A veteran former C.I.A. agent is the first current or former officer facing prison time for disclosing classified information to a news reporter.
John C. Kiriakou will be sentenced on Jan. 25 to 30 months in prison, after he pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. He emailed the name of a covert C.I.A. officer to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it, reports The New York Times
Kiriakou admits he should have known better.
The federal government passed the act in 1982, aiming it at radical publications that seek to expose undercover agents. Kiriakou had been in the C.I.A. for nearly 15 years before leaving in 2004 for a consulting job.
While in the agency, he earned numerous commendations, including one for leading the team in 2002 that found Abu Zubaydah, a terrorist logistics specialist for al-Qaida, a notable victory after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But the agency had given him mixed reviews, and after he left, he quickly became a source for national security journalists, particularly after speaking out about waterboarding during a 2007 ABC News interview.
Kiriakou said he gave the covert officer’s name to the freelancer to help him find a potential source, not to make the name public, and he says he “should never have provided the name.”
He’s gotten a great deal of support from people ranging from old friends to former spies and Christians opposing torture, who are outraged that the charges were brought.
Bruce Riedel, a retired C.I.A. officer who turned down an offer to be director in 2009, descried Kiriakou as a good officer who does not deserve to be in prison.
“To me, the irony of this whole thing is, very simply, that he’s going to be the only C.I.A. officer to go to jail over torture,” even though he denounced torture, Riedel said. “It’s deeply ironic under the Democratic president who ended torture.”
Veteran C.I.A. lawyer John Rizzo said he doesn’t believe Kiriakou set out to endanger anyone, but the violation is serious nevertheless.
“I think he wanted to be a big shot,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think he was evil. But it’s not a trivial thing to reveal a name.”
Prosecutions such as Kiriakou’s are being praised on Capitol Hill and defended by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. Their aides insist that neither man ordered the crackdown, but noted that email makes it easier to trace leaks without forcing journalists to identify confidential sources.
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