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.

Reader Comments (rss)

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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:03pm

    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 that this was true whistleblowing.


    I believe you mean it's difficult to argue that this was not true whistleblowing?

     

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    anon, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:06pm

    TO BE HONEST

    I don't think at this stage that the American government actually cares right now what they are perceived to be or if anyone looks at them as criminals or not or fair or not. The American people have given their government full power to do whatever they want even if it is illegal under their own laws.
    The only time they worry and even then not worry too much is around voting time, which is not really a problem when you control the whole process and the media. Have a few other parties get reasonable support and votes and they might start worrying about what people think but i doubt that is not goign to happen any time soon.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:30pm

      Re: TO BE HONEST

      Any voter who has been paying attention is already pissed off, and there's not much that the government could practically do to appease them. Most voters haven't been paying attention, so the government sets not pissing off those remaining voters as one of its highest priorities. The voters who haven't been pissed off yet are basically equivalent to swing voters, because their voting patterns can change based on their perceptions of the politicians.

      This is why the government cares more about whistleblowers than it does about actual criminality. Breaking the law doesn't affect the current political climate, while embarrassing leaks can lower their chances for long-term political survival.

       

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    Namel3ss (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:16pm

    Can't undermine my faith in government

    It's already been completely gutted and collapsed in on itself.

     

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    AricTheRed (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:34pm

    Another example of my flaming optimism

    These sorts of acts are simply the most logical ones of "The Most Transparent Regime", right before the drones launch on US presons in CONUS due to the fact of We The People being declared Enemy Combatants...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:36pm

    It's been far too long since someone of integrity occupied the Oval Office.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:52pm

    this example shows exactly what lengths the DoJ will go to to get a conviction. if they want you, they will get you, no matter whether guilty or not, no matter what you did or not!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 5:35pm

    And this is what horse with no name and average_joe consider due process?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 12:41am

    The people running these agencies (CIA, and NSA) have deliberately set up a bureaucracy where those that are truly patriotic Americans, that care about the rule of law and the constitution are weeded out, harassed, and if they still don't get the "message" imprisoned. They have created a stick and carrot system, where if you just do as they say, and ignore the rule of law, you get lots of money (the carrot). If you dare to speak out, because you don't care about the carrot as much as the rule of law, then they apply the stick.

    When you hear the executive branch, or the legislative branch talk about changes, listen to see if anything they mention happens to be the "stick" that would be applied to the people running these agencies if they break the law. When it came to torture, the message that the Obama administration put forth was "these were things in the past, and we should just move on" It's not too late to indite and charge people from the previous administration, or those that are still in the CIA for their participation in the torture of human beings. Why aren't we doing that?

     

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 3:08am

    Whistleblower John Kiriakou Questions Why He's In Jail While Former CIA Boss Leon Panetta Is Free

    Because he's the weak link in the chain. If you have enough power (or powerful people backing you up) you'll get away with anything. Genocide, holocaust, whatever you name will go unpunished. When you see a figure of power being punished it is because either they lost it or it's because there are interests that this person "pays" for their crimes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 3:52am

    The difference between Kiriakou and Panetta is that the latter has dirt on everyone in the administration...

     

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    Richard (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 4:16am

    At least in the UK he could have fought it

    The US plea bargain system really sucks - in the UK he might have been able to fight - and win - like Clive Ponting. Although after that case the government did change the law one suspects that a modern jury in the UK would ignore it and do the same as Ponting's jury.

     

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    Aussie Geoff (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 4:19am

    They also undermine faith in our government [the US govt], and -- more importantly -- its credibility.

    You will have to excuse my ignorance but I didn't realize the US govt had any credibility at all, or integrity, honesty or morality for that matter.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 6:31am

    What can the US do?

    Just what would the US need to do to recover its credibility or integrity? A better question may be, when has the US ever had credibility or integrity?

     

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    GEMont, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 5:23pm

    "The People" VS "We The People"

    The US government works for The People.

    Its integrity and fairness are reserved for dealings with The People.

    Eventually, the US public will realize that "The People" does not include the US public.

    However, its unlikely that the US public will ever figure out just who "The People" actually are, since so few of "The People" are Americans.

    But no matter. Once "The People" get Obama's new war under way, all of this stuff will be swept under the carpet anyway.

    Nothing gets the American public's attention more completely than counting the dead bodies of their children and hating some foreigners.

    And lets face it, the Russian Aristocracy is just as desperately in need of a new war as the US Fed is, so it'll be a "good" war for both sides.

    The kind that never fails to put an end to "The People's" civilian dissent problems and allows both sides to disappear all of those who have spoken out against it.

    Fascism is a business model, not a political process, and as such it is perfectly predictable.

     

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