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Whistleblower John Kiriakou Tells Robert Scheer How the CIA Returned to Its Violent Roots After 9/11

Posted on Jul 15, 2017

Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer sat down with whistleblower, former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and Truthdig contributor John Kiriakou to discuss his new book, “Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison.”

Kiriakou, who spent two years in prison for publicly disclosing the CIA’s use of waterboarding in interrogations, tells Scheer about the inner workings of the agency and why he felt compelled to speak out. Watch the interview, which took place at The Actors’ Gang in Los Angeles, below:

Scheer asks about the CIA’s operations in the Middle East, and Kiriakou explains how the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, drastically changed how the agency operated.

“The CIA returned to its roots after 9/11—it just really began killing everybody it didn’t like,” Kiriakou says. He says that in the 1990s, during the Clinton administration, there had been a lull in agency killings after the CIA got rid of its “recruited assets” who “had some kind of human rights problem.” What might such a problem be? Killing nuns or blowing up banks, the former CIA officer suggests.

Kiriakou explains that, while engaging in anti-terrorism efforts in the Middle East, he realized how the CIA was misleading the public, noting that many of those perceived to be terrorists were poor, uneducated and living in war-torn countries. “The way out of terrorism is education and public works projects,” Kiriakou argues.


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Scheer also asks Kiriakou whether he believes the CIA’s use of torture was effective. “Absolutely not,” Kiriakou says. “Was it legal, was it moral, was it ethical? The answer to those [questions] is no.”

He adds that the agency lied to the public on whether torture resulted in accurate intelligence. “The CIA intended to mislead the American people,” he says. 

Kiriakou also tells Scheer why he believes there aren’t more whistleblowers; he says he doesn’t blame people for not taking such an enormous risk. “It’s an incredible price to pay,” he says—a statement he means both figuratively and literally, as he notes that his legal bills far exceed 1 million dollars.

Watch the full interview, which concludes with a Q&A from audience members, in the player above.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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