The New York Times has a front-page, top-of-the-fold article on my client, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou.
[T]he irony of this whole thing is . . . he's going to be the only CIA officer to go to jail over torture, even though he publicly denounced torture.
--Bruce Reidel, veteran CIA officer who led Afghan war review for President Obama and turned down offer to be considered for CIA director
The article, however, does not unpack this story line. While the article has a nifty timeline of 6 "Leak-Related Cases Prosecuted During the Obama Administration," and notes that Obama has prosecuted more current or former government officials for allegedly mishandling classified information than "all his predecessors combined," it omits the important fact that they are all whistleblowers.
Obama's war on whistleblowers is something about which I write often because I represent a number of its casualties. What did John blow the whistle on? In 2007, John became the first CIA officer to call waterboarding "torture"; to reveal that the CIA's torture program was policy rather than a few rogue agents; and to say it was wrong.
John's whistleblowing was compounded by the fact that in 2009, defense lawyers for Gitmo detainees obtained the names and photographs of some of their torturers--information to which any normal criminal defendant would be entitled. In true Justice Department fashion, it launched an investigation not of the torturers, but of who revealed the torturers. Justice found that no crime was committed by the defense lawyers, but gave the CIA a consolation prize: John Kiriako's head.
This was a two-fer. The government could finally prosecute Kiriakou, for whom it had been gunning since 2007 (discovery revealed that the CIA filed 6 crimes reports against him since 2007, all of which had been declined by the Justice Department.) Second, Kiriakou would be another chilling example of what happens when an agency official reveals illegal a highly-illegal government program. In recent years, the government began a twisted quest to prosecute alleged "leakers" under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers.
The government has deliberately conflated "non-disclosure agreements" (which are not meant to conceal illegal activity) with Omertà-style loyalty oaths. The war on whistleblowers has been an insidious way for the Obama administration to curry favor with the national security and intelligence establishments, create dangerous precedent for going after journalists, and create a de facto Official Secrets Act, which our country has live without for more than 200 years. (See the case against my other client, Tom Drake, for revealing information about the NSA's secret domestic spying program--a case that spectacularly imploded, with the government dropping all 10 felony counts once the court learned that the evidence against him had been deliberately, wrongly, labeled "classified' retroactively.)
The bottom line is that the CIA officers who committed torture, the lawyers who wrote the memos justifying it, the officers who ordered it, and those who destroyed the videotapes of it have not been held professionally accountable, much less been charged with crimes. In fact, they are enjoying federal judgeships (approver Jay Bybee), tenured professorships (architect John Yoo), and lucrative book deals (torture apologist Jose Rodriguez). National security and intelligence whistleblowers have become the glaring exception to the Obama administration's mantra of "looking forward, not backward." If you committed crimes under the guise of national security and the war on terrorism, you will not be held criminally liable, but if you blow the whistle on crimes, you risk criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. Blowing the whistle should not mean having to choose your conscience over your career, or especially your very freedom.
To alleviate his $500,000 legal debt (I represented him pro bono; Plato Cacheris and Bob Trout did not), and ensure that he can see his 5 kids grow up, John has agreed to serve 30 months in prison. A petition for his commutation--in support of a request signed by everyone from Madeline Albright to Oliver Stone to numerous high-level CIA officers--is here. To read more articles on John Kiriakou, go here.
This post originally appeared on Radack's Daily Kos blog.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.