Ishmael Jones: On John Kiriakou

Back in 2007 Paul Mirengoff wrote here about one of the Washington Post stories inspired by former CIA officer (and former Democratic Senate committee staffer) John Kiriakou. Last month John Hinderaker commented here on Kiriakou’s indictment for leaking classified information. His comments having been cleared by the CIA Publication Review Board, former CIA case officer Ishmael Jones writes on the proceedings against Kiriakou:

On January 23, former CIA employee John Kirakou was arrested on charges of leaking classified information to journalists. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. At first glance, the case seems straightforward. Americans agree that people who illegally disclose national secrets should go to jail.

But the mixture of spies, politics, and Eric Holder’s Justice Department is a wilderness of mirrors.

Mr. Kirakou is known for having publicly criticized the terrorist interrogations that occurred under the Bush administration. I disagree with many of his criticisms, but believe Mr. Kiriakou’s motives were genuine. Democrats made great political theater with allegations of torture of terrorist suspects during the Bush era, using in part Mr. Kiriakou’s statements, and it contributed to the Obama victory.

Now that Mr. Obama owns those same interrogation programs, it seems that Mr. Kiriakou is just another critic of Big Government, and a useful scapegoat for leaks of classified information coming from the CIA and administration officials. Mr. Kiriakou is being prosecuted by Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, which has become a highly politicized arm of the Obama Administration.

The leaks that Mr. Kiriakou is charged with are tiny compared to the leaking of classified intelligence by the Obama Administration and senior bureaucrats at the CIA. According to journalist Marc Ambinder writing in National Journal, “One 20-year veteran of the community who is now a program manager at an agency said that ‘we all know 98 percent of the leaks come from policy-makers or from authorized CIA leaks’.”

After the killing of Osama bin Laden, bureaucrats seeking to take credit for the operation leaked detailed descriptions of Navy tactics and units, in an orgy of leaks to journalists that exposed American servicemen, their families, and our foreign agents to great risk. It is a real concern today within the military’s special operations units. After the raid, a Navy Seal I had worked with during my CIA career sought me out to discuss ways to hide his and his family’s identity.

If Mr. Kiriakou gets a jury trial, then witness after witness could explain to the jury that Mr. Kiriakou is being selectively prosecuted, that his leaks are nothing compared to leaks by Obama administration officials and senior CIA bureaucrats. Witness after witness could show the jury that for any secret material published by Mr. Kiriakou, the books of senior CIA bureaucrats contain many times as much. Former CIA chief George Tenet wrote a book in 2007, approved by CIA censors, that contains dozens of pieces of classified information – names and enough information to find names. But Mr. Tenet was not prosecuted – he was a supporter of Big Government, not a critic.

Mr. Holder’s DOJ should not be able to win in a jury trial. But they’re in their home court, they have infinite resources, and they’ll probably be able to bleed Mr. Kiriakou until he agrees to a lesser punishment in exchange for waiving his right to a trial.

To stop the leaks of classified intelligence, the DOJ should target and prosecute the big leakers, the big fish, not just a convenient scapegoat. Punishment of just one of the Obama administration or senior CIA officials who are providing classified information to the Washington Post or New York Times will put an end to the great majority of leaks and will make our military families safer.

Creating an accountability mechanism within the CIA will end the need for any CIA officer to write a book or speak to journalists. Mr. Kiriakou would not have written his book had he been able to bring his concerns to an accountability board. He did so because there is no internal accountability mechanism within the CIA. I did the same thing. Mr. Kiriakou and I differ in our criticism – my focus is upon the CIA’s need to get its officers overseas to do more aggressive intelligence, and account for waste and fraud in spending. However, the fact that CIA officers with solid careers will face considerable peril to write books critical of the CIA deserves attention.

With General Petraeus now in charge of the CIA, and with his understanding of the Army’s internal accountability systems, perhaps such a system of accountability will be introduced to the CIA. This will lead to great savings, better intelligence collection, and greater security for Americans and our allies.

Ishmael Jones is a former deep cover CIA officer and author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.