A former CIA officer who pleaded guilty to identifying a covert intelligence officer was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in prison.
John Kiriakou and prosecutors agreed on the term as part of the plea agreement he struck in October.
Kiriakou, 48, declined to make a statement at the Alexandria, Virginia, federal court prior to sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
“Alright, perhaps you’ve already said too much,” Brinkema said.
She rejected defense attempts to characterize Kiriakou as a whistle-blower.
The judge was bound by the plea agreement, but said she would have handed down a tougher sentence had Kiriakou been convicted at trial.
“This case is not a case about a whistle-blower. It’s about a person who betrayed a very solemn trust,” Brinkema said.Ex-CIA officer in the news before
Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s about a traitor.
Kiriakou leaked the names of multiple Clandestine Service members to reporters and to lawyers working for Al-Qaeda detainees. Private investigators hired by the lawyers then built target packets on the clandestine operatives for their al-Qaeda paymasters.
Kiriakou’s motivation wasn’t anything special:
“The defendant acted out of a sense of ego and narrow-minded self-interest to raise his media profile,” [prosecutor Mark] Schneider told the court.
His ego was strong enough that he initially thought he could weasel out of this case:
Kiriakou pleaded guilty in October only to intentionally identifying an undercover CIA officer.
So initially, he tried to brazen it out. But as prosecutors revealed more of the evidence against him it was clear he was going down for several felonies, and witthout a deal he was going away, as Judge Brinkema said, for a very long time. At that point, he instantly transformed from fearless warrior for transparency, to quivering nebbish trying to save as much of his own skin as possible.
Who funded Kiriakou’s top-drawer defense is not certain, but it may have been the same terror financiers that arrange “pro bono” lawyers from white-shoe law firms by allowing them to pad bills for unrelated legal work.
He also admitted to other allegations, including illegally telling reporters the name of a different CIA employee involved in a 2002 operation to capture alleged al Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah, and lying to a review board about a book he was writing. But those charges were dropped as part of his plea deal.
The charges arose out of communications Kiriakou had with two journalists between 2007 and 2009.
Most news stories are coy about identifying the journalists, who were not charged with any crimes in the case because of the political difficulty of prosecution. We’ll name them here, though. Matthew Cole was a producer for Brian Ross at ABC News, and was apparently moonlight both as an aspiring book author, and as an assistant to the al-Qaeda investigators. Cole was fired by ABC when the case threatened to blow up and involve Ross, a marquee name at the network. Richard Esposito of ABC was also a conduit for Kiriakou’s treachery, as was the New York Times’s Scott Shane.
ABC and the Times refused to cooperate with American investigators and prosecutors in the Kiriakou case, just with those working for Osama Bin Laden at the time.
Meanwhile, Judge Brinkema gave Kiriakou a delay before reporting to serve his sentence. This is customary with non-violent offenders, to give them time to settle their affairs. So what has Kiriakou been doing? Trashing his agency, his country and even the judge who cut him this slack, in state-controlled Russian media. We guess this means that even Brian Ross won’t touch him now, and the only outlets left for his ego are in the propaganda organs of opponents and enemies of his rejected country.
And… 30 months? Wherever he is, Major John André, who suffered a much worse penalty for doing much less damage to the United States, and didn’t have a number of oaths to the US to betray, is entitled to feel pretty badly done by.