John Kiriakou

The second half of a third letter by former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is serving a thirty-month sentence in the federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, is being published.

Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under the administration of President George W. Bush. He was convicted in October of last year of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) when he provided the name of an officer involved in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program to a reporter and sentenced in January of this year. He reported to prison on February 28 (which was also the day that Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty to some offenses and read a statement in military court at Fort Meade).

Since Kiriakou went to prison, Firedoglake has been publishing his “Letters from Loretto.” The second half of the letter picks up where Kiriakou left off and includes an exchange he had with his father-in-law, a “prominent physician,” on losing the use of his finger, which he broke in prison. [The first half of the letter recounted how Kiriakou had broken his finger but been denied immediate medical treatment in the facility.]

His finger is now “swollen, painful, misshapen and discolored.” His father-in-law looked at his finger when he visited and told him, “You’re screwed. They should have treated this the day it happened. You’ll never recover full use of the finger and now arthritis will set in.”

“Thanks a lot. I’m lucky it wasn’t my leg that was broken, like Cameron Douglas,” Kiriakou reacts in the letter. [Actor Michael Douglas' son had been confined in the prison facility.]

The second half shifts after a few paragraphs to focus on the “stress of a hostile system” and how it “would be impossible without a support network.” Kiriakou shares some details on friendships he has developed in prison.

Dave, a former intelligence officer, is serving a nine-year sentence and has been in jail for 18 months. Kiriakou worked with him overseas years ago and their imprisonment has led to them becoming reacquainted.

At one point, Dave went to work for a defense contractor, and “his job was to win new business in the intelligence community for his employer, which he did successfully, including getting his company accepted as one of the CIA’s preferred and vetted bidders.”

He was asked to help with a contract of which the firm was having trouble. A “facility security officer” told him he was added to the contract team and he could log on to, “Intelink,” a secure database managed by the Director of the National Intelligence (DNI). The contractor, however, had not added Dave to the contract. He accessed the database without authorized access.

“The Justice Department charged him with unauthorized access of a secure database in furtherance of national security, a felony,” Kiriakou writes. “Dave was initially offered a plea that included a 15-month prison sentence. He declined, intending to clear his name at trial.

The pressure was turned up on Dave. Charges were heaped on him and now he faced 54 years in prison. When he still would not take a plea, the government “seized everything of value that Dave owned: property, money, electronics, furniture, art, even his clothes and his wife’s shoes. He was forced to claim indigency to qualify for a public defender to fight these spurious charges.”

Kiriakou exclaims, “The government then took it one step further and, unbelievably, charged Dave with perjury for claiming poverty, as he sat in jail with the government holding everything he owned!”

A new offer came: nine years in prison. The offer also included a threat if he did not accept. His 89-year-old grandmother and 16-year-old “honor roll student daughter” would be brought into this. Dave decided to sing the plea, “even though he believed that he would have prevailed at trial.”

Kiriakou concludes:

The day after Dave was sentenced, the government gave back everything it had seized. It was their cynical attempt to make everything in Dave’s life difficult as he tried to defend himself. I wish I could say that these strong-arm tactics were unusual. But that is not the case. In my own case, I faced a possible 45-year sentence. I, too, believed I was innocent. But I was forced to take a guilty plea with 30 months to make the whole thing go away. The government has a 98.2% conviction rate, according to ProPublica. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. (As an aside, when Saddam Hussein won 98% in his last presidential election, we all said the fix was in. When the Justice Department gets a 98% conviction rate, we say they’re really great attorneys. Well, I don’t say that anymore.)

Kiriakou is also apparently serving time with a jewel thief, someone who pulled off the infamous “Marlborough Diamond” heist, which is one of the most famous jewel heists in British history.

Art is 75-years-old and a “career criminal.” He stole the “Marlborough Diamond” from Graff’s Jewelers and was caught at O’Hare and extradited back to the United Kingdom. He was sentenced to 15 years. He is now in Loretto serving an eight-year sentence after “conspiring to rob the home of the deceased boss of the Chicago ‘Syndicate.’” The FBI had wired his van and were able to catch him.

Kiriakou shares, “I asked Art what he did with the Marlborough Diamond. He just smiled and said, ‘I lived a lot of good years on that rock.’”

Another friend he has made is Robert, who is 61-years-old. He owned a car dealership, but, after the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) denied him “dealer” license plates, he shouted, “I’m going to burn this place to the ground!” after going to the DMV and failing to get the plates he needed. That night the place burned down and now he is in jail for five years on an arson charge.

“My sentence is relatively short. I’ll likely do another 17 or 18 months or so. But 18 months feels like 18 years some days. I’m fortunate to have friends to help me get through it,” Kiriakou concludes.

In prior letters, Kiriakou has advised former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on secret United States government surveillance programs, on what to do in order to avoid making the mistakes he made. He has also detailed an incident in which prison officials attempted setup a confrontation between Kiriakou and a Muslim prisoner, telling Kiriakou he was the uncle of the Times Square bomber, when in reality the imam was in prison for refusing to testify in the Lackawanna Six case. Prison officials then lied to the Muslim prisoner, telling him that Kiriakou had called Washington after they met and had been ordered to kill him.

For the record, Firedoglake supports Kiriakou’s First Amendment right to share what he is experiencing in prison with the public. If the Bureau of Prisons chooses to retaliate against him or punish him for speaking his mind, Firedoglake stands ready to support him.



— Transcript —

“Letter from Loretto” #3 [Part 2]

…There’s no point in rebreaking it and setting it because the resulting arthritis will make it even more painful. He said to try to bend it, squeeze a small ball and come back in two weeks.

Two weeks later, after complaining that I had not been able to see my PA since my visit to the doctor, the PA called me into his office. He said to just do what the doctor had told me to do, but the prison would not pay for the follow-up ordered by the specialist. It was an unnecessary expense, the PA said.

I have essentially lost the use of my finger. It is swollen, painful, misshapen and discolored. My father-in-law, who happens to be a prominent physician, examined my finger last month during a visit. His verdict? “You’re screwed. They should have treated this the day it happened. You’ll never recover full use of the finger and now arthritis will set in.” Thanks a lot. I’m lucky it wasn’t my leg that was broken, like Cameron Douglas.

Dealing with the stress of a hostile system would be impossible without a support network. I’ve developed several friendships, with one being particularly close. A former intelligence officer, Dave (I’ll use only his first name to protect his identity) is 18 months into a nine-year sentence. (We worked together overseas years ago and were reacquainted at Loretto.) His story is a vivid example of what is wrong with the criminal justice system.

After a long career that took him all over the world, Dave returned to the US and went to work for a defense contractor. His job was to win new business in the intelligence community for his employer, which he did successfully, including getting his company accepted as one of the CIA’s preferred and vetted bidders. No easy task.

When asked by his employer to help on a contract the firm was having trouble with, he agreed. The facility security officer (FSO) told him that he had been added as a member of the contract team. He logged on to the secure “Intelink” database, managed by the Director of the National Intelligence (DNI) to begin his background reading for the contract. (I should add, too, that Dave was never accused of misusing any information or of putting the country’s secrets at risk. He was only accessing information in furtherance of his job.) But as it turned out, the contractor dropped the ball and Dave had not been added to the contract. The Justice Department charged him with unauthorized access of a secure database in furtherance of national security, a felony. Dave was initially offered a plea that included a 15-month prison sentence. He declined, intending to clear his name at trial.

After Dave refused to cooperate with authorities, they did what they always do: They turned up the pressure by turning his life upside down, looking for anything they could use against him. When they were finished heaping on charges, he was threatened with 54 years in prison. (Check out “Three Felonies a Day” by Harvey Silverglate, which I mentioned earlier, to see how easy it is for regular citizens to fall afoul of the bloated United States Code, the law of the land.)

When Dave continued to resist taking a plea, the government got really nasty. They seized everything of value that Dave owned: property, money, electronics, furniture, art, even his clothes and his wife’s shoes. He was force to claim indigency to qualify for a public defender to fight these spurious charges. The government then took it one step further and, unbelievably, charged Dave with perjury for claiming poverty, as he sat in jail with the government holding everything he owned!

Forced to rely on inadequate counsel and facing 54 years, the government came calling on dave again. The new offer was not 15 months. It was nine years, and if he did not accept it in its entirety within 48 hours, the Justice Department was prepared to subpoena and involve two innocent people he loved, his 89-year-old grandmother and his 16-year-old honor roll student daughter. Dave no longer had any choice. He signed the plea, even though he believed that he would have prevailed at trial. The risks were too high.

The day after Dave was sentenced, the government gave back everything it had seized. It was their cynical attempt to make everything in Dave’s life difficult as he tried to defend himself. I wish I could say that these strong-arm tactics were unusual. But that is not the case. In my own case, I faced a possible 45-year sentence. I, too, believed I was innocent. But I was forced to take a guilty plea with 30 months to make the whole thing go away. The government has a 98.2% conviction rate, according to ProPublica. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. (As an aside, when Saddam Hussein won 98% in his last presidential election, we all said the fix was in. When the Justice Department gets a 98% conviction rate, we say they’re really great attorneys. Well, I don’t say that anymore.)

My other Loretto friends are good guys who’ve committed serious or, in some cases, stupid crimes. But they’re smart and sincere and I enjoy their company. Robert, 61, owned a very successful car dealership in Buffalo, NY. After a dispute with the State of New York over a corrupt DMV official, Robert was refused new “dealer” license plates. He went to the DMV in a huff, where he was against denied his plates. As he was leaving, he shouted, “I’m going to burn this place to the ground!” Late that night the place burned to the ground. Robert is doing five years on an arson charge.

Art, 75, is a career criminal. After a 10-year stint in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth for bank robbery, he did additional time at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, IN, for counterfeiting—all hard time. In the early 1980s, Art and a friend pulled off what w as, at the time, the greatest jewel heist in British history when they stole the 54-carat “Marlborough Diamond” from London’s famed Graff’s Jewelers. Art was caught at Chicago O’Hare and extradited back to the UK, where he was sentenced to another 15 years.

The diamond was never found. Art is doing another eight years here at Loretto for conspiring to rob the home of the deceased boss of the Chicago “Syndicate.” He hadn’t realized that the FBI had wired his van for sound. I asked Art what he did with the Marlborough Diamond. He just smiled and said, “I live a lot of good years on that rock.”

My sentence is relatively short. I’ll likely do another 17 or 18 months or so. But 18 months feels like 18 years some days. I’m fortunate to have friends to help me get through it.

For more information about my case, please visit my website at www.defendjohnk.com

Until next time,

John