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Ex-CIA agent gets 2½ years after guilty plea over ID leak

Defense lawyer called operative a whistle-blower

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A former CIA officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to leaking the identity of one of the agency’s covert operatives to a reporter and will be sentenced to more than two years in prison.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped charges for John Kiriakou, 48, that had been filed under the World War I-era Espionage Act. They also dropped a count of making false statements.

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The law under which Kiriakou was convicted, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, had not yielded a conviction in 27 years.

Under the plea, all sides agreed to a prison term of 2½ years. US District Judge Leonie Brinkema said the term was identical to that imposed on Scooter Libby, chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was sentened for leaking information that compromised the covert identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, though his sentence was commuted by then-President George W. Bush.

Kiriakou, who wrote a book detailing his CIA career, initially tried to argue he was a victim of vindictive prosecution by government officials who believed he portrayed the CIA negatively, but the judge rejected those arguments.

Kiriakou was a CIA veteran who played a role in the agency’s capture of Al Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002. Zubaydah was waterboarded by government interrogators and eventually revealed information that led to the arrest of ‘‘dirty bomb’’ plotter Jose Padilla and exposed Khalid Sheikh Mohamed as the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Kiriakou declined to comment after the hearing, but his lawyer, Robert Trout, told reporters that Kiriakou ‘‘is a loyal American who loves his country . . . and served it for many years in classified and often dangerous assignments.’’

After Tuesday’s hearing, one of Kiriakou’s lawyers described him as a whistle-blower. Jesselyn Radack, a specialist on whistle-blower issues with the Government Accountability Project, said it was an outrage that Kiriakou will serve jail time. She said the name he revealed to a journalist was an individual involved in the CIA’s rendition program, which Radack said had engaged in torture.

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