Convicted Whistleblower John Kiriakou Champions the Case of Jeffrey Sterling

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This year’s recipient of the coveted Sam Adams Award for intelligence professionals who have made a personal stand for integrity and ethics went to John Kiriakou; the former CIA Officer jailed for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program. At a low-key ceremony, at the American University Kay Chapel in Washington DC on Sunday September 25th, John Kiriakou gave an interview to the Real News Network in which he warned activists that intelligence agencies are gathering information against them for future use in case of their dissent.

Earlier in the year John Kiriakou spoke out against his former employer after it was revealed that the office of the CIA’s Inspector General had “inadvertently” deleted the only copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report in its possession. The complete report is alleged to have contained some 6,700 classified documents on CIA torture techniques. Allegations published by the Russian news agency RT suggest that many of these techniques appear to have been used on innocent suspects by the agency in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. According to RT ‘only about 500 pages of the report were declassified and released by the committee chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), in December of 2014.’ The rest it seems may have been destined for the shredder on account of the controversial nature of the evidence they contained.

In a previous interview with Paul Jay on the RNN’s ‘Reality Asserts Itself’ broadcast on 6 May 2015, just over a year before the publication of the allegations by RT, Kiriakou explained how the CIA originally opened a criminal file on him after he became the first CIA official to publicly acknowledge torture was an Agency policy. Later, when he began investigating possible CIA complicity in war crimes on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s behalf, they stepped up their effort to charge him as quickly as possible. An endeavour that would eventually lead to his imprisonment on a legal technicality.


‘The CIA never forgave me for confirming that it was Waterboarding and otherwise torturing prisoners, that torture was official US government policy, and that the policy was approved by the President.’ After leaving the CIA in 2004 to spend more time with his children, Kiriakou joined Deloitte and Touche to head its Competitive Intelligence department gathering first-person human source intelligence on its rivals. Firms such as Ernst and Young, KPMG and Price Waterhouse Coopers. Whilst there he had received an unexpected call from Brian Ross at ABC News, who challenged him about allegations that he had taken part in the torture of the “high-value” Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah.
After consenting to an interview and talking openly about the use of Waterboarding in the interrogation of prisoners, Kiriakou went on to become a consultant for ABC before gravitating to a high level investigative position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. By then the CIA had already opened a file on him without his prior knowledge. In the wake of the Dasht-i-Leili Massacre of some 2000 Taleban prisoners in Afghanistan in late 2001, an eyewitness had claimed that two white men in jeans and t-shirts had been present on the ground, and it was John Kiriakou’s attempts to identify these individuals which may have led ultimately to the CIA’s campaign to nail him.

Kiriakou’s relentless pursuit of the truth in relation to this, and a number of other related matters, however, would eventually lead to his Sam Adams Award nomination. The Sam Adams Associates, originally founded by Ray McGovern, who are principally responsible for all award nominations and have previously given prizes to Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, also act as a support network for whistleblowers who feel beaten and betrayed as a result of their own personal experiences of government persecution. And, it is in this role that Kiriakou has presently involved himself with another former CIA agent who is presently languishing behind bars.

Since his release from federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, Kiriakou has championed the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, currently serving a jail term after finding himself the fifth person in US history to be charged, under the Espionage Act, with mishandling national defense information: as a result of his on-line and telephone dialogue with the journalist and author James Risen. According to Kiriakou, Sterling was incarcerated before treatment for a previously diagnosed heart condition could be carried through and is at serious risk of death if the situation is allowed to continue.

Many of Sterling’s supporters firmly believe that the Bureau of Prisons may be refusing him proper treatment because the government want him out-of-the-way permanently. In addition to revealing national defense information to an unauthorized person,

Sterling also raised concerns with the Senate Intelligence Committee in March 2003 in connection with Operation Merlin; a widely criticized plot to provide bogus design materials for a key weapons component to the scientific team responsible for Iran’s nuclear arms program. An initiative that has been widely described as ‘potentially dangerous’.
According to the latest reports following ‘a monthlong battle to allow him to see a cardiac specialist, the little treatment he has received is about to end.’ In view of the possibility of Sterling’s imminent death, if John Kiriakou’s continuing attempts to have his medical treatment properly concluded are thwarted by the Bureau of Prisons, it is not unreasonable to suppose that allegations that the government is attempting some sort of extrajudicial execution, as part of a wide-ranging policy to cover up its own crimes, are not without foundation.

Rupert Ferguson
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Rupert Ferguson

Journalist at Distract The Media
Rupert Ferguson is a published author, journalist and radical film maker with specialist interests in local government, politics, environmental issues and Traditional English and Scottish Folk Music. His academic work has been endorsed by the likes of Sir Melvyn Bragg, the late Sir James Watt KBE and the former head of Humanities at Bingley College in Yorkshire, England; James Reed.

Having begun his career as a junior researcher at Thames Television in London, he has written for a wide range of publications including 'The Brighton Reporter', 'Durham Town and Country', 'The Brighton and Hove People' and 'The New Celtic Review'. As an exhibited film maker he has been a regular contributor and award nominee at the Portobello Film Festival in London; and has seen his work shown at the annual London Film Makers' Convention at the prestigious Round House Theatre.

As well as receiving enthusiastic reviews from BBC Radio 4 and others for his book on Sir Walter Scott, his pioneering work as an Underground Film Maker on the fledgeling Goa Trance Scene has set him in a field of his own amongst many of his contemporaries; both in the UK, where he presently resides, and elsewhere. Current projects presently in hand include a book centred on his 'Legendary London' series of documentary films, which have stimulated an enthusiastic response from the likes of Glenda Jackson and others; and a novel set in France and Edinburgh during the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment.

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