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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 wanted to be a GED instructor, but were told you had to be a janitor at the chapel?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I did. Right. I have a master's degree in legislative affairs, a bachelor's degree in Middle Eastern studies, and I did my Ph.D. coursework at the University of Virginia in international relations. So I thought, "Well, I'll make some good use of my time, and I'll teach a GED class." But when I volunteered, they told me, in not very nice language, "If we want you to teach an effing class, we'll ask you to teach an effing class." And so, I spent the next two years as a janitor in the chapel.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, you write at the end of one of your letters [from] Loretto, "By the time you read this" -- this was your last letter -- "I'll be home. Now the real work can begin -- the struggle for human rights, civil liberties and prison reform. I can guarantee you that I am unbowed, unbroken, uninstitutionalized and ready to fight." What does "uninstitutionalized" mean?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Well, uninstitutionalized means that I never allowed the prison officials in Loretto to cow me. I got into a dispute with a lieutenant who had a reputation as being a bully, really a bully and a provocateur. And he shouted at me one day, "You need to start acting more like an inmate!" And I said, "And what is that supposed to mean? Should I get a tattoo on my face? Should I steal food from the cafeteria to sell to people? If it means going like this and saying, 'Yes, sir. No, sir. Sorry, sir,' that's never going to happen. Never." I said, "Respect is two ways. You get respect when you give respect. And I don't respect you." And that's the attitude that I maintained throughout my two years in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: What most surprised you there, John?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I was really surprised how prisoners are treated as -- as not -- not treated as human beings. They're treated as somehow subhuman, people not to be respected, people about whose health we should not be concerned, people who don't deserve a fair hearing. It's warehousing, and it's warehousing being overseen by flunkies and dropouts from the local police academy or people who couldn't cut it in the military. They're the people running our lives in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou, going back to the issue you exposed, the issue of waterboarding and torture, how did the Obama administration continue these programs? Or did they?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I don't think they did. There is one thing that the Obama administration has continued, and really has perfected it, compared to what the Bush administration did. And that's drone strikes. President Obama has killed far more people with drone strikes than President Bush ever did.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of Greece? You're a Greek American. In fact, you did some of your CIA work in Greece. Can you talk about what you did there and how you feel about what's happened today with the rise of Syriza, the prime minister being the head of Syriza?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. I served in Greece for a couple of years, going back and forth, really, between headquarters and Greece. I was working on terrorism issues. But at the time -- and this kind of seems quaint now -- it was Euro-terrorism, communist terrorism, specifically the Revolutionary Organization 17 November. I had a great experience in Greece. It's a great country.

But the Greeks have had a tough time for the last -- especially for the last seven years or so. The recession has hit Greece probably harder than any other country in western Europe, certainly harder than in the United States. And part of the problem was, you had two governing parties -- PASOK and Neo Demokratia, New Democracy -- that were really corrupted by the system. And now, Syriza, which is a young, new, populist party, has won a sweeping victory in the recent parliamentary elections, falling only two seats short of an absolute majority, which in Greece is really an incredible feat.

Like most Greek Americans, I'm very excited about this. I think it was time for a change. It was time for a populist regime in Greece, a leftist populist regime. And I think that under Alexis Tsipras's leadership, I think the country may come out of its recession. Now, with that said, there's going to have to be some give from the troika in terms of aid and assistance to Greece. The Greek people have suffered terribly. Suicides are up something like 300 percent. There's a brain drain, where doctors, lawyers, engineers are moving to the United States or Europe or Australia. And that has to come to an end. The Greeks have to stay in Greece and try to rebuild their country. But I think that can be done under Syriza. I'm very excited about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, finally, as we come to an end of this conversation, from your home, under house arrest in Arlington, Virginia, your family -- what happened to your wife after you were convicted and sentenced? She also worked at the agency, is that right? And also you have five children.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Yes, that's right, I have five children. My wife was a highly decorated, highly respected CIA officer. She was really going places, and far smarter and more accomplished than I ever was. But she was fired the day that I was arrested, only because she was related to me. And she was out of work for 10 months before finding work finally here inside the Beltway at one of the government contractors, where she's really done beautifully, and they love her. But she was asked to leave just because she's married to me. It made raising five children very difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: And how are your kids, now that you've come home?

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