JB: Not a pretty picture for those who buck the party line, then or now. What did you do that got you in hot water, John?
JK: Well, it depends who you ask. The Justice Department will tell you that I confirmed the name of a former CIA colleague to a reporter. I did. I'm sorry I did that. But that happens in Washington every single day. Just look at the Washington Post or the New York Times in the morning. And those cases are never, ever prosecuted. But in my case, in December 2007, I went on ABC News and confirmed that the CIA was torturing its prisoners. I said three things in that interview that completely changed the course of the rest of my life. I said the CIA was torturing its prisoners, that torture was official U.S. Government policy, and that the policy had been personally approved by the president. The FBI began investigating me within 24 hours. That investigation lasted four years, and in January 2012, I was charged with five felonies.
JB: The timing of the FBI investigation certainly flunks the sniff test. What happened with the charges?
JK: I was charged with three counts of espionage (two for speaking to the New York Times and one for speaking with ABC News), one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981 (IIPA) and one count of making a false statement. Four of the charges were dismissed--all of the espionage counts and the false statement count. I took a plea to violating the IIPA. This was really an economic decision. The government offered me a sentence of 30 months. I could have risked it and gone to trial. But if I had been convicted, I was facing 45 years in prison. I knew that if I took the deal, I'd be out in under two years. I was. Now I am home and can support my family.
Of course, at the same time, the CIA torturers are free, the officials who came up with the torture program are free, the attorneys who justified the torture are free, the officials who approved of the torture are free, and the CIA officer who destroyed evidence of the torture is free. That's Washington. I bucked the system. I aired the dirty laundry. So they moved to crush me.
JB: Did you anticipate that the government would come down on you like a pile of bricks? Were you hoping that you would slip under the radar like most of the media leakers that you referred to before?
JK: I didn't think that I had done anything wrong. I had only confirmed what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Committee of the Red Cross had already said publicly. But I had decided in advance of the interview that I was going to tell the truth. As crazy as it may sound, I'm glad I did. And I would do it again.
Interestingly, too, it wasn't the Bush Administration that really targeted me. The FBI investigated me from December, 2007 to December, 2008 and closed the case, saying that I hadn't committed any crime. A month later, when Obama was inaugurated, the CIA asked him to reopen the case. The FBI then investigated me for another three years and finally charged me.
JB:Sadly, the Obama Administration does have a reputation for going after whistleblowers and journalists to an unprecedented degree. It's not that surprising that you got caught in their crosshairs. That brings us to the present. Have you anything to say about the current political environment and the upcoming election?