CIA officer gets 30 months for leak

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou (right) leaving federal court with his lawyer, John Hundley, last year in Virginia.
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Pres/file
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou (right) leaving federal court with his lawyer, John Hundley, last year in Virginia.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The first CIA officer to face prison for disclosing classified information was sentenced Friday to 30 months by a federal judge.

The judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, said that in approving the sentence, she would respect the terms of a plea agreement between the former CIA agent, John C. Kiriakou, and prosecutors, but “I think 30 months is way too light.”

The judge said “this is not a case of a whistle-blower.” She went on to describe the damage that Kiriakou had created for the intelligence agency and an agent whose cover was disclosed by Kiriakou.


Before issuing the sentence she asked Kiriakou whether he had anything to say. After he declined, Brinkema said, “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The sentencing was the latest chapter in the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on government officials who disclose classified information to the press. Since 2009, the administration has charged five other current or former government officials with leaking classified information, more than all previous administrations combined.

In October, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, when he disclosed to a reporter the name of a former agency operative who had been involved in the George W. Bush administration’s brutal interrogation of detainees.

Kiriakou, who worked as a CIA operative from 1990 to 2004, had played a significant role in some of the CIA’s major achievements after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In March of 2002, he led a group of agency and Pakistani security officers in a raid that captured Abu Zubaydah, suspected of being a high-level Al Qaeda facilitator.

In 2007, three years after he left the CIA, Kiriakou discussed in an interview on ABC News the suffocation technique known as waterboarding that was used in the interrogations.


In subsequent e-mails with a freelance writer, Kiriakou disclosed the name of a former colleague, who was under cover and part of the interrogations.

The freelancer later passed the name to a researcher working for lawyers representing several Al Qaeda suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who included the name in a sealed legal filing, angering government officials and kick-starting the federal investigation that ultimately ensnared Kiriakou. The name was not disclosed publicly at the time, but it appeared on an obscure website in October.

Federal prosecutors indicted Kiriakou, accusing him of disclosing the identity of an agency analyst who had worked on the 2002 raid that led to Abu Zubaydah’s capture and interrogation. The prosecutors said Kiriakou had been a source for a New York Times story in 2008 written by Scott Shane that said a CIA employee named Deuce Martinez had played a role in the interrogation.

When Kiriakou pleaded guilty last October, the charges stemming from that disclosure were dropped along with several others.