ALEXANDRIA, Va. - In the latest criminal case in the Obama administration’s effort to punish leakers, a former CIA officer who helped track down and capture a top terror suspect was charged yesterday with disclosing classified secrets about his fellow officers to the media.
John Kiriakou, 47, of Arlington is charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the Espionage Act. A judge at a federal court hearing ordered Kiriakou to be released on a $250,000 unsecured bond.
According to authorities, Kiriakou told a New York Times reporter classified information about a fellow officer who participated in interrogating suspected Al Qaeda financier Abu Zubaydah in 2002, eight months after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001. Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times and his case has been made an example by those who believe the interrogation technique should be outlawed.
According to an affidavit, FBI agents interviewed Kiriakou last week, and he denied leaking the names of covert CIA officers. When asked whether he had provided the Zubaydah interrogator’s name to the Times for a 2008 article, he replied “Heavens no.’’ A New York Times spokeswoman declined to comment.
Kiriakou’s lawyer, Plato Cacheris, said after his hearing that a potential defense argument could be that the charges criminalize conduct that has been common between reporters and government sources for decades. If convicted, Kiriakou could face decades in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Prosecutors started their investigation after defense attorneys for suspected terrorists filed a classified legal brief in 2009 that included details that had never been provided by the government. Authorities concluded that Kiriakou had leaked the information to reporters, and that reporters had provided the information to the defense.