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General News    H2'ed 2/12/15

Freed CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Says "I Would Do It All Again" to Expose Torture

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AMY GOODMAN: You're not quite free yet, though, right, John? How long did you serve in jail?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: No.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long do you have under house arrest?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I served 23 months in a low-security federal prison in Pennsylvania. I have three months of house arrest. And then, following house arrest, I am under what's called supervised release, which is really probation, for another three years.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about why you believe you were jailed.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, I am absolutely convinced, Amy, that I was jailed because of the torture debate. People leak information in Washington all the time, whether it's on purpose or inadvertent. We've seen -- we've seen people like former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former CIA Director General Petraeus, leaking classified information with impunity. And that has convinced me that I'm right when I say that my case was never about leaking. My case was about blowing the whistle on torture.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to former Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran, who took to the floor of the House of Representatives last year and called for President Obama to pardon you. Moran called you an "American hero" and a "whistleblower." He said, quote, "Kiriakou deserves a presidential pardon so his record can be cleared, just as this country is trying to heal from a dark chapter in its history." What is your response to that? You didn't get that pardon, at least as of yet.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: No. No, I am deeply, deeply grateful for the work that Congressman Moran did. My only regret is that he's retired now. He's no longer in Congress. But he's a very upstanding, very progressive and very decent man. I really appreciated his help. I've not formally asked for a pardon, and I probably won't this year. But there seems to be some support growing for it. I'm always on the lookout for congressional support. And I hope that I can develop that through 2015 and then maybe go to the president sometime next year and ask for a pardon.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break, and then we're going to go back in time and talk about what you did, talk about the fact that you're the only official related to the torture program, you blowing the whistle on torture, who has been jailed. We're talking to John Kiriakou, who spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer, exposed the Bush-era torture program, became the only official jailed in connection with it. We'll be back with him at his home under house arrest in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We're spending the hour with John Kiriakou, under house arrest right now at his home in Arlington, Virginia, but he is out of jail. He spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and a case officer, exposed the Bush-era torture program, became the only official jailed in connection with it. In 2007, he became the first CIA official to publicly confirm the Bush administration's use of waterboarding; in January 2013, sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to confirming the identity of a covert officer to a reporter, who didn't publish it. Let's go back in time to your experience with Abu Zubaydah, John Kiriakou. How did you come to meet him?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I was the leader of a CIA group in Pakistan that conducted a series of 14 raids on suspected al-Qaeda safe houses around the central part of the country. And Abu Zubaydah happened to be in one of the houses that we raided. And after something of a gun battle, we captured him.

AMY GOODMAN: So, since your interview in 2007, it's become known that Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times and that he provided no useful information as a result. He remains imprisoned at Guantanamo without charge. His name appears more than a thousand times in the Senate report on torture that was released in December. Talk about what you know happened to him.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. Abu Zubaydah was shot three times while being captured, shot by Pakistani authorities -- once in the thigh, once in the groin and once in the stomach -- with an AK-47. He was very gravely wounded. And so, when he was rendered, when he was taken away from Pakistan, he was sent to a secret location, and the CIA sent a trauma surgeon from Johns Hopkins University Medical Center to this secret location to give him medical assistance. He underwent surgery. For some reason, he even had an eye removed. I'm not sure why that happened, but we know that now to be the case. And over the course of the next several months, he recovered from his gunshot wounds.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about how you met him.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. When we first captured him, we took him to a hospital, a military hospital in Pakistan. He had lost so much blood, we needed to transfuse him. And he was initially in a coma. He came out of the coma a couple of times, and we were able, at first, to just exchange an initial comment, later on, in the next couple of days, to have short conversations. For example, when he first came out of his coma, he asked me for a glass of red wine. He was delirious. Later in the evening, he asked me if I would take the pillow and smother him. And then, the next day, we talked about poetry. We talked about Islam. We talked about the fact that he had never supported the attacks on the United States. He wanted to attack Israel.

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