Truth vs. Torture: John Kiriakou and the Torture Report
Although the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday to declassify a report detailing the CIA’s use of torture that will confirm the 2007 revelations from John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and case officer, Kiriakou himself is still languishing in prison. Kiriakou still has at least another year left in prison, but as Americans confront the horror contained within the Torture Report, they ought to also call for justice and freedom for the brave whistleblower who warned us about it years ago.
On December 10, 2007 in an interview with ABC News, Kiriakou discussed his involvement in the capture and questioning of Abu Zubaydah, accused aide of Osama Bin Laden. Kiriakou admitted the CIA’s use of waterboarding on Al-Qaeda suspects, specifically Zubaydah, making him the first U.S. official to do so. If it had not been for Kiriakou, the public would not have known about the use of torture, which has now led to the call for the release of the Torture Report. Kirakou expressed doubts that the information gathered from waterboarding was worth the damage to the United States’ reputation.
On January 23, 2012 Kiriakou was charged with revealing the name of an undercover officer and the role of another officer in classified activities and a year later was sentenced to 30 months in prison. However, the case of Scooter Libby, former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, suggests that Kiriakou’s punishment is about more than his revelation of an undercover officer. In October 2005, Libby was charged with revealing the identity of an undercover CIA officer, which had endangered her life. He was also sentenced to 30 months, but President Bush commuted his sentence and Libby simply paid a fine and had two years of supervised release and completed 400 hours of community service. Despite the fact that Libby’s transgression was more serious than what John was accused of, John was the one imprisoned. This fact suggests that perhaps John was forced to complete his full sentence to punish him for his revelation of torture, even though he was not officially charged for it.
Despite the CIA’s claims to the Department of Justice and Congress that their actions helped to obtain valuable information to disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives, the torture report will show that this is false. For example, all useful information from Zubaydah was obtained well before he was waterboarded a grand total of 83 times. “The CIA conflated what was gotten when, which led them to misrepresent the effectiveness of the program,” said an anonymous U.S. official who has seen the report.
The report details multiple ways in which the CIA misrepresented the utility of the torture program. It will reveal incriminating evidence about a network of secret detention facilities called “black sites.” It will also show that the CIA conflated the ranking of Al-Qaeda officials. In the case of Zubaydah, they claimed he was a senior Al-Qaeda operative, when in reality he was merely a facilitator for recruits.
While the CIA officials involved in administering torture and misrepresenting the program are protected, Kiriakou is stuck in prison. The torture report will confirm and expand upon Kirakou’s disclosures. John Kiriakou has sacrificed so much to speak the truth; he has five children and a wife and he has already now lost a year to prison he will never get back and has another year to go. Kiriakou’s bravery should have been rewarded, not punished. If it were not for Kiriakou, we may not have known about the use of torture and the call for the release of the Torture Report may not have been possible. Clearly the use of torture did not aid in garnering useful information, and as Kiriakou predicted, it will severely harm the reputation of the United States. As citizens, we must express our outrage and disappointment at the methods employed by our government, but we must also call for rights to be wronged while we still can. It is time for John to be released and for his courage to be recognized.