John Kiriakou

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who has served five months of a thirty-month sentence in the federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has written a fourth letter from the prison.

Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under the George W. Bush administration. 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).

For the past few months, Firedoglake has been publishing Kiriakou’s “Letters from Loretto.” This latest letter being published focuses on a hard lesson Kiriakou has learned since entering prison, which most prisoners learn during their incarceration, “one’s prison sentence is not the totality of his punishment.” There will be other things that happen on top of being sentenced.

Kiriakou describes how his wife received a “sharply-worded letter” from the insurance company, USAA – the United States Assurance Association, which had been providing his family auto and homeowners insurance since 1993. USAA notified his family that they do not “insure felons” and were canceling their insurance immediately.”

“I told my wife not to panic; call them in the morning and put the insurance in her name,” Kiriakou writes. “She did that, only to be told that USAA doesn’t insure ‘felonious families.’ Thank goodness she was able to find another, more reputable company with which to do business.”

A friend of his, Dave, who Kiriakou has written about from prison, warned Kiriakou to expect his bank to close his accounts and send him a check saying “they do not allow felons to bank with them,” which is what Wells Fargo did to him.
Kiriakou notes that both Cardinal Bank and United Bank have refused to allow his “John Kiriakou Legal Defense Trust” to “open an account.” A vice president at United Bank apparently told him, “We simply don’t want to do business with you.”

Also, Kiriakou explains that he learned recently that he “can no longer travel freely to countries like Canada, the UK and France. These and many other countries share law enforcement databases with the US, and they do not allow felons in their countries without a special visa. So when I want or need to travel abroad in the future. I will have to go to these countries’ embassies, file a visa request form and submit to an interview about my ‘crime.’”

Kiriakou goes on to update those interested in whether the prison ever investigated the fact that he had been “baited” into taking action against a Muslim prisoner (which he described in his first letter).

Many of you have asked for an update on the event that I reported in my first letter. In that letter, I wrote about two Special Investigative Service officers who tried to bait me into taking some sort of action against a Muslim prisoner. After the letter was published, I was assured by both the warden and by a CO lieutenant that an investigation would be conducted. It turned out that the investigation was of me. My email was put on a four-day delay, both incoming and outgoing, my incoming and outgoing snail mail was stripped open and read and none of my witnesses were interviewed. I wasn’t surprised by any of this. This is exactly what happens to all whistleblowers.

According to Kiriakou, he was told that this Muslim prisoner 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.

In his letter, Kiriakou includes excerpts from a piece written by a former inmate named Ernie Drain, who won a writing competition “related to prison literature and voices prison” that was sponsored by the Yale Law Review. He says of Drain’s writing, “In my five months in prison so far, I have lived every word of what he wrote.”

All of this punishment is on top of the fact that he will have to meet with a probation officer for three years after he is released and the fact that he lost his pension after “19 years of proud federal service.” Plus, his legal bills now total “nearly $1 million” and he had to sell most of his “personal possessions to pay at least some of that million dollars.”

Kiriakou, in previous letters published by Firedoglake, 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 described how grateful he is to have a support network that can help him deal with the “stress of a hostile system.” He has detailed how his “new normal” in prison includes many encounters with pedophiles.

Firedoglake supports Kiriakou’s First Amendment right to share what he is experiencing in prison. If the Bureau of Prisons were to retaliate against him or punish him for speaking his mind, Firedoglake would immediately take steps to support him. John can be reached at: John Kiriakou 79637-083, Federal Correctional Institution, Loretto, P.O. Box 1000, Loretto, PA 15940. He is permitted to receive mail from anyone, and soft cover books and magazines only from individuals.



Hello again from the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania.

I’ve learned over the past months that one’s prison sentence is not the totality of his punishment. I took a plea in January 2013 to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. In addition to having to spend 30 months in prison, I will have to meet a probation officer monthly for three years after my release. I also lost my pension after 19 years of proud federal service. My legal bills totaled nearly $1 million, and I sold most of my personal possessions to pay at least some of that million dollars.

But my punishment didn’t end there. Last week my wife received a sharply-worded letter from our insurance company, USAA – the United States Assurance Association. I have had my insurance with USAA – both auto and homeowners – since 1993. They were a terrific provider during that time. The letter we received cut right to the point: USAA doesn’t insure felons, and they were canceling our insurance effective immediately. I told my wife not to panic; call them in the morning and put the insurance in her name. She did that, only to be told that USAA doesn’t insure “felonious families.” Thank goodness she was able to find another, more reputable company with which to do business.

When I mentioned this travesty to my friend Dave, about whom I’ve written, he told me to soon expect the other shoe to drop. When he was arrested – even before he was convicted – his bank, Wells Fargo, closed his accounts and sent him a check along with a letter saying that they do not allow felons to bank with them. He had to find a small local bank that was willing to allow him the luxury of a checking account.

Similarly, immediately after my arrest, both Cardinal Bank and United Bank refused to allow my “John Kiriakou Legal Defense Trust” to open an account. A vice president at United Bank said, “We simply don’t want to do business with you.”

In addition, I learned recently that I can no longer travel freely to countries like Canada, the UK and France. These and many other countries share law enforcement databases with the US, and they do not allow felons in their countries without a special visa. So when I want or need to travel abroad in the future. I will have to go to these countries’ embassies, file a visa request form and submit to an interview about my “crime.”

I need something recently that had a great impact on me. The Yale Law Review recently sponsored a writing competition related to prison literature and voices from prison. A former inmate, Ernie Drain, was one of the winners. In my five months in prison so far, I have lived every word of what he wrote. Here’s an excerpt:

“Being incarcerated in prison means tucking your life into your back pocket for a while. It means taking your slumber on a bunk bed for the first time since childhood…It means showing your pride the door as the staff begins to emasculate you. It’s the difference between answering to a pejorative or disobeying a direct order. It’s being appalled at the number of grown men who enjoy watching Jerry Springer and Maury Povich…It’s questioning the morals of inmates who befriend child predators. It means standing in line for the privilege of performing a bowel movement. It’s being made to stand in ninety-seven degree weather in order to receive your medication. It means locking everything your own in a small steel box and hoping that no one smashes the lock when you go to dinner.

“It’s listening to the details of another inmates deteriorating family life when you couldn’t care less. It’s suddenly realizing that you have a deep affinity for Mark Twain’s political commentary, Norman Mailer, and the New Yorker magazine. It’s forgetting what real ground beef tastes like…It’s coming sixty cents a day and enduring a lecture on work ethic from a twenty-dollar-an-hour CO [commanding officer] whose most strenuous task of the day is reheating his coffee. It’s watching the CO’s own low self-esteem ooze from every demeaning word he speaks to you. It means watching the staff eat food that was meant for inmates while the state deals with budgetary problems by shrinking the portion sizes of the food delivered to those inmates…”

“…It’s thanking God for the small things like seventy-five degree days, pizza bagels, quiet and mail, hash browns on Sundays, a soft pillow, Dove soap, the few staff members who treat you like a human being and the ability to write a cohesive sentence…It means constantly reminding yourself that this is not the place to make friends…It means adopting the new first name of “inmate” or “offender.” It means hiding your own emotional desperation and only exuding power and confidence replaced by momentary relief from anguish and paranoia…It’s mandated nudity before an anonymous person…It’s a lesson learned, never to be forgotten.”

If you want to read this incredible essay and the other winners, see The Yale Law Journal, 122:2082, 2013.

Update: Many of you have asked for an update on the event that I reported in my first letter. In that letter, I wrote about two Special Investigative Service officers who tried to bait me into taking some sort of action against a Muslim prisoner. After the letter was published, I was assured by both the warden and by a CO lieutenant that an investigation would be conducted. It turned out that the investigation was of me. My email was put on a four-day delay, both incoming and outgoing, my incoming and outgoing snail mail was stripped open and read and none of my witnesses were interviewed. I wasn’t surprised by any of this. This is exactly what happens to all whistleblowers.

To learn more about my case, please visit www.defendjohnk.com

Thanks for reading,

John