Born in Sharon, Pennsylvania in 1964 and raised in nearby New Castle, John Kiriakou graduated from New Castle High School in 1982 and left for Washington, DC, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and a Master’s degree in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University.
From 1990 until March 2004, first as an analyst, and later as a counterterrorism operations officer, John served in the Central Intelligence Agency. He became chief of counterterrorist operations in Pakistan following the September 11 attacks acting as a senior operations officer. His tour culminated in the March 2002 with the capture of Abu Zubaydah, al-Qa’ida’s third-ranking official.
When he returned from Pakistan, John was named Executive Assistant to the CIA’s Deputy Director for Operations. In that capacity, John was the principal Iraq briefer for the Director of Central Intelligence.
John then became senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after a brief time in the private sector, where he focused on international terrorism, piracy, and counternarcotics. Additionally, John served as senior intelligence advisor to the Committee’s chairman, Senator John Kerry.
Following his service on the Hill, John became an intelligence and counterterrorism consultant and author.
But as a whistleblower relating the truth about the torture policy practiced by the CIA against prisoners in Agency custody
CONSEQUENCES FOR TELLING THE TRUTH: A long-time former CIA official and case officer, John Kiriakou became an anti-torture whistleblower and activist when he told ABC News in December 2007 that the CIA was torturing prisoners, that that torture was official U.S. government policy, and that the policy was approved by the President. John was driven to ruin by the Justice Department because of these revelations.
Immediately after John’s interview, the Justice Department initiated a years-long investigation, determined to find something–anything–to charge him with. This was his payback for blowing the whistle on the torture program.
John eventually was charged with three counts of espionage, one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and one count of making a false statement as a result of the 2007 ABC News interview. Finally, in order to avoid the risk of spending 45 years in prison, John accepted a plea to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. All other charges were dropped. Even though he had no criminal intent, and there was no harm to the national security, accepting the plea resulted in a sentence of 30 months in prison.
What did the case and prosecution entail? In court, John explained that a reporter who was doing a book on rendition asked if he could recommend a former colleague who might sit for an interview. John could not recommend anybody, but when the reporter mentioned the first name of a former colleague, John responded with the last name and said he believed the former colleague was retired. This is the conversation for which John Kiriakou was prosecuted.
To be clear, John’s case was not about leaks. It was a case about whistleblowing. John spent most of his career protecting American security and served honorably in the CIA while helping to achieve major counterterrorism successes that made the world safer. In total, John received ten Exceptional Performance Awards, a Sustained Superior Performance Award, and the Counterterrorism Service Medal, as well as the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award.
The CIA officers who actually tortured detainees in custody have never been charged. A CIA executive who destroyed more than 90 videotapes of the torture–tapes that could have been used as trial evidence–was not charged. Why has he been given a free pass by the Justice Department? Those answers are difficult to find. But John, who never tortured anyone, went to prison for 30 months because of a reporter’s simple question.
The government made a decision to target John Kiriakou and intended to destroy his career, his reputation and his ability to provide for his family, all in the attempt to prevent future disclosures about CIA interrogation programs by anyone. In the process, John racked up legal bills of more than $1 million and exhausted his savings.
John was released from prison on February 3, 2015. He was under house arrest until May 1, 2015. As a result of this experience, John is determined to become A Force for change, and is rebuilding his life. There is a long way to go, but step-by-step, John will fulfill that mission. He is now working as an associate fellow with the highly-regarded Washington DC-based think tank Institute for Policy Studies (www.ips-dc.org).
John Kiriakou is a humanitarian with values so deeply entrenched in love of country and truth that nothing will stand in his way. With respect, we ask that you consider helping this family recover from the disaster imposed by our government against man who gave 15+ years of his life in often dangerous service to our country. The sad truth is that anyone of us could be faced with ruin simply because of ending up on the wrong side of people working to cover up and downplay any of the government’s decisions that go against policy or law.
John Kiriakou will not be silent. He will speak out on whistleblower rights, prison reform, torture policy and practices and transparency in government.