A Q&A With CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou (Video)
The Q&A was moderated by Truthdig communications coordinator Sarah Wesley. First, Wesley asked Kiriakou about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the conspiracy theories that later emerged.
“A lot of that is nonsense,” Kiriakou says of 9/11 conspiracy theories, although he acknowledges that “there should be an investigation into Building 7.”
The conversation then turned to Kiriakou’s firsthand experience with al-Qaida operatives in the Middle East. “These are children,” Kiriakou recalls thinking when he was face-to-face with al-Qaida fighters. “They didn’t go [to Afghanistan] for ideological reasons,” Kiriakou says. “They went because they were so desperately poor.”
The two also addess reader questions about the CIA’s practice of destroying documents. “I think that it’s patently illegal,” Kiriakou says, “otherwise how are we going to learn from our mistakes?” The discussion also touched on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I personally think there was collusion,” Kiriakou tells Wesley. “Whether that was a crime or not, I don’t know, I’m not an attorney. … I think a lot of people are going to go down at the end of the day.”
The conversation wraps up with a discussion about activism in the age of Trump. On commenter asks: Why hasn’t a rise in activism corresponded to a rise in whistleblower disclosures?
“Members of Congress really do react and respond to letters and emails,” Kiriakou says. “But we’ve got to be out in the streets.”
Watch the full conversation in the player above.
Kiriakou went to prison after he publicly disclosed that the CIA used waterboarding in interrogations. He wrote about his experience in the new book “Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison.”
Kiriakou was an intelligence operative for the CIA for 14 years, from 1990 to 2004. After the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11, 2001, he was involved in the capture of the third-highest ranking leader of al-Qaida in Pakistan. He blew the whistle on CIA torture in 2007 in an interview with ABC News.
After that, while working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he ran into trouble because of an interview with a New York Times reporter in which he revealed the name of a former non-covert CIA agent who talked about his job on social media. The disclosure led to Kiriakou’s prosecution in 2012 for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, a 1982 amendment to the National Security Act of 1947 — a prosecution seen as payback for his admission to ABC that the United States waterboarded prisoners.
Kiriakou served more than two years behind bars. He was released in 2015 and now is working to reform the security state in America.
To learn more about Kiriakou, click on the links below.
READ, WATCH, LISTEN: John Kiriakou Challenges the American Injustice System
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