Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Former CIA agent John Kiriakou Indicted.
February 1, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

In 2007 former CIA Agent John Kiriakou went public with his involvement with waterbording Al-Quaeda Detainees. At the time he felt that it worked. And, he only belived it had happened once with Abu Zubaydah. By 2010 he'd learned that Zubaydah had been waterboared 83 times, and that information was not good. Now, he's being prosecuted under the espionage act, for allegedly helping to identify CIA operatives that Guantánamo defense lawyers who might be able to testify about abusive treatment.

From the NYT article detailing the aligations:
The agency had initially pressed for an investigation of the Guantánamo detainee lawyers — not of its own former employee. The inquiry traces back to the spring of 2009, after government officials learned that Guantánamo defense lawyers were trying to identify C.I.A. interrogators — including the discovery of 32 pages of photographs in the cells of several Guantánamo detainees. The photos were a line-up of random people and suspected interrogators; the attorneys were trying to identify potential witnesses who could testify about abusive treatment, as mitigating evidence against death sentences.

That discovery led to an uproar within the C.I.A., where critics feared the move could put officials involved in the interrogation program at risk. The agency pressed for a criminal investigation, and Mr. Holder eventually appointed Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a United States attorney who led a high-profile C.I.A. leak investigation during the Bush administration, to handle it.
posted by delmoi (58 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Patrick Fitzgerald is everywhere.
posted by resurrexit at 2:13 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe fix that last sentence above the line?
posted by benito.strauss at 2:15 PM on February 1, 2012


Whistleblowers hate us for our freedoms.
posted by darkstar at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Previously: Obama's War on Whistleblowers

posted by T.D. Strange at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Maybe fix that last sentence above the line?

Yeah that would be good. I had actually meant to hit 'preview' and accidentally hit 'post' It should be something like "that Guantánamo defense lawyers thought might be able to testify about abusive treatment." - it's kind of unwieldy but I was trying to figure out how to express that in a concise way.
posted by delmoi at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2012


While we're nitpicking grammar, the fourth sentence is really bugging me. Was the information Zubaydah gave "no good" (i.e. lies) or was the information that he had been waterboarded 83 times "no good" (i.e. a bad turn of events for U.S. policy, etc.).

I assume it must be the former, but I think as written, the sentence implies the latter.

/misplacedmodifierpolice


Sorry for derailing. It's a fascinating turn of events.

Our new heroes seem to be people persecuted or prosecuted for sharing information with the public.

The prosecution of Mr. Kiriakou is the sixth criminal case brought under President Obama against current or former government officials accused of providing classified information to the media, more such cases than all previous presidents combined.

Yep. Bad, bad trend.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:43 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well it's not a like vice president ever did anything to identify a CIA operative...
posted by lpcxa0 at 2:43 PM on February 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


The prosecution of Mr. Kiriakou is the sixth criminal case brought under President Obama against current or former government officials accused of providing classified information to the media, more such cases than all previous presidents combined.

Yep. Bad, bad trend.


Given how quick he was to dismiss any possibility of pursuing charges against the former administration for anything related to war crime or torture, I find for the first time I am sympathetic to those on the American left that have been against Obama and don't want to vote for him. You guys are seriously fucked.

Well it's not a like vice president ever did anything to identify a CIA operative...


We need to look forward, silly
posted by Hoopo at 2:54 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Zubaydah had been waterboared 83 times, and that information was not good

It horrifies me to think that after he had been tortured 82 times, the people holding him prisoner thought, "you know, I bet one more will do the trick."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:58 PM on February 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've got mixed feelings about this. I want people to be able to blow the whistle on war crimes and torture, but I don't want CIA operatives identified and possibly killed as a result, especially if they aren't directly involved. I'm sure it's close to impossible to be charting a course where you can blow the lid off of a conspiracy to torture, and yet keep from divulging information that might trace back to other operatives or operatives' families. I guess I wonder if you can whistle-blow to the defense team for Guantanamo suspects without bringing the media into it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:01 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


but I don't want CIA operatives identified and possibly killed as a result, especially if they aren't directly involved.

Until random citizens of countries on the US's shit-list get that same courtesy, fuck 'em.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Seriously. I don't want them killed, but I don't mind them identified, that's for sure.

but I don't want CIA operatives identified and possibly killed as a result, especially if they aren't directly involved.

Is there any traction to this trope? How many CIA agents have been identified and then killed as a result of being exposed. I'm sure it's not zero, but how serious a danger is it (I'm sure it obviously depends on who and where ...)?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:08 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've said this before, but I'll say it again... in my view, voting for Obama is treasonous. He's far more dangerous than Bush ever was -- he goes even further than Bush did, and the thing that makes him dangerous is that liberals just swallow the exact same shit that Bush spewed, whole. This is, I think, because he looks and sounds professorial while telling you to bend over and grab your ankles.

Rather -- while telling you that he's going to make all those OTHER PEOPLE bend over and grab their ankles. But never you. Oh, that would never, ever happen.
posted by Malor at 3:09 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


without bringing the media into it

I think it's pretty important that the media be brought into it actually. I like to pretend that if the media investigated and reported on things like this there would be more consequences for people who torture.
posted by Hoopo at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I, too, am beginning to think that Obama is "our Bush," as in once the partisanship wears off for supporters a few years after his reign, serious Democratic lifers are going to be shaking their heads, saying "what the fuck was that," and leaving the party.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:11 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got mixed feelings about this.

I've also got mixed feelings about this. I also don't want to see CIA operatives identified and killed, but the NYT article states that the attorneys in this case "were trying to identify potential witnesses who could testify about abusive treatment, as mitigating evidence against death sentences," which to me is a just cause. I mean, can we even begin to talk about how poorly those people are represented.

I'm not sure what motivates Kiriakou to be a source for everyone and their mom. Some of the things he shared seemed to have gone a bit too far. That's what happens when you talk about things you're not supposed to talk about.
posted by phaedon at 3:12 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, another way of putting it is... people talk about how terrible it would be if the conservatives won again, because of all the imaginary terrible things they might do -- while ignoring the many horrific things Obama has actually done.

I'll trust in the concrete over my imagination, and Obama is concretely the worst president for civil liberties in American history. Therefore, I absolutely cannot vote for him, and I think anyone that does is taking their own little shit on the Constitution.
posted by Malor at 3:14 PM on February 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Therefore, I absolutely cannot vote for him [Obama]

So who are you voting for that will lead to a better outcome?
posted by benito.strauss at 3:18 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


While we're nitpicking grammar, the fourth sentence is really bugging me. Was the information Zubaydah gave "no good" (i.e. lies) or was the information that he had been waterboarded 83 times "no good" (i.e. a bad turn of events for U.S. policy, etc.).
Yeah like I said… I hit post by mistake! Gah!

There's no live preview when you post, so my plan was to hit preview and then read over what I'd wrote, which was difficult with the raw HTML and long URLs in the preview window. But, instead of preview, I hit post. I probably would have done a bunch of edits before posting. Oh well.


Anyway since I posted the thread I'm not going to comment for a while – plus I have stuff to do. Just wanted to explain the grammar issues.
posted by delmoi at 3:20 PM on February 1, 2012


in my view, voting for Obama is treasonous

That's why this doesn't make much sense. There's no percentage in this.

As far as elections go, there's no real electoral benefit prosecuting whistleblowers. A great number of Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 did so in order to get torture, war and other bad behavior by the United States to stop, and visible whistleblowers like Kiriakou, Bradley Manning and others have played major roles in this process — perhaps playing larger and more influential roles than Obama himself, in some important ways.

If you didn't vote for Obama last time, it's not as if you're likely to suddenly change your mind in 2012, just because he is vigilant in going after whistleblowers.

That's even looking aside the sitting President's own web site that still to this day shamelessly promotes ideals of transparency, while said President remains what journalists have described as the worst in American history on this issue:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. - President Obama, 01/21/09
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:21 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, delmoi. Thought we might get the mods to fix it. Parsing a broken sentence with complicated structure throws C++ STL levels of error messages in my brain.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2012


That's even looking aside the sitting President's own web site that still to this day shamelessly promotes ideals of transparency

I don't think he meant revealing the names of CIA operatives to be part of that. Like it or not, what the guy did was illegal.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:31 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So who are you voting for that will lead to a better outcome?

GOOGLE RICH SNIPPPETS
posted by mrgrimm at 3:35 PM on February 1, 2012


SCOTUS, folks. It's about the SCOTUS.

You want to peel back executive overreach? Want to see serious economic reforms withstand judicial oversight? Want to see civil rights legislation, health care legislation and a whole raft of other progressive platforms take hold and survive appeal? Then we need liberals on the federal bench. Which means we need Democrats (even flawed ones) doing the appointing.

I'm not happy with some of the things Obama has been doing, but I'm damn sure going to be voting for him, eagerly, given what else is at stake.
posted by darkstar at 3:36 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


who are you voting for that will lead to a better outcome?
If you live in a non-swing state? Green, Libertarian, write-in, etc. I understand if you're voting in Florida: hold your nose, send an apologetic email to Nader or whomever you'd actually prefer, and vote the lesser of two evils. But if you live in e.g. Texas or New York, why would you bother to avoid "throwing your vote away"? You're already statistically guaranteed not to affect who gets into office, so why not use your opportunity to instead affect the message that your fellow Americans will get from reading the results, and thereby indirectly affect the selection of future candidates?
posted by roystgnr at 3:41 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


This country is beyond fucked, i give up, you're welcome to it. We are now the bad guys that the future will look back upon and say "At least we aren't as bad as those guys were." All this torture and war crap is going to bite us on the ass big time, it's only a matter of time.
posted by usagizero at 3:47 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


It horrifies me to think that after he had been tortured 82 times, the people holding him prisoner thought, "you know, I bet one more will do the trick."

It horrifies me to think that before he had been tortured at all, the people holding him prisoner thought, "you know, I bet some torture will do the trick."
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:55 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think he meant revealing the names of CIA operatives to be part of that. Like it or not, what the guy did was illegal.

To ignore the politics of this thing is a sure recipie of failure. A nuanced response puts us in a position to permanently politically punish those who did this. That means turning the electorate against torture, not just legal proceedings. Because it is the political price which is the one which will deter those who would repeat this tragedy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2012


Ugh, can we skip the "YOU HAVE TO VOTE FOR OBAMA OR ELSE" Derail? It's just the same people arguing with each other. We all know our own positions, so what's the point in restating them once more?
posted by delmoi at 4:13 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't think he meant revealing the names of CIA operatives to be part of that. Like it or not, what the guy did was illegal.
Well, as Cenk Uygur pointed out in the video piece on this, the torture he exposed is also illegal. So the question is why is this guy prosecuted, while people who actually carried out torture, or authorized it, or destroyed tapes of it not prosecuted?
posted by delmoi at 4:16 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah sorry for bringing it up delmoi, I'm just struck by the double standard in his approach to this guy vs, say, Cheney for example.
posted by Hoopo at 4:16 PM on February 1, 2012


To stave off the derail both sides have to drop it, so drop it, even I'm getting sick of it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:20 PM on February 1, 2012


I encourage you to write the President and request he issue a pardon. Also contact your members of congress.
posted by humanfont at 4:31 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rules of American justice: a tale of three cases
posted by homunculus at 4:34 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


So the question is why is this guy prosecuted, while people who actually carried out torture, or authorized it, or destroyed tapes of it not prosecuted?

Is there any doubt that it's due to an entrenched National Security apparatus, and the complaints come from a relatively small number of relatively powerless people?

The thing is, when this was happening under Bush/Cheney, I could say "What can I do? I didn't vote for them, I've opposed almost everything they've done, the current powers-that-be do not listen to me."

But I voted for the current administration. They do things that make me say "yep, that's why I voted for them.". And there's a weird part of the American civil religion that I was taught in 3rd grade and haven't shaken, despite the experience of decades: I feel responsible for the actions of the American government. I think other feel that too, hence the search for ways to exert influence.

/no more comments from me in this thread referring to elections.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the broader story of whistleblowers in general, On The Media had two segments on whistle-blower protection last week.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:51 PM on February 1, 2012


So the question is why is this guy prosecuted, while people who actually carried out torture, or authorized it, or destroyed tapes of it not prosecuted?

The Greenwald piece that homunculus links to is a pretty good review of the contradiction:

So warped but clear are these Rules of American Justice that they produced darkly sardonic applications yesterday. Mazahir Hussain said: “Bradley Manning should’ve really considered committing some war crimes instead of exposing them.”
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:53 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


so why not use your opportunity to instead affect the message that your fellow Americans will get from reading the results, and thereby indirectly affect the selection of future candidates?

Because the message they receive, overwhelmingly, is "if only those third party spoilers hadn't been running, everything would have been fine". It may not be the right message (indeed, it's pretty obviously wrong), but it's observably the message they actually take from third party votes, quite consistently.

Also because there is absolutely no benefit to building up stronger third parties. In a first-past-the-post election like we have here, anything more than a two way race leads to results that are utterly absurd and undemocratic.

If you want multi-party democracy, work to reform election methods: in congress, proportional representation could be workable; in presidential elections, approval voting or a Condorcet method would be workable options. You'll have a hell of a fight to make anything like that happen, though. Instant runoff is slightly more achievable, though it doesn't do a very good job of addressing the problem.

If you just want better candidates, work on reforming the parties you've got. The best thing you could do is convince a huge number of people that they should care about civil liberties a lot more than they do right now, and that they should tell politicians about it. I don't know how to do that, but there it is.
posted by moss at 5:29 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: Obama's presidency has been a disaster, and he's done things that should make any decent person sick to their stomach at the thought of voting for him. Obama has also accomplished a number of good things, and is in all likelihood the best candidate available this election. Why do people see such a contradiction between these two facts?
posted by moss at 5:37 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the Greenwald article:
The Obama DOJ vigorously defended Rumsfeld, arguing (a) that Rumsfeld is entitled to immunity on the ground that he had reason to believe his acts were legal and (b) an American citizen has no right to sue a government official for the treatment he receives as a designated “enemy combatant” — even if the treatment in question is torture and prolonged imprisonment without charges.
This is utterly and completely disgusting, a full blown Rule of Aristocracy. Since when is it okay to say someone can be immune for their crimes because they thought they were legal? And why would any government official be immune from prosecution for torture, when we're a signatory to the Geneva convention at minimum- that is the law of the land, no?

In any other country we'd be loudly condemning these tiered standards of "justice" as the hallmark of an absolute tyrant and bloody dictator, but because we're the biggest bully on the block... It all amounts to literally a get-out-of-jail free card for anyone in the halls of power, and it absolutely ensures that if not Obama, some future president will be boldly imprisoning "dissident" citizens among other atrocities. Why not, what with the way paved for him so neatly, and with immunity enshrined through decades of precedent?

I was worried quite a bit when Obama was against Telecom prosecution while still on the campaign trail, and doubly so when he offered blanket immunity to the entire Bush administration. Nothing he's done in his 3+ years in office have left me thinking he's anything but a Manchurian candidate, a hard-right sociopathic monster in sheep's clothing.

The part that baffles me, unless I call him a sociopath is that as Blazecock Pileon noted above, there's not even an electoral advantage to this craven Police State mentality, no ideological compromise of "it's the cost of getting re-elected to get the other, better things done". If anything, every choice like this further alienates more of his core, without picking up one single right, center, or independent vote. I'm not sure if it's better or worse when a candidate sways his or her opinion to pick up votes, but at least it's understandable, at least the calculus (as in the Obama vs. Ron Paul thread) has an understandable component of "Well, yes, it's not ideal, but of the two bad choices..."

But no. Obama... that guy is evil, pure and simple. He's smart enough, educated enough to know better, and still picks the worst moral and ethical choice each time, for no other reason than because he can- it isn't logrolling to get votes on other issues, it isn't a hard compromise... it's just him being a totalitarian dick.

It's the only explanation that makes sense any more.
posted by hincandenza at 5:42 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


And why would any government official be immune from prosecution

As you point out, the Greenwal article says:
(b) an American citizen has no right to sue a government official for the treatment he receives as a designated “enemy combatant” — even if the treatment in question is torture and prolonged imprisonment without charges.
I imagine Obama's position is more pragmatic. The end result of allowing civil/criminal charges for officials after time in office would be a government filled with officials too afraid to do anything for fear of some unforseen liability.
posted by rosswald at 5:57 PM on February 1, 2012


Ugh, can we skip the "YOU HAVE TO VOTE FOR OBAMA OR ELSE" Derail?

Not sure how it's a derail if the rest of the conversation is about how Obama is the devil incarnate.
posted by inigo2 at 6:04 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


The end result of allowing civil/criminal charges for officials after time in office would be a government filled with officials too afraid to do anything for fear of some unforseen liability.


What like after you decide to torture someone? We were supposedly a nation of laws not of men, but it looks like that time has now passed. If you break the law when you are in office, you are not above it.
posted by dibblda at 6:11 PM on February 1, 2012


Not sure how it's a derail if the rest of the conversation is about how Obama is the devil incarnate.

It's a derail because the same argument comes up over and over again with the same positions.
posted by delmoi at 6:13 PM on February 1, 2012


I imagine Obama's position is more pragmatic. The end result of allowing civil/criminal charges for officials after time in office would be a government filled with officials too afraid to do anything for fear of some unforseen liability.
Well, it depends If government officials are running around torturing people, probably they should be a lot more afraid of liability.
posted by delmoi at 6:18 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a derail because the same argument comes up over and over again with the same positions.

I wasn't expressing my own position on Obama, I'm wondering what benefit he sees in such taking such a hyperactive charge against whistleblowers. It doesn't endear him to his core constituency nor to people who wouldn't support him in any circumstance.

I guess I'm just puzzled about what motivates his actions, when there is no clear net positive to the public or to his own position, outside of, perhaps, keeping a few CIA agents and former administration officials out of jail, bureaucrats looking to avoid prosecution for war crimes and similar offenses.

What's the payoff in this 12-dimensional game of chess? Did he trade Kiriakou's freedom in exchange for paying for a million kids to get an elementary school education? We read a lot about how Obama is on record as the worst president in history for political transparency — that seems a given at this point, something not even his most ardent supporters dispute too much — but we don't hear so much about the why.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:23 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are now the bad guys that the future will look back upon and say "At least we aren't as bad as those guys were."

Thankfully, I think Nazi Germany still holds that crown.
posted by Malice at 10:40 PM on February 1, 2012


(Thankfully as in, I am glad we have not followed in those footsteps yet.)
posted by Malice at 10:41 PM on February 1, 2012


Do you guys remember Joe Beese? As I recall it, he was highly obstreperous in his anti-Obama polemics during the primary, largely because he felt a young, establishment bred lawyer would essentially sign off on the heinous bullshit the Bushites foisted on the world in the hopes of moving on. And because Obama had not had time to get seasoned, to result understand the long term consequences of these predictable power-consolidation responses, and stuff like that.

So yeah, like, we are fucked.
posted by mwhybark at 11:17 PM on February 1, 2012


'to result understand' was typed as 'to really understand.'

I am basically certain that autocorrect is a cheap way to implement crazy talk among the dissenters. I've had enough! I'm trading in my computers for a letterpress and moving to Portland!

not really. I'll wait until they haul me off in the middle of the night.
posted by mwhybark at 11:21 PM on February 1, 2012


Pretty sure Clinton and Edwards were also "establishment-bred lawyers"
posted by Hoopo at 12:53 AM on February 2, 2012


Not sure how it's a derail if the rest of the conversation is about how Obama is the devil incarnate.

Correct: This was a bad decision by Obama because... or This was a good decision by Obama because....

Wrong: This good thing Obama did means you must vote for him! or This bad thing Obama did means you can't vote for him!

Got it?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:49 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


ACLU sues Obama administration over assassination secrecy
posted by homunculus at 11:05 AM on February 2, 2012


Fine point, Hoopo. Seems to me Joe felt they were more working-class-ish or something. Anyway, I just felt like some of his cassandra bit should be noted as not entirely incorrect.
posted by mwhybark at 6:18 PM on February 2, 2012


There is no 12 dimensional chess game here. It is simple politics. Obama either thinks the political cost is too high, he disagrees with the cause, or he doesn't think it is a priority. The DOJ has a lot of autonomy in prosecuting these kinds of cases; I don't think he can even suggest that they shouldn't prosecute without getting into trouble. I suspect his only option would be to issue a pardon. It seems that he isn't inclined to do it. I think activists are going to have to get pressure on him to either get him to change his views on the cause, increase the cause's priority, or make him see a political cost in not going along.

The prospect of you voting for a third candidate is but one of many tools that could be used to pressure him. As we saw in the Keystone debate this President can be made to do the right thing when we line up the right pressure.
posted by humanfont at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Silent State: The Campaign Against Whistleblowers in Washington
posted by homunculus at 2:10 PM on February 13, 2012


A High-Tech War on Leaks
posted by homunculus at 3:00 PM on February 13, 2012


A High-Tech War on Leaks
posted by homunculus at 3:01 PM on February 13, 2012


« Older More than ten years after it began, Defense Secret...  |  Last month Wired published a l... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments