Whistleblower John Kiriakou Questions Why He's In Jail While Former CIA Boss Leon Panetta Is Free
from the who-did-worse? dept
We’ve written a few times about the ridiculous case against CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. Kiriakou’s main “crime” was revealing the CIA’s waterboarding/torture program. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that this was true whistleblowing. Both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have admitted that waterboarding was torture and that it was wrong for the US to do. On top of that, as we’ve been discussing a lot lately, the Senate Intelligence Committee is sitting on a devastating 6,300 page report that supposedly condemns the CIA’s torture program as being far worse than previously revealed and which obtained no useful intelligence. It seems like those are the kinds of things we’d want people to blow the whistle on.
Of course, despite trying to find a way to claim that Kiriakou’s whistleblowing was illegal, the DOJ couldn’t find any charges related to that which would stick, so it did what it’s done to plenty of other whistleblowers: go in search of something else, really anything else to charge him with, and it finally came up with something. A reporter who was working on a book about the torture program asked Kiriakou if he could recommend former colleagues that he could interview. Kiriakou said no, but the reporter mentioned a former colleague’s first name — a former CIA operative who was well known to multiple journalists at the time, and Kiriakou confirmed that former colleague’s last name, saying he believed he was retired. The DOJ spun this as Kiriakou revealing the name of a CIA agent, even though nothing Kiriakou did made that agent’s name public (it was later revealed by others). For all of this, Kiriakou ended up taking a 30 month prison sentence as a plea deal, realizing it was better than fighting through a full trial, in which he could get many, many more years in jail.
Kiriakou hasn’t been silent from jail, and he’s even been punished for speaking to the press. However, it appears that this won’t stop him from exercising his free speech rights. He recently penned a powerful op-ed for the LA Times asking why he’s in jail, while former CIA boss and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta isn’t even being investigated.
If you don’t recall, a few months ago, we noted that Panetta was likely to get off scott free, despite revealing a ton of classified info, including the names of the Navy SEAL officers who shot Osama bin Laden to film maker Mark Boal, who wrote the screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty. Of course, in an effort to protect “important people” we wouldn’t have even known about Panetta’s revealing classified information if a report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General hadn’t leaked. Of course, after the leak, federal officials focused on tracking down those who leaked the report but have done absolutely nothing about Panetta who clearly leaked very sensitive information. It’s a “high court” / “low court” situation where powerful people break the law in much worse ways and are left alone, while people without power are bulldozed by the system.
From under the bulldozer, Kiriakou questions how that’s reasonable. He points out that part of the reason he took his plea deal was because, under the Espionage Act (as we’ve discussed before) all evidence of intent and purpose are inadmissible, allowing the government to paint perfectly innocent actions as nefarious. And that’s clearly what they were going to do to him. And yet, these same officials say that Panetta’s (much bigger) revelation of classified info was okay because it was an accident, and he didn’t intend to reveal that info to a filmmaker. Kiriakou notes the double standard that now has him behind bars:
If an intent to undermine U.S. national security or if identifiable harm to U.S. interests are indeed not relevant to Espionage Act enforcement, then the White House and the Justice Department should be in full froth. Panetta should be having his private life dug in to, sifted and seized as evidence, as happened to me and six others under the Obama administration.
When the transcript of Panetta’s speech and his inadvertent leak came to light in January, a CIA spokesman told the Associated Press that the agency had subsequently “overhauled its procedures for interaction with the entertainment industry.” Such internal reviews are fine and good, but equality before the law is the rule in America. Your job title, your Rolodex and your political friendships are not supposed to trump accountability. Except when they do.
Stories like this aren’t just distressing when you consider basic concepts like fairness, proportionality and common sense. They also undermine faith in our government, and — more importantly — its credibility.