Kiriakou, who was among the first to go public with details about the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures, was charged with disclosing classified information to reporters and lying to the agency about the origin of other sensitive material he published in a book. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
In its criminal filing, the Justice Department obscured many of the details of Kiriakou’s alleged disclosures. But the document suggests that Kiriakou was a source for stories by the New York Times and other news organizations in 2008 and 2009 about some of the agency’s most sensitive operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. These include the capture of alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida and the interrogation of the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
The Justice Department said that the information Kiriakou supplied to journalists also contributed to a subsequent security breach at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, enabling defense attorneys there to obtain photographs of CIA operatives suspected of being involved in harsh interrogations. Some of the pictures were subsequently discovered in the cells of high-
Kiriakou, who worked for the CIA from 1990 to 2004, was charged with four counts, including disclosing the identity of an undercover officer and providing classified information to individuals not authorized to receive it.
In an appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Monday afternoon, Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson set bond at $250,000 for Kiriakou, who was also forced to surrender his passport and restrict his travel to the Washington area.
Kiriakou did not comment on the charges in court. He wore a blue dress shirt and black dress slacks but no tie. Plato Cacheris, Kiriakou’s attorney, said his client would plead not guilty and expected to be released on bond.
Digital trail cited
The surge in such prosecutions is seen as a measure of the Obama administration’s determination to root out leaks, but it may also reflect the government’s expanded ability to mine suspects’ e-mail accounts and other digital devices for incriminating evidence.
The complaint filed Monday includes numerous passages apparently taken from Kiriakou’s e-mail exchanges with reporters as well as former CIA colleagues.
Critics warn that the crackdown will erode the ability of news organizations to expose government abuses. Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy issues at the Federation of American Scientists, noted that Kiriakou is accused of being a source on stories about CIA interrogation measures that Obama described as torture.