When I was sentenced to 30 months in prison after blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture program, friends, allies, former colleagues, and a whole lot of attorneys warned me that the Justice Department, the FBI, and the CIA were likely angry at the short sentence I received. Indeed, even after getting no halfway house time at all, I was released after serving only 23 months. I took those warnings seriously. I didn't trust anybody, inside or outside prison, and I was always alert to the fact that the FBI would likely try to set me up. Again.
Before my arrest, I was the senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, working for then-chairman John Kerry. As part of that job, I had lunch regularly with foreign diplomats. We would talk about the events of the day, the Middle East, war and peace, and other issues in the news.
One day a Japanese diplomat invited me to lunch. We met at a restaurant on Capitol Hill. I remember discussing Turkish and Israeli elections with him. At the end of the lunch, the diplomat asked, "So what's next for you?" "Well," I answered, "I think I'm going to resign soon. I told Senator Kerry that I'd give him two years. It's been two-and-a-half. I'd like to go back into business for myself." "No!" The Japanese exclaimed excitedly. His voice became a whisper. "I can give you money if you give me information."
I became angry. "Do you know how many times I've made that pitch? Shame on you. I'm going to report this."
I went directly to the office of the Senate Security Officer and told him that I had just been pitched by a foreign intelligence officer. He asked me to write him a memo, which he then sent to the FBI.
The next day, two FBI agents interviewed me. I told them the story and they asked me to call the diplomat back, invite him to lunch, and try to get him to tell me exactly what information he wanted and how much money he was willing to pay for it. I did that, and I wrote the FBI another memo. They asked me to do it again, a third time, a fourth, and a fifth. I sent memos to the FBI, recounting the conversation, after each lunch. Finally, the diplomat said that he was being transferred to Cairo. I shook his hand and wished him well. I never saw him again.
A year later, after my arrest, I received "discovery" from the Justice Department. In it were three memos between the CIA and the Justice Department. The first, from the CIA said, "Charge him with espionage." The Justice Department responded, "But he hasn't committed espionage." The CIA wrote back, "Charge him anyway and make him defend himself." And so they did.
The problem for the Justice Department was that I hadn't committed espionage. And so the FBI concocted a scheme, whereby an FBI agent pretended to be a Japanese diplomat to try to trap me into committing actual espionage. But I kept reporting the contact. To the FBI! The "transfer to Cairo" was just a way for the FBI to wrap up the operation. There would be no additional criminal charges.
But the FBI wasn't done with me. The 30 months I had received was not the 30 years they had preferred. I had been incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania, for about six weeks when a fellow prisoner, an Afghan national, approached me and said that a new prisoner wanted to meet me. The new prisoner, he said, had been the Taliban's spokesman in the United States and was in prison on a gun charge.
I declined. I had nothing to say to the Taliban spokesman, whose case I vaguely remembered from six or eight years earlier. A few days later, an obviously Afghan-looking man approached me in the prison yard, his hand outstretched and a big smile on his face. I immediately put my hands in the air. All I needed was a long-distance FBI photo of me shaking hands with a confessed terrorist. I told him to back off, using words that were much less polite. I wasn't going to shake his hand. "Come on," he said. We have a lot in common. "We have nothing in common," I told him. "Walk away before we have a problem."
As it turned out, he was released six days later. Imagine. He was only at Loretto for six days. I wonder what the FBI had offered him to wear a wire that day, to try to get me to implicate myself in God knows what. I'm glad I hadn't taken the chance.
I was released from prison in February 2015. Six months later, two FBI agents came to my door. They were all smiles and could not have been any friendlier. They showed me their badges and asked if I remembered a prisoner with whom I socialized at Loretto. I responded with, "You guys have a lot of nerve coming here. You know I'm represented by counsel." They said that my former "friend" might have returned to a life of crime. I told them to get off my property.
Last week, things turned a little more ominous. I received a call from a man who said that he and I had been colleagues overseas more than a decade ago. I did not recognize his name, so I asked him a few questions about where in the CIA he had worked and whom he knew from those days. He dropped a couple of names, but his CIA lingo was incorrect. He also seemed to know a little about my career, but he had the years wrong. I was confident that I had never worked with him.
By the end of the conversation, he had offered me a "consultancy," about what I am still not sure. He also offered me $5,000 a month to do "research" on his behalf. This had "pitch" written all over it. I wanted to have the same conversation with him that I had had with the fake diplomat. I wanted to say, "Do you know how many times I've made that same offer over the years?" But it wasn't worth wasting my breath. I told him to take a hike.