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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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CHUCK TODD: Well, I'm asking you.

DICK CHENEY: I'm saying --

CHUCK TODD: Is that too high? Is that -- you're OK with that margin for error?

DICK CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dick Cheney on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. John Kiriakou, your thoughts? Should Vice President Cheney be tried?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: My own personal belief is, yes, sure, he should. But I think there's another point to be made here. We've seen Vice President Cheney, we've seen former CIA directors, several of them, former senior CIA officers go on the network news programs and defend, defend, defend their actions during the torture regime. The reason that they're doing that is because torture is their legacy. When their obituaries are written, those obituaries are going to say that they were instrumental in the torture program. And the only thing they can do at this point to save their reputations is to keep repeating this lie that torture worked and hope that the American people eventually believe it.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your thoughts today on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden? What would you advise him?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I think Ed Snowden is a national hero. I think Ed Snowden gave us information on government illegality that we otherwise would never have had. I regret that the federal government has revoked his passport and has caused him to be stuck in Russia, but I think that he did a very courageous thing. I'm not sure I would have released all of the information that he released, because, in some cases, I want NSA to be spying on foreign governments and foreign leaders. That's what NSA does; that's what they're supposed to do. I want the U.S. government to have a leg up, for example, in trade negotiations or defense contracting or whatever it is. But in terms of the illegality that Ed Snowden revealed, I think he did a great national service.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2013, Edward Snowden commented on the Obama administration's treatment of whistleblowers who preceded him. He said, quote, "Binney, Drake, Kiriakou, and Manning are all examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they'll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers. If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they'll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response." Again, those the words of Ed Snowden. Do you think Edward Snowden should come back to the United States, John Kiriakou?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I do not, not under any circumstances. And I've said that both publicly and privately to him in a letter. I do not believe that he will get a fair trial in the United States, especially in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he's being charged or where he has been charged. I think the deck is stacked against him, as it is against any whistleblower, and if the government has its way, Ed Snowden will never see the light of day.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read a comment made by the judge at your sentencing hearing, John. Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced you to 30 months in prison back in January 2013, saying, quote, "This case is not a case about a whistleblower. It's a case about a man who betrayed a very solemn trust, and that is a trust to keep the integrity of his agency intact and specifically to protect the identity of co-workers. ... I think 30 months is, frankly, way too light, because the message has to be sent to every covert agent that when you leave the agency you can't just start all of a sudden revealing the names of the people with whom you worked," Judge Brinkema said. Your response?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Yes. Three months earlier, in the hearing in which I accepted the plea, Judge Brinkema said that 30 months was, quote, "fair" -- what did she say? Now I'm forgetting it. She said it was "fair and appropriate." And she compared my case to that of Scooter Libby, even though Scooter Libby never leaked the identity of Valerie Plame. When the courtroom was full of reporters three months later, that's when she decided to get tough and say that 30 months wasn't enough. Judge Brinkema had ample opportunity to sentence me to as much as 10 years, and she didn't. She sentenced me to 30 months.

Now, with that said, we had trouble with Judge Brinkema's rulings from the very beginning. Anytime we tried to introduce evidence of whistleblowing, it was denied; of government wrongdoing, denied; my own personal history in the CIA, where I won 12 exceptional performance awards, the Meritorious Honor Award, the Counterterrorism Service Medal, not admissible. And that's what has led me to believe that there's no way Ed Snowden is going to get a fair trial, and he shouldn't come back to Virginia.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, did you know the now notorious psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who designed the government torture program at places like Guantanamo?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: No, I had never met them. When I was working in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, it was a very large room. We called it a cubicle farm. There were hundreds of people in this room. And I remember them arriving and taking offices, private offices, at the very back of the room, but I never had any personal contact with either Mitchell or Jessen.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think they should be prosecuted? Apparently, the government has decided not to?

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