Ex-CIA officer Kiriakou 'made peace' with leak decision

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou leaves US District Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia 27 October 2012 "My small children have been upset that I am going away," Kiriakou told the BBC. "It has been hard on them."

A former CIA officer sentenced to 30 months in prison has told the BBC he has made peace with his decision to leak a covert officer's name.

John Kiriakou says he believes the case was about larger human rights issues.

He is the first person convicted of identifying a covert agent in 27 years.

Defence lawyers argued that Kiriakou's actions - giving a journalist the name of a former CIA officer alleged to have taken part in waterboarding - were those of a whistleblower.

Kiriakou, 48, is set to begin the prison term on Thursday.

Dropped charges

"I feel oddly optimistic about the coming two years," he told the BBC in an interview. "I feel very much at peace with my decision to go public on the torture issue."

Kiriakou, a CIA officer from 1990-2004, led an operation that captured Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaeda financier.

Start Quote

The justice department has made me a hero in the human rights community. I intend to use this notoriety”

End Quote John Kiriakou

Zubaydah was allegedly subjected to waterboarding - simulated drowning - 83 times during interrogation.

The investigation into Kiriakou's leak began after lawyers for suspected terrorists filed a legal brief that included details not provided by the government.

FBI investigators followed the trail back to Kiriakou and arrested him in January 2012, according to court records.

Prosecutors said that in 2008 the former officer leaked the name of a covert operative to a journalist, who subsequently disclosed it to a researcher working for the lawyer of a Guantanamo detainee.

When asked why he decided to leak the name, he told the BBC: "My case was not about leaking - my case was about torture."

"This is a case about civil liberties and human rights," he said. "Somebody needs to take a stand. I am very proud to have had a role in that."

Kiriakou pleaded guilty in October to disclosing classified information identifying a covert agent. A deal with prosecutors limited his sentence to 30 months. Several other charges were dropped.

"It was a crime," he said. "I had no intent to violate the law. I think it was my whistle-blowing that led to this sentence."

Prosecutors argued Kiriakou was merely seeking to increase his fame and public stature by trading on his insider knowledge. He later worked as a consultant for a US news network and published a book about his time at the CIA.

Kiriakou says he will spend his time in prison exercising and writing, but intends to use the attention the case has afforded him afterwards.

"The justice department has made me a hero in the human rights community," he said. "I intend to use this notoriety."

John Kiriakou was interviewed by the BBC World Service programme World Update. Listen back to the interview via BBC iPlayer or download a podcast.

More on This Story

More US & Canada stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • GeoguessrWhere in the world?

    Think you’re a geography expert? Test your knowledge with BBC Travel’s Geoguessr

Programmes

  • Suspension bridge connecting mountain peaksThe Travel Show Watch

    Must-see global events including walking the first suspension bridge to connect mountain peaks

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.