NSA leaker Edward Snowden is the subject of an open letter of support just published from behind bars by John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent currently serving time for sharing state secrets.
In a letter dated June 13 and published Tuesday by Firedoglake, the imprisoned CIA vet salutes Snowden for his recent disclosures of classified documents detailing some of the vast surveillance programs operated by the United States’ National Security Agency.
“Thank you for your revelations of government wrongdoing over the past week,” Kiriakou writes. “You have done the country a great public service.”
“I know that it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now, but as Americans begin to realize that we are devolving into a police state, with the loss of civil liberties that entails, they will see your actions for what they are: heroic.”
Beginning with the June 6 publication of a dragnet court order demanding the phone data of millions of Americans, The Guardian newspaper has released a collection of leaked documents attributed to Snowden for which the US government has charged him with espionage. He is reportedly now hiding in a Moscow airport and has sought asylum from no fewer than 20 countries to avoid prosecution in the US. Should he be sent home and forced to stand trial, however, Snowden will likely find himself in a peculiar position that the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst can most certainly relate to: Kiriakou is currently serving a 36-month sentence at the Loretto, Pennsylvania federal prison for revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent to reporters.
Before Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one count of passing classified information to the media last year, the government charged him under the Espionage Act of 1917. He has equated the prosecution as retaliation for his own past actions, saying the charge wasn’t the result of outing a secret agent but over exposing truths about the George W. Bush administration’s use of waterboarding as an interrogation tool in the post-9/11 war on terror. As in the case of Snowden, Kiriakou’s supporters have hailed him as a whistleblower. As the government sings a very different song, though, the CIA analyst offers advice to Snowden in what is the second of his “Letters from Loretto” published by Firedoglake since Kiriakou’s two-and-a-half-year sentence began earlier this spring.
“First, find the best national security attorneys money can buy,” writes Kiriakou. “I was blessed to be represented by legal titans and, although I was forced to take a plea in the end, the shortness of my sentence is a testament to their expertise.”
“Second, establish a website that your supporters can follow your case, get your side of the story and, most importantly, make donations to support your defense.”
Kiriakou goes on to encourage Snowden toward garnering support within members of Congress and other institutions capable of calling attention to his case, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Before he concludes, however, he bestows on Snowden what he calls “the most important advice I can offer.”
“DO NOT, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI,” Kiriakou warns. “FBI agents will lie, trick and deceive you. They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not — supporters, well-wishers and friends — all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s a part of the problem, not the solution.”
“I wish you the very best of luck,” Kiriakou writes before signing off. “I hope you can get to Iceland quickly and safely. There you will find a people and a government who care about the freedoms that we hold dear and for which our forefathers and veterans fought and died.”
When Snowden first revealed himself to be the source of the leaked documents last month, murmurings quickly began circulating of Iceland possibly extending his way an offer of asylum. The list of countries asked to consider his request reportedly now exceeds 20, and the likes of Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Switzerland have all been floated as options. …
… John Kiriakou, the 48-year-old counter-terrorism expert once touted by the State Department for his role in capturing dozens of key al-Qaeda operatives, will now have to prove to prosecutors that he thought his admissions of the government’s top-secret water-boarding of prisoners posed no threat to national security. Kiriakou’s federal opponents believe the whistleblower exposed to journalists the identity of two other CIA agents, one of who led the controversial torture program that aimed to bring the accused as close to death as possible to coax confessions. …
After he went public, Kiriakou was charged in January 2012 under the Espionage Act of 1917, among other crimes, for blowing the whistle on state secrets. … Defense attorneys for Kiriakou had hoped that the government would be tasked with having to show the former agent had intent to harm America when he went public to the press. Instead, now prosecutors will only need to prove that the former government employee was aware that his consequences had the potential to put the country in danger.
The court charges that Kiriakou opened up about water-boarding to three US journalists, believed to be The Washington Post’s Julie Tate, freelancer Matt Cole and the New York Times’ Scott Shane, and was aware of the impact of his allegations. Prosecutors say Kiriakou revealed to the reporters the identities of two CIA staffers who personally led the torture and interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative captured overseas.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former government official tells Firedoglake that the CIA was “totally ticked at Kiriakou for acknowledging the use of torture as state policy” and allegedly outing the identity of a covert CIA official “responsible for ensuring the execution” of the water-boarding program.
Kiriakou “outted” to the reporters the identities of the CIA’s “prime torturer” under its Bush-era interrogations …
Do most people in America believe that government insiders who try to stop murder, torture and illegal spying are traitors? I heard a friend express this view and it baffles me. The whistle blowers took oaths to uphold the Constitution, AFAIK. For attempting to keep their promise to this country, they are now in jail or they are hunted. I still think that most people in both the CIA, NSA and FBI have good values and intentions. They play their part by following rules/policies/views for the most part without question. I was always told that a soldier does not have to follow an illegal order, but if everyone at the top of the food chain is behind that illegal order, there aren’t many options. Play ball or be punished or killed. These are smart people and they have families to protect. I guess that explains my friend’s view. If murderers and torturers are in charge and are listening to everything you say, sing their praises. Self preservation. This also explains why many intelligent people think the whistle blowers are heroes instead of traitors. Following rules is usually great, but what about following rules that say you must remain silent about crimes? When faced with a personal ethical dilemma, the most common reaction is to quickly find a way to deny that there is any dilemma at all. Trust the leaders. Ignore doubts. Ignore faults. Ignore facts. Do your duty. As Luke Skywalker said, “You serve your master well, and you will be rewarded.”
A whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).
One of the first laws that protected whistleblowers was the 1863 United States False Claims Act (revised in 1986), which tried to combat fraud by suppliers of the United States government during the Civil War. The act encourages whistleblowers by promising them a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government and protects them from wrongful dismissal.
Whistleblowers frequently face reprisal, sometimes at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under law.
Questions about the legitimacy of whistle blowing, the moral responsibility of whistle blowing, and the appraisal of the institutions of whistle blowing are part of the field of political ethics.
It is my view that with a lack of meaningful checks and balances we have had a situation for too long where national security secrecy allows some persons and parts of the government to commit crimes and to violate human rights without consequence.