikow said.
Neil Kinkopf, who worked for the Justice Department under the Clinton administration (and is now an Obama administration official), told Mother Jones in 2009 why Cheney might have wanted to get rid of the document: “People in the White House—Dick Cheney for example; David Addington, his legal adviser—didn’t want the existence of dissent to be known. It’s not hard to imagine David Addington playing very hardball internal politics and not only wanting to prevail over the view of Zelikow but to annihilate it. It would be perfectly consistent with how he operated.”
Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”
“Coercive” interrogation methods “least likely to be sustained” by judges were “the waterboard, walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement,” Zelikow advised, “especially [when] viewed cumulatively.” (Most CIA torture regimens made use of multiple torture techniques.) “Those most likely to be sustained are the basic detention conditions and, in context, the corrective techniques, such as slaps.”
Zelikow’s warnings about the legal dangers of torture went unheeded — not just by the Bush administration, which ignored them, but, ironically, by the Obama administration, which effectively refuted them. In June, the Justice Department concluded an extensive inquiry into CIA torture by dropping potential charges against agency interrogators in 99 out of 101 cases of detainee abuse. That inquiry did not examine criminal complicity for senior Bush administration officials who designed the torture regimen and ordered agency interrogators to implement it.
Illegal Torture. Again and again, we see the Government’s own agents, like Kiriakou trying to hold it to the standards it pretends to believe in. But they are not concerned with issues of morality, justice, accountability, or transparency. They are only concerned with power and control and will go to any measure to strengthen it, even protecting criminals by making one of an innocent man.
Despite their weak case, the Government can and will damage John Kiriakou even in losing. Radack again, quoted by NPR.
“I think the human cost is that people at best end up blacklisted, bankrupt and broken,” she says. “John Kiriakou right now is selling his house to be able to pay legal bills.”
John Kiriakou needs our help. First and foremost, we need to let people know this is happening both to help John Kiriakou and prevent it from continuing. And we can help John financially as well. Please go to his website http://defendjohnk.com/ for more facts and to support him. “Courage is Contagious”. Show your own courage by supporting John Kiriakou and take a stand against a corrupt government.