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John Kiriakou, is a Whistleblower-- former CIA agent, former federal prisoner, Winner of ten of the CIA's Exceptional Performance Awards, a Sustained Superior performance Award, the Counterterrorism Service Medal, and the State Department's Meritorious Honor Award. He was also awarded the 2012 Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, which is awarded to "national security whistleblowers who stood up for constitutional rights and American values, at great risk to their personal and professional lives"
Rough Interview Notes
Rob: Tell us what you did to land you in jail.
i was 14 years in the CIA, was director of CIA's director of counter-terrorism in Pakistan.
Bush went on TV and said that "we do not torture." I knew that was a lie and that the president was lying to the American people. I decided to tell the American people" I was put in prison for 23 months.
Rob: Thank you for telling the truth. What are you doing now?
I'm working for the institute for Policy Studies.
Rob: tell us a story about something in your life that led you to do what you did?
My sister told a reporter that we were taught to tell the truth. My parents taught me the difference between right and wrong. The CIA taught that everything was grey, there was no right or wrong. Torture is wrong.
Rob: What is your goal,
Almost to a man, whistleblowers are never able to recover financially. They die broke. As part of my punishment the government took my pension.
I'm going to try to impact prison reform, sentencing reform.
The IPS has given me a weekly newspaper column. I've used it to write about our broken, violent, racist prison problem.
-imprisonment of mentally ill
Why do we accept a second or third world prison system.
Rob: What are you books?
Letters from Loretto-- based on blogs on Firedoglake. going out to publishers
DOing Time Like A Spy-- how the CIA taught me how to survive and thrive in prison-- how I took 20 life lessons that I applied in prison.
I've seen statistics that as many as 85% of prisoners have some form of mental illness, so you have to protect yourself.
And THE RELUCTANT SPY--
Rob: You had some advice for Ed Snowden. What did you say to him.
I sent him an open letter (and a private letter.
Most importantly he should never, ever cooperate with the FBI. The FBI will lie and cheat and twist your words, use your words against you, and even if you are innocent they will still" I would say that to any American. Don't ever cooperate with the FBI. I advised him to seek allies, like Govt Accountability project, ExposeFacts.org
It is against the law, even in the charter for NSA to spy on Americans. Now, that's NSA's primary role.
They're now using that spying on Americans and using the spying-- with Jeffrey Sterling, it was metadata used against him that led to 90 felony convictions.
Rob: Please tell the audience was jeffrey Sterling was primarily charged with?
He filed a racial discrimination suit against the CIA, but it was thrown out because the CIA claimed they would have to reveal secrets
waste, fraud, abuse and illegality-- that the CIA came up with a hair brained scheme to get plans for a nuclear weapon for Iran-- a flop from the beginning.
Sterling went to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence HPSCI and reported this.
Someone told James Risen about the story and Jeffrey was charged when Risen reported on it in his book.
There are two kinds of people who go to trial-- lunatics and people who are innocent.
He was convicted and the government asked for 19-24 years. But instead General Petraeus, who confirmed the name of 10 covert operatives to his girlfriend. So the judge gave him 3.5 years.
The Bureau of prisons try to screw you.
They put me in the actual prison. The guards would whisper to me, "scum" and "traitor." I told Sterling they were going to screw him, to send him far away from his family, so his time would go slower.
Rob: What's your take on the current justice system in America?
I was fired from a six figure position, had to take a job stocking shelves. They said I did it for money. I say that the prosecutors did it for money.
There really is no presumption of innocence before being found guilty in this country. That's a joke. 98.2% conviction rate is not something to be proud of. To me that tells you that the fix is in.
Rob: So I guess this is what you want to work on. What do you want to see happen, long and short term goals.
We're seeing" the left and right coming together. Members of congress are coming together-- seeing that mandatory minimums are not working-- for Democrats it's unfair, for Republicans, it's too expensive. So they're interested in prison and sentencing reform. There's a lot more support in the senate than in the house-- because of the leadership"
Rob: that's good news. Is there a timeline?
There's a real chance of legislation actually passing in 2016 election year.
President Obama has taken an interest. He's the first sitting president to visit a prison. President Obama has given fewer pardons than any other president in American history.
Rob: You just wrote an article about this. Can you tell us more.
just went to the All Star game " Johnny Bench, Larkin, Morgan, and then, Pete Rose" has been banned for life from baseball since 1987. When he stepped out on the field this crowd of 50,000 went crazy, chanting, "Hall of Fame."
One of the maxims of Washington is everybody gets a second chance. Pete Rose deserves a second chance. People under draconian minimum sentences deserve a second chance.
Tells story of Mark, who had been in the meth business and then withdrew but was found guilty, with enhancements, like being a leader, which got him a sentence of three life terms w without parole-- first time drug offense, as a teenager. He appealed the sentence and it was reduced to 30 years. He's 16 years into the sentence. His life is ruined. Where's the second chance for Mark, for others like Mark?
Rob: Tips to whistleblowers? Did you know that it would destroy your life?
I was very naive about it. I thought that telling the truth".
Advice: Generic whistleblowers: know your rights. There is a whistle bower protection law that protects you.
National security whistleblowers are exempt from the whistleblower act. If you blow the whistle, life will be tough. Hire an attorney before not after you blow the whistle.
Whistleblowing is the only thing that keeps the govt honest.
Rob: Any other advice for National security whistleblowers.
This is going to be really expensive. Be prepared to spend over a million dollars.
Rob: Compare your experience as a whistleblower with some other whistleblowers I've interviewed, like Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Raddack
All have become dear friends of mine. I told Dan, I remember when you went public. I was six years old. My parents spoke at the dinner table. My mother told me that Daniel Ellsberg was a hero.
I started following the Tom Drake case.
Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe
The entire case collapsed,
Charged Tom Drake with misuse of a govt. computer, (he looked at Facebook) and he got 18 months of probation.
Steven Kim had a conversation with a reporter at Fox News, and was charged with espionage. In order to get the reduced charge he got he had to state that "I am not a whistleblower."
It's not up to the justice department to decide who is a whistleblower.
Rob: Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all past presidents combined.
The transparency president has overseen prosecution of 9 people under the espionage act. Three times that of all president combined. That is a president who is waging war against the press, against whistleblowers.
Rob: is there any hope? Things seem very bad for whistleblowers--
It is bad. The only hope that I see is if civil libertarians on the right and left put their foot down" it's the libertarians-- they're the only ones standing up for our civil liberties and constitutional rights. We have the constitutional right to freedom of speech and people like me are intent on exercising that right. But in fact this justice could come up with something to charge one or both of us with.
Rob: Did you feel like a ham sandwich?
sometimes I wake up in the morning" what have I gotten myself into. We had to move out of our house, had to go on food stamps" we went to the welfare office and we qualified for everything-- foodstamps, medicaid" We were ruined quickly.
Rob: you owe your attorneys a million dollars? They must have known you weren't going to be able to pay it.
They told us not to file bankruptcy.
Rob: Would you recommend them now?
Akin Gump and Strauss
others Ed McMahon, Abbe Lowell
Rob: Earlier you advised whistleblowers to get an attorney before whistle blowing
I really believe Chelsea Manning will get in front of the supreme court.
Espionage act was written to target German Saboteurs during the first world war.
passing national defense information"
Happens in DC every single day.
Rob: the cost for an attorney"
You need to walk in the door with $5000 check and be ready to have $50,000 more within weeks.
The govt says go through channels. Many did and they were charged with espionage.
I went on television.
Some whistle blowers call a reporter.
You need to use a burner phone, or encrypted email.
Rob: There's exposefacts.org
Signal app, and email service called proton mail.com that's encrypted.
Rob: We're going to wrap up in a minute. Anything else you want to bring up?
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