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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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JOHN KIRIAKOU: Absolutely. The government has decided not to prosecute them, but I think if there are going to be prosecutions, those prosecutions should begin with Mitchell and Jessen. They were wholly unqualified for the bill of goods they sold the CIA, and they simply committed crimes overseas in the name of the U.S. government. I think they should be prosecuted for those crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of revealing the name of a covert agent, why did you think that was critical in telling the story of waterboarding?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Well, interestingly enough, the agent whose name I was convicted of releasing -- and I did release it. I did tell this reporter this gentleman's name. I didn't actually volunteer it, I confirmed it. He had already had it. But the reporter was going to write an article saying that this man was instrumental in the torture program, and that wasn't true. He was a good man. He had nothing to do with torture. He happened to be working in the rendition program. And I was trying to correct the record. This reporter wanted someone to interview about the program, asked if I could make an introduction. I said, "I don't think he'll talk to you. I think he's probably retired by now. But he was not a part of the torture program."

AMY GOODMAN: Did CIA officials or your co-workers, people in intelligence services, reach out to you either expressing their support for you or their condemnation?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, yes, dozens and dozens of former colleagues have reached out to me over the last three years. The support has been really overwhelming from my former CIA colleagues. I can honestly tell you that I can count on one hand the number ofCIA officers who have walked away from me, who have ended our friendships. And every single one of those, those five individuals, was instrumental in the torture program.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, we're going to break. When we come back, you wrote letters from Loretto, from the prison, and I want to talk about your time in the prison, your concerns about prisons, and how you were treated, how other prisoners were treated. We're talking to John Kiriakou, who spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer. He exposed the Bush-era torture program, became the only official jailed in connection with it. In 2007, he was 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 jail after pleading guilty to confirming the identity of a covert officer to a reporter, who ended up not publishing it. John Kiriakou has also written his memoir; it's called Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror. He was released from prison last week but remains under house arrest for three months. That's where we're talking to him, at his home in Arlington, Virginia. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: "P.H.A.T.W.A." by The Narcicyst, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with this exclusive radio/television/web broadcast with John Kiriakou, who is at home under house arrest in Arlington, Virginia. He was a CIA analyst and case officer for 14 years. He exposed the Bush-era torture program, became the only official jailed in connection with it, exposed waterboarding in 2007. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. John, you were held at FCI Loretto in Pennsylvania, the federal correctional institution there. Can you talk about the letters you decided to write from there and what your life was like behind bars?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. Before I went to prison, several friends of mine -- Jesselyn Radack from the Government Accountability Project, Jane Hamsher from Firedoglake.com, Tom Drake formerly of the NSA, Dan Ellsberg -- they mentioned that they thought I should write an open letter to my supporters once I got situated in prison, just to let them know how I was doing. And I thought that was a good idea. So, when I got to Loretto, February 28th, 2013, I allowed myself about six weeks to get situated. And I should add, I've always been a big fan of Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail. And I had a copy with me in prison. I read it and reread it and reread it again. And I thought, "Well, I'll structure it in the same way, and I'll write it person to person. So, that's what I did.

Much to my surprise -- this was only supposed to go to about 600 people. Much to my surprise, it was picked up by The Huffington Post, and then, from Huffington Post, it went crazy -- all the broadcast networks, half a dozen magazines -- and it got about a million hits. And I realized that Americans really do want to know what it's like inside prison. I should add, too, that FCI Loretto is no Club Fed. This is a real prison with rows and rows of concertina wire atop and astride large -- or, I should say, high fences. This is a serious prison. There's no golf course. There's no movie theater. It's like what you see on TV. So, I wanted to convey that. And the letters became so popular that I made them into a series. I think I did probably 17 or 18 of them by the time I left to come home.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, you wrote, "People under the care of the medical unit at Loretto die with terrifying frequency." Can you explain what would happen?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. I'll give you a couple of examples. A couple of days before I left to come home, I was in the medical unit giving blood for some blood tests, and another prisoner wheeled a third prisoner in in a wheelchair. This man was about 70 years old. He was obviously having a heart attack. He was crying. He was clutching his chest. And he said, "I'm having a heart attack." Well, the woman who was helping me, who was drawing my blood, looked up at him and said, "Well, you're just going to have to wait, because I'm the only person here, and you have to wait until somebody else comes in to work." And that poor old man sat in that wheelchair in the midst of a heart attack until somebody else came to work, diagnosed him with a heart attack, and called an ambulance to take him to a local hospital. That kind of behavior is typical.

I'll give you another example. There was a man who lived across the hall from the chapel. I worked in the chapel as an orderly. And this man complained routinely of back pain, severe back pain. Sometimes he would be hunched over. As the weeks passed, he had a cane, then he had a walker, then he's in a wheelchair. I said, "My goodness, what is wrong with you?" He said, "My back is killing me, and they won't take me to a hospital for a test." So, finally, the chaplain intervened and said, "This guy's condition is obviously deteriorating quickly. Please take him to a hospital for a test." They finally took him to the local hospital. Stage IV cancer of the spine. He was dead in two weeks. And that's really typical of the medical care in prison, not just in Loretto, but all over the Bureau of Prisons.

AMY GOODMAN: You wanted to be a --

JOHN KIRIAKOU: You have to --

AMY GOODMAN: -- a GED instructor, John, in the prison?

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