Waterboarding Whistleblower Released From Prison, Two Months After Torture Report's Release Vindicated His Actions
from the the-real-criminals-are-still-at-large dept
Guess who went to jail because of the CIA’s long-running, illegal torture programs.
It wasn’t former director Leon Panetta, who was ultimately responsible for the actions of his agency. It wasn’t any number of agents, officials or supervisors who directly or indirectly participated in the ultimately useless torture of detainees. It wasn’t the private contractors who profited from these horrendous acts committed in the name of “national security.”
The single person to be put behind bars thanks to the CIA’s torture programs was the man who blew the whistle on the agency’s waterboarding: John Kiriakou. Now, he’s finally free again (mostly), two months after the Torture Report that corroborates his allegations was released.
Kiriakou is serving out the remainder of his sentence for “revealing an undercover operative’s identity” under house arrest. While still imprisoned, Kiriakou wondered aloud (in the Los Angeles Times) why Panetta wasn’t facing similar charges, considering the former CIA head had disclosed far more sensitive information, including the names of SEAL operatives to a civilian — the screenwriter for Zero Dark Thirty.
Now that he’s out, he’s still talking. Kiriakou gave his first post-release interview to Fusion’s Daniel Rivero, and it opens up with a stark (but ultimately upbeat) statement about the damage this government can do to those who attempt to hold it accountable.
“It’s been a terrible three years, and it’s ruined me financially and personally, but in the greater picture it’s all been worth it,” John Kiriakou told Fusion over the phone from Arlington, Virginia, where he just began serving an 85-day house arrest sentence. It was his first interview since leaving a federal prison in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
“I’m proud I had a role in seeing that torture is now banned in the United States,” he said.
The ultimate irony, he says, is that everything he was punished for saying has now been proven true. But this administration treats the unapproved dissemination of unflattering facts as criminal activity, rather than the check against government overreach it actually is. On the flipside, it allows officials like Panetta (and hundreds of unnamed ones granted anonymity by journalists) to “leak” classified information in order to push its preferred narrative.
Kiriakou’s revelations should have prompted a deeper examination of the CIA, rather than a vindictive prosecution. Choosing this path — one of the DOJ’s favorites — allowed the intelligence agency to expand and intensify its “enhanced interrogation” tactics.
[T]hat’s the problem with the torture program. Torture is a slippery slope, and once you start dehumanizing people, it’s almost a human tendency to do worse and worse and worse things to get the information you are supposed to be after,” Kiriakou said.
Imprisonment alone also dehumanizes people. Sometimes, the easiest way to throw someone’s credibility into question is simply to press charges. Despite our justice system being advertised as “innocent until proven guilty,” the perception among the general public tends to be that the accused is guilty until proven otherwise, or let off on a technicality. Prosecuting whistleblowers softens the impact of the exposed information, especially among those predisposed to granting the government more credibility than its citizens. The DOJ — and the administration — knows this, which is why this tactic has been pursued more often during the last seven years than in all the previous administrations combined.
CIA personnel — and those overseeing them — will see less time behind bars combined than John Kiriakou served on his own, because that’s how supremely screwed up our government is at this point.