John Kiriakou: CIA media plant?

Washington Independent blogger Spencer Ackerman -- read his reporting on the torture issue, seriously -- follows up on Laura Rozen's post on John Kiriakou.

In 2007, Kiriakou famously went on television to describe waterboarding, and discussed the single incidence in which Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded. After just 30 or 35 seconds, Kiriakou said, Zubaydah started singing and never needed to be tortured again. 

But Kiriakou wasn't there for the waterboarding -- he was half a world away, in Langley -- and Zubaydah was waterboarded more than 80 times. The New York Times first noted the difference in the two stories.

I remember wondering at the time why Kirkiakou was allowed to come forward and talk about interrogations so sensitive the Bush administration created a special "top secret" designation for them. Why didn't the CIA revoke his pension and prosecute him for leaking? 

The New York Times writes:

The C.I.A., which considered legal action against Mr. Kiriakou for divulging classified information, said last week that he "was not - and is not - authorized to speak on behalf of the CIA."

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said: "This agency did not publicly disclose the frequency with which the waterboard was used, noting only that it was employed with three detainees. If reporters got that wrong, they weren't misled from here."

The CIA didn't do much to repudiate or discredit Kiriakou at the time, despite the fact that he broke a central covenant of his profession. Here's the CIA response, as reported by ABC News: 

The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency's use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.

"They were furious at the CIA this morning, but cooler heads have apparently prevailed for the time being," a senior Justice Department official told the Blotter on

Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, did sent out a classified memo this morning warning all employees "of the importance of protecting classified information," a CIA spokesperson told

Had they wanted to silence or punish him, surely they could have. It all seems a bit strange to me, and leads to one obvious possibility: John Kiriakou -- telegenic and well-spoken John Kiriakou, who never went to jail for blasting state secrets on television -- was told the story to tell and released onto an unsuspecting public. It's an impression the CIA will have difficulty dulling now. 

For, Kirkiakou went on to act as a "paid consultant" for ABC news after the interview, Laura reports.


Morning Brief: Swine flu spreads

Top Story

he dangerous swine flu virus continues to spread, with infections now confirmed in Israel and New Zealand.The World Health Organization has upgraded its pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 and the organization's deputy director general says that "containment is not a feasible option" at this time.

Seven countries now have confirmed cases, with suspected infections in 11 others. Around the world, countries are now tightening the borders to prevent infection from travelers. In Mexico, the epicenter of the virus, 153 people have now been killed. 

While 50 cases have been confirmed in the United States, the most outside of Mexico, the infections have not been as severe. President Obama described the disease as cause for "alert" rather than "alarm."


  • Pakistan has promised military action if the Taliban does not retreat from the Buner district.
  • The United Nations is pressing the Sri Lankan government for a ceasefire as commando operations continue against what they say is the last Tamil Tiger holdout.
  • Afghan president Hamid Karzai has promised to change the internationally condemned law that would have legalized marital rape.
  • 24 people have been killed in a wave of attacks by militants in Southern Thailand. 

Middle East

  • Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he thinks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come to accept Palestinian statehood.
  • Iraqi officials are opposed to amending the U.S. withdrawal timetable to keep some troops in troubled Mosul.
  • Palestinians are preparing for a visit from the Pope by building him a stage right next to an Israeli security barrier.


  • After Peru granted asylum to one of President Hugo Chavez's political opponents, Venezuela withdrew its ambassador.
  • As it prepares for swine flu, Argentina is also facing a dengue fever outbreak that has infected more than 20,000.
  • Speaking at the National Science Foundation, President Obama promised major new funding for scientific research.