by Medea Benjamin and Cayman Kai
On April 3, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary and conclusions of a report detailing the CIA’s use of torture. When the Torture Report is finally released, after going through the CIA for redaction, it will undoubtedly confirm the 2007 revelations about CIA torture released by John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and case officer. But Kiriakou himself is still languishing in prison, with at least another year left in his sentence. When Americans get a chance to contemplate the abuses committed in their name, they should also call for justice and freedom for the whistleblower who warned us about these abuses years ago.A painting of John Kiriakou by artist Robert Shetterly, as part of his series "Americans Who Tell the Truth." (Image: Robert Shetterly)
On December 10, 2007 in an interview with ABC News, Kiriakou discussed his involvement in the capture and questioning of Abu Zubaydah, accused aide of Osama Bin Laden. Kiriakou admitted that the CIA waterboarded Al-Qaeda suspects, specifically Zubaydah. He also expressed doubt that the information gathered from waterboarding was worth the damage to the United States’ reputation.
As a result of that interview, on January 23, 2012 Kiriakou was charged with revealing the name of an undercover officer and the role of another officer in classified activities. A year later he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. But compare Kiriakou’s treatment to that of Scooter Libby, former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. In October 2005, Libby was charged with revealing the identity of an undercover CIA officer, endangering her life. He was also sentenced to 30 months in prison, but President Bush commuted his sentence. Libby simply had to pay a fine, undergo two years of supervised release and complete 400 hours of community service. While Libby’s transgression was more serious than that of Kiriakou, since the agent he named was still active, Kiriakou was the one imprisoned.
Despite the CIA’s claims to the Department of Justice and Congress that their use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” helped obtain valuable information to disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives, the declassified Torture Report will show that this is false. For example, all useful information from Zubaydah was obtained well before he was waterboarded a grand total of 83 times. “The CIA conflated what was gotten when, which led them to misrepresent the effectiveness of the program,” said an anonymous U.S. official
to the Washington Post.
According to leaks, the report will outline multiple ways in which the CIA misrepresented the utility of the torture program. It will show the American people that torture didn't produce important intelligence; that the CIA lied to Congress, the Justice Department, and the White House so it could keep torturing; and that the CIA went beyond even what the Bush White House had authorized and tried to hide evidence that it had done so.
It will also show that the CIA conflated the ranking of Al-Qaeda officials. In the case of Zubaydah, they claimed he was a senior Al-Qaeda operative, when in reality he was merely a facilitator for recruits. And it will reveal the true extent of the U.S. network of secret detention facilities called “black sites.”
The release of the report on CIA torture is a critical first step in making Congressional oversight of the intelligence agencies work the way it is supposed to. But it should also be a first step in demanding accountability.
Right now, CIA officials involved in administering torture and misrepresenting the program roam free, with some, such as CIA chief John Brennan, rewarded for their crimes. Meanwhile, John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on torture, remains in prison, separated from his wife and five children. He has already lost a year of his life, and has another year to go.
As citizens, we must express our outrage and disappointment at the methods employed by our government, but we must also call for rights to be wronged. Kiriakou’s bravery should be rewarded, not punished. It is time for him to be released and for his courage to be recognized. Sign here
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