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In light of recent developments in the Julian Assange extradition case, former CIA officer John Kiriakou joins host Robert Scheer on this episode of the Scheer Intelligence podcast, to delve deeper into the contradictions within the United States government and intelligence agencies regarding the disclosure of classified information and the veil of secrecy they maintain.

As highlighted in earlier episodes, John Kiriakou’s role as the whistleblower who exposed the U.S. torture program vividly illustrates the consequences of airing the government’s dirty laundry—it unleashes its full might upon you.

Kiriakou adds to this by sharing additional stories, including how his then-now-former wife, who also worked for the CIA, was secretly reporting on his activities to the agency for a number of years after he exposed the program.

Scheer and Kiriakou also reflect on the government’s hypocrisy in overlooking certain intelligence and government figures illegally allowing Hollywood stars and producers—like those of the 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty”—to access classified material yet face no repercussions while Kiriakou, Julian Assange and others face the utmost legal scrutiny for acting in the service of the people.

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

Introduction:

Diego Ramos

Transcript

This transcript was produced by an automated transcription service. Please refer to the audio interview to ensure accuracy. 

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, and intelligence comes from my guest. The radio station gave me the title of the show, I know it sounds arrogant, and I’ve had this guest on, I think this is our third encounter, John Kiriakou, who I first got to know when he was in the news as the person who blew the whistle, really, we could talk about the details of that, on the torture program. The great shame of America, some could argue maybe the greatest shame in the last half century, certainly up there. And that still haunts the reputation of the country and really makes us question what we really are all about. And we’ll get into his case a little bit. We’ve done that before. And let’s just it this way he is the only person connected with the torture program and he didn’t do any of it. He was not involved in the torture. He refused to be trained in it. He was very successful in the arrest of, at the time what was thought to be the third ranking leader of al Qaeda. And he and an FBI agent received all of the usable information ever obtained from Abu Zubaydah there. He’s now still in Guantanamo, still has never had a trial, and has been tortured extensively, of course, along with a lot of the prisoners, all of the prisoners that are there. And yet no one connected with the program at the CIA psychologist, none of them have been accused of a crime.

And John Kiriakou served, over two years in, federal prison. for, we’ll get into that issue, maybe talk a little bit about the Julian Assange case and how we treat whistleblowers, but the reason I wanted to do this interview today is that John was speaking on my class where I teach at USC and he told a story about what has happened to him because he lost, obviously, he had left the CIA, but he lost his pension and he was led to a divorce because his wife was also at the CIA and he’s been in battles about status and, custody battles were more appropriate to this story, with his wife. And as recently as last August, no, August ’22, still pretty recent, during a custody hearing, and I’ll let John tell the story, it was revealed that his wife had been in fact spying on him, for years and including preceding the birth of the last two of their five children.

And I thought, my God, this is a story you get out of a totalitarian regime, out of Stalin’s Russia or Nazi Germany or something, what is this? So why don’t you tell that story? So I don’t mangle it. 

John Kiriakou: Yeah, it’s a terrible story really. My ex-wife and I were both senior CIA officers and, as you might imagine, as you might assume, my arrest after blowing the whistle on the torture program was a great, blow to our marriage. And, about a year and a half after I got home from prison, she began a relationship with someone at work. I caught them. And I filed for divorce. We fought for custody for years, we continue to fight over custody, but we were in court over custody in August of 2022, and I was on the stand and my attorney asked me a very simple question. He said, was she a good wife? And I said, Oh, she was an amazing wife. She stuck by me like a rock when I got in trouble, she toughed out my two years in prison. She took care of the kids and the household. She was great. In fact, I said, she was so supportive that she went with me to ABC news on the day that I blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. She sat just off camera And when I finished I said, how did I do? She said great,I said, I didn’t say anything classified, right? And she said, no, you did great. I finished my testimony and she went up on the stand and her attorney said, is it true that you went with him to ABC news when he blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program?

She said, yes. The attorney said, why did you do that? And she answered the CIA’s office of security instructed me to go with him to report back to them on his activities. I was dumbstruck when she said it, my lawyer actually kicked me under the table. And afterwards, my lawyer said, do you think she said that just to hurt you or did she mean it? And I said, after thinking about it for a little while. About six months after I blew the whistle on the torture program, the Los Angeles Times asked me to write an op-ed on Iranian foreign policy in Latin America. And I had sat down at my computer to start writing this piece and my phone rang and it was the CIA general counsel’s office. And they said, you better not be writing about Iran today. And I said, I don’t work for you guys anymore. You don’t get to say what I write and what I don’t write. Besides, I get everything cleared and I hung up on them. And I went to my wife and I said, can you believe these guys had the nerve to call me and threaten me and tell me not to write about Iran, but how could they know I was writing about Iran?

And she said, they must have somebody at the LA Times. And I said, Oh, my God, that would be so illegal, but they must have somebody at the LA Times. Coming out of that courtroom in August of 2022 made me realize after all those years, 14 years had passed, they didn’t have anybody at the LA Times. She was reporting back to them on my activities. She told them that I was writing about Iran that day. 

Scheer: Now we really don’t know that for sure, but you’re just surmising that, right? 

Kiriakou: Sure, you’d have to ask, too, if the CIA would want to take the legal risk of placing somebody inside the Los Angeles Times or any other outlet. Of course, they could, they might, I don’t know. But her admission that she was reporting back to the CIA on my activities made it clearer for me. 

Scheer: This is amazing though, in a way, because what had happened was, as you say, you were both senior officers at the CIA. And for people who don’t know this story, I’ve interviewed you before, other people have, you’ve written books about it, but just to do the short story here, you were a naive, patriotic American, you were at college at George Washington University, one of your professors was actually a recruiter. For the CIA, he approached you, he asked you if you were interested. You already knew Greek because you come from a Greek Orthodox family, they [the CIA] sent you to school for a year to learn Arabic, and you went into the agency first as an analyst and then as a covert agent. And, you were made the head of the Anti-Terrorism Bureau in Pakistan.

Where you were involved in the capture of Abu Zubaydah and so forth. And, then, you, we’re going along with the program and arresting people and breaking into houses and doing the whole thing right. When torture came in the form of these two psychologists who thought they had the secret way. The FBI, which had been involved with you and interrogating prisoners, they knew how to do it and so forth, didn’t use torture were opposed to torture. Actually, you were offered, they asked you if you wanted to be trained and you wouldn’t go in for it. And then your career ended so I want to be clear about that. What happened was, you were challenged and on this ABC show of whether you were in fact, the source. of the torture program, whether you had tortured, right? 

Kiriakou: In fact, that’s the reason why I agreed to the interview in the first place, because Brian Ross from ABC news, Brian Ross, who’s won a dozen Emmy awards and two or three George Polk awards, the guy’s a very serious investigative journalist. He said that he had a source who said that I had tortured Abu Zubaydah. And I said that was absolutely untrue. He responded with what I later learned was an old reporter’s trick by saying, you’re welcome to come on the show and defend yourself. And once I was able to conclude that his source was at the White House and they were likely to try to blame me for the torture program, I decided to not just go on and defend myself, but to go on and answer truthfully whatever question he might have. 

Scheer: And then how did revealing the name come up?

Kiriakou: About six months later, I got an email from a journalist who, was writing a book on something called the Abu Omar rendition. Abu Omar was, an Egyptian cleric living in Milan, Italy. And, the CIA believed that he was an Al Qaeda plant. And so the CIA kidnapped him, just snatched him off the street while he was walking down the street in Milan one morning, rendered him to Egypt, tortured him, and it turned out that he was a completely innocent, just a run of the mill cleric. He had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. So this journalist said he was writing a book about Abu Omar and could I introduce him to anybody who might be able to, talk about it? I said, I don’t know anything about Abu Omar other than what I had read in the Washington Post and he said, can you introduce me to any of these people? And he listed a dozen people. I said, I don’t know them. Then he sent me a second email with another dozen names.

Can you introduce me to any of these people? I said, look, you clearly know this issue far better than I do. I don’t know any of these people. Kidnapping was not my thing when I was at the agency. I can’t help you. And then he said, what about in your book on page, whatever it was, 150 something, you mentioned somebody, I think his name is, I’ll say, John, can you introduce me to him? And I said, Oh, you’re talking about John Doe. I don’t know whatever happened to him. He’s probably retired and living somewhere in Virginia. But when I said the last name, I said the surname, that was a felony. That was a violation of the intelligence identities protection act of 1982. Now, nobody had ever been prosecuted for that. People use the names of covert operatives all the time. General David Petraeus, the CIA director revealed the names of 10 covert operatives to his girlfriend and biographer. He wasn’t even charged, but the CIA was so angry that I had exposed the torture program, that I had aired the agency’s dirty laundry, that they used that confirmation of the last name to go after me.

Scheer: And they came after you demanding what, 20 years? 

Kiriakou: Or something? 45 years is what I initially faced. They charged me with three counts of espionage, and I hadn’t committed espionage, of course. They charged me with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, and they charged me with making a false statement that we were never exactly clear on what the false statement was supposed to be. It was eventually dropped, and all three of the espionage charges were dropped. But in order to make it go away, after going bankrupt and having this hanging over my head, like a… 

Scheer: And losing your pension. 

Kiriakou: Not, yet, that came along with it. But this was like the sword of Damocles hanging over me. I elected to take the plea deal and it included a loss of my federal pension, yes. 

Scheer: Okay, I want to get back to the story of your wife, because you were under the impression right through the ABC discussion and everything else that she was being supportive of you. 

Kiriakou: Oh, yes, very much so. 

Scheer: Every time we have this, the totalitarian model, the Orwellian 1984, the bad guys in this world who run totalitarian regimes, they turn husband against wife or vice versa. They use families, they divide them, and so forth. And in your case, you’re saying that after you served your jail time, because they came down, they finally gave you a plea bargain of, so you got two and a half years or something. Nonetheless, she was acting like you still were a married couple, right? 

Kiriakou: Oh, yeah, by then we had three kids together and yeah moved back into our house and began moving on with our careers and our lives. She had done very well for herself. in the private sector after leaving the agency. So yeah, I thought I was getting back into the track of my life. 

Scheer: So what does it mean she was reporting to the agency after you got out of prison and for two years and two other children? 

Kiriakou: No, I think you have the timeline a little confused. So I blew the whistle on the torture program in 2007 and she was reporting on my activities until 2012. And then 2012 is when I got in trouble. 

Scheer: I see. Okay, just so I understand it now, you had already had three children with her when she started reporting on you? 

Kiriakou: No, we had one and then we had two more. 

Scheer: And why don’t you tell me the story correctly? 

Kiriakou: So I Sure. We had a child, but we got married in 2003, we had a child. I blew the whistle, we had another child immediately thereafter and then our third child in 2011, but from 2007 until 2012, she was telling the CIA’s office of security what I was writing, who I was writing it for, what I was saying, who I was meeting with. God knows what she told them, but they always seemed to know what I was up to and it was always a mystery to me how.

Scheer: And the mystery for you was solved when she revealed getting the dates right. In 2022, August of 2022. She said that she had been, that the CIA had ordered her to keep spot to spy on you. Correct. 

Kiriakou: Yeah. 

Scheer: And did anybody, did the CIA ever, anybody ever confront them or ask him that was true?

Kiriakou: No. 

Scheer: Am I the first person to be interrogating this tale? Because 

Kiriakou: Yeah, I haven’t mentioned it to tell you the truth for a couple of reasons. One, it was so shocking to me and I only learned about it relatively recently, but second, to tell you the truth, it’s a little embarrassing. You think that these things happen only in the movies or in, cheap dime store novels.

Scheer: And in totalitarian countries.

Kiriakou: And in totalitarian countries.

Scheer: Let me be clear. Maybe I’m more shocked than you are, but I just heard the story. You’ve lived with it, but you’re saying that they had your wife spying on you after you, how many children did you already have at that point?

Kiriakou: One, 

Scheer: And then you had two others, right? 

Kiriakou: Yes. 

Scheer: Okay. While she’s spying on you. So when you go see her in the hospital, when you get the baby, when you do all that is, she is filing reports on you? 

Kiriakou: Can you imagine? 

Scheer: No, I’m asking as a question. 

Kiriakou: Yes.

Scheer: Is that what you’re saying? 

Kiriakou: Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And this is by her own admission. This isn’t just, I’m trying to connect the dots of things that I didn’t heretofore understand. This is what she said under oath in court. 

Scheer: August of ’22, and she said it in, again, to explain what information? 

Kiriakou: Yeah, she said this in the circuit court of Arlington County, Virginia. And she said it just. in response to my assertion that she was supportive of my whistleblowing. 

Scheer: And she said she wasn’t. She was pretending to be? 

Kiriakou: She was pretending to be. She led me to believe that she was. 

Scheer: But she was spying on you. Yes. And while she was spying on you, she had two other children.

Okay. this is not my, a pursuit of gossip. I want to understand what our government does. What our government does and, I wonder why other reporters and journalists are not questioning how could they do this? How, it is appalling. 

Kiriakou: And I, I’ll add something to that as well, if I may interject. there was a very odd provision in my plea agreement. It was something that the government absolutely insisted on, and it was that for the rest of my life, I’m not allowed to file a requestFreedom of Information Act  on myself. And I wonder now if this is the reason. That they never wanted me to find out that they had tasked my wife with spying on me.

Scheer: Can someone else file? 

Kiriakou: My attorneys say, yes. Someone else can file. 

Scheer: After you die. 

Kiriakou: Right, after I die yeah. 

Scheer: Long after we’ve solved these problems. I do want to point out one thing. What you were convicted for was revealing the identity of the CIA agent. Fact of the matter is, and this goes to the whole selective use, and this gets, we can maybe segue a little bit into the current case of Julian Assange this gets to the whole question of how do we get information about what our government’s doing. And they selectively leak classified information all the time, 

Kiriakou: Literally every day. 

Scheer: And we had a startling example of that relates to the efficacy of torture, a very big question because their justification of what they call enhanced interrogation is you’re saving lives, you’re learning something, I don’t know what’s happening now with, the people who killed so many in Russia, and they look like they were treated in a harsh way, physical appearance.

Kiriakou: It seems that way, yes. 

Scheer: Yeah under Putin. And so anywhere that happens in the world, we say, no, that’s not, who we are. In fact, I think it’s, Obama said that. Obama’s guy who brought charges against you, but he said that about the torture program. That’s not who we are. we didn’t know who we are until you are confirmed this torture program. So here’s the great constitutional lawyer, Barack Obama, saying, oh, that’s not who we are. We don’t do torture, which was admirable. On the other hand, we wouldn’t have known they did torture if you, more than anyone else, had not exposed that. Which they couldn’t come after you on that, they went after you on the other of revealing. And I want to stick to that because we had a movie, Zero Dark Hour, Catherine Bigelow, which, justified, I think, as a viewer, justified the torture program, said it was necessary to capturing and, I guess killing, bin Laden, and, there was an affirmation of that, and that movie was based in part, major part, on leaks from the CIA. Take us to that scene that people, you know, when Leon Panetta was a former liberal Democrat Congressional member, who I interviewed a few times He took over the CIA and tell us about this. This is not somebody revealing the name of one agent or something, but describe that process. 

Kiriakou: Yeah. this is, no matter how many times I tell this story, it’s still just as scandalous in my mind. As if I were telling it for the first time, so the CIA has an office within its office of public affairs, whose job it is solely to cooperate with Hollywood studios, right? Now, they’re not going to cooperate with a studio making a movie that condemns the CIA or criticizes the CIA in any way. But if you’re making a movie or a television show that is. that is supportive of what the CIA does, that is pro-CIA, then they are very happy to cooperate with you. That’s what happened in the case of Zero Dark Thirty. The director and producer was Catherine Bigelow. The writer and producer was, Mark Boal, both A list figures in Hollywood. And they said that they wanted to make this pro-CIA movie. And what they ended up doing was working with the CIA to perpetuate the lie that the torture program led to the location of Osama bin Laden and that without the torture program, we would not have been able to find Osama bin Laden.

That is absolutely 100 percent not true. But that’s the theme of this film. And so what the CIA did for Catherine Bigelow and Mark Boal was, to give them really carte blanche at CIA headquarters. Bigelow and Boll flew out to, to Langley and they were given a classified briefing over a mock up, a classified mock up of the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Now that’s a violation of the Espionage Act. Providing national defense information to any person not entitled to receive it. They were given classified briefings by analysts in the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center. That also is a violation of the Espionage Act. And and they got briefings by the CIA’s leadership. And when I say leadership, the actual leadership, the director of the CIA, the deputy director of the CIA, the associate, sorry, the Deputy Director for Operations and the Associate Deputy Director for operations, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Senior officers, the, senior most officers, that’s also a violation of the espionage act.

And in the end, not only was nobody punished, but once the movie came out, Boal and Bigelow. invited everybody who had briefed them to LA for the film’s premiere, and for those people who couldn’t make the premiere, they sent gifts of watches and other Hollywood swag. Now that’s also a crime. You’re not allowed to accept gifts if you’re in the CIA. It’s outrageous. But they did it just to make matters even worse after this was all done, bin Laden was dead. The movie comes out. Leon Panetta, the CIA director that you just mentioned, gave sort of an attaboy speech in the CIA’s auditorium called the bubble. And, in the course of giving that speech, he revealed the names of the special forces soldiers who actually killed bin Laden. Those names were classified. So he did exactly what I had been accused of doing. And when called on it, he said, 

Scheer: That’s the key thing, that, the writer of the movie was at the, briefing.

Kiriakou: Yeah, it was at the briefing. So this uncleared individual at the briefing! 

Scheer: For CIA agents was a briefing for Hollywood screenwriter and others that they, in addition, I just want to be clear about that. 

Kiriakou: And then even beyond that, when the office of public affairs went back to redact the names that Panetta had revealed, they realized that there was another 27 lines of classified information in the speech that they had just missed. So they retroactively classified 27 lines of the speech that all these uncleared people had already heard. 

Scheer: And these unclear people, as you say, some of them were from the movie.

Kiriakou: Yes, correct. 

Scheer: And I think there was A special, general, what is it called? The inspector general of the CIA. He did a report in which I think Panetta was criticized. 

Kiriakou: Yes, Panetta was heavily criticized about it. In fact, just as the funniest side on this issue, I was in prison when this happened and the LA times reached out to me in prison and asked me to write an op-ed that they entitled, I got 30 months in prison, why does Leon Panetta get a break? And, I wrote it in longhand because I wasn’t allowed access to a computer or a typewriter, and they published it on a Sunday. The hypocrisy, the double standard is just glaring in this case, that if you have a pro-CIA story, if you want to leak a pro-CIA, piece of classified information, then by all means, you’re free to do it. But if you have a criticism, you’re taking your life into your hands, and they will ruin you. 

Scheer: Yes, and, and they have the power to ruin people, and in your case, they could force you to admit to something you didn’t think was a crime, as I recall. Otherwise, you would have had 45 years, and as it is, you lost your retirement and everything else that you actually had risked your life earning. You were one of those people in Pakistan running around, trying to grab people who were in Al Qaeda. You clearly were a potential target. You risked your life for your country, you never mentioned that in the time I’ve talked to you. No, but you did. You risked your life in a very dangerous, you were, what was the title in Pakistan? 

Kiriakou: I was chief of counterterrorism operations. 

Scheer: What kind of job is that to take? 

Kiriakou: You know what it’s, funny that you ask. I’m going to give you an answer by telling you a very short story. Every day, I, stayed in a small guest house, a 16 room guest house. When I first arrived in Pakistan, my first day, they took me to the Marriott. And I said, are you out of your minds? if Al Qaeda is going to attack any place in Islamabad, it’s going to be the Marriott. I’m not staying at the Marriott. So I spent the first night there. And then I moved into a 16 room guest house. Sure enough, a month later, they blew up the Marriott and they killed 156 people. So I was in this guest house and every single day, I would leave at a different time and take a different route to the American embassy because I didn’t want to establish a pattern to make it easier for them to kill me or to try to kill me on the way to work or the way home.

So every day, same thing, either I leave at 5, at 6, at 7, on the half hour, whatever it was, I never established a pattern. One morning, I left, like I always did, and I would check under my car. They assigned us these mirrors on a stick so you could look underneath the car for bombs, and I, would go out there and look under my car and look in the wheel wells, and I didn’t see anything, I got in the car and I started driving. And I wasn’t even at the end of the block when I noticed a man on a motorcycle with a red helmet trying very hard to stay in my blind spot. I’d speed up. He would speed up. I’d slow down. He would slow down. I took this crazy circuitous route and he was on me the whole time and then when I got to the entrance of the diplomatic quarter where the American Embassy, where most foreign embassies were housed, he broke off and I thought oh, that’s not good.

So we, every CIA station has a little database that you put these in these incidents in. I documented it. So I worked 14 hours that day. The sun went down, I leave the embassy. And as soon as I pull out of the diplomatic quarter, there he is again. And again, I take a very circuitous route and he follows me all the way back to the guest house and then breaks off. So now I’m frightened. I barely slept that night. The next morning, I got up at five o’clock in the morning, looked out the door of the guest house. I didn’t see anybody out there. I went, under my car to look to see if there were any bombs. I didn’t see anything unusual. I get in the car. Again, by now it’s 5:15, 5:20 AM. I start driving. And there he is again. So I get to the embassy. I’m nervous as I get out. I waited for the security officer to arrive and I said, listen, I’m under surveillance. I’m sure I’m under surveillance. And I recounted to him these sightings. Now the definition of surveillance is multiple sightings at time and distance.

So I saw him multiple times at different times and at different locations. That’s the definition of surveillance. So he said, we have to wait for the chief to come in. He came in around seven and we went in and I said, I am 100 percent sure that I’m under surveillance. And he said, okay, you know what you have to do. And I said, I know what I have to do. So he said, don’t worry. We’re going to have a whole team out there. We’re going to have guys all around you. Everybody’s going to be armed. But you’re going to have to kill him. And I said, I know, that was the training. So he said, you never, had to do that before did you? And I said, no, I’ve never killed anybody. I was nervous all day long. And all these old timers, these retirees who had come back after 9/11 as contractors, they were coming up to me all day saying, don’t worry, buddy. We’re all going to be out there on the street. Don’t worry. We’ve all been through this before.

I said, I’m very worried. That day at two in the afternoon, I had a meeting at the Pakistani intelligence service. So I went over there, and I met with my normal counterpart, a Brigadier General Muhammad, and we did our normal exchange of liaison information, classified information, and I started walking out, and just as I got to the door, I stopped and turned, and I said, General, let me ask you a question. Are you following me? And he said, no, why? And I said, because I’m under surveillance. I’m 100 percent certain I’m under surveillance. And if I see this guy again, I’m going to kill him. And I never saw him again. And later we learned that they were all sitting around one day and they were talking about me. And one of them said, he is such a nice guy. And another said, you know what? Nobody’s that nice. He’s probably pretending to be nice. And when he’s not here, he’s probably spying on us. We should put surveillance on him. And they put the worst surveillance officer in the entire Pakistani intelligence service to follow me. And if I hadn’t stopped and questioned the general on my way out that day, I would have killed that man that afternoon. 

Scheer: So you’re saying that it was the U.S. government that was spying on you? 

Kiriakou: It was the Pakistani intelligence service. 

Scheer: But they knew, how did you learn this? Don’t go into it, I see. So they, they had Yeah

Kiriakou: they just wanted to see what I was doing during the course of the day when I wasn’t with them. 

Scheer: We’re going to run out of time here, but let me just say you raised an important point. Classification is violated all the time when they want to support the military narrative, the CIA narrative and they make up things or they reveal things that support their narrative, but you don’t get the rest of the story. Our whole history is checkered with this Gulf of Tonkin attack and justifying the whole expansion of the Vietnam War. We only learned 20 years later it was a fabrication, and so forth. And this goes on all the time, the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But it’s interesting when someone, a whistleblower, and in the case of Julian Assange, he’s not a whistleblower because he had no security clearance, which you had. And he’s not an American and, he was, just, and our five leading publishers in the, Western democracies, Le Monde and the New York Times and I forget the others.

Kiriakou: El Pais and The Guardian,. and Der Spiegel, that’s right. 

Scheer: Five leading journals and I am amazed ’cause those same journals don’t even publicize this very much. Five leading journals have all said, Julian Assange does or did what we did as publishers. We would print, and we did, we printed those documents, and they said, and this is not a statement at the beginning, after all the information came out, they clearly stated, he has to be released, he should be released, or you’re destroying freedom of the press, okay, in this country. Nonetheless, this Julian Assange has been held under terrible conditions, in a high security prison in England. And the U. S. government, the only reason he wasn’t deported recently, and, two high court judges said no because the U.S. has not assured us that they will not execute him, ask for the death penalty, and they won’t deny his basic rights to speak in his defense.

And we don’t know why the Biden administration wouldn’t say they’d do that. Maybe they don’t want him to come back to the U.S. It’d be an enormous embarrassment. The case that was begun by Donald Trump, now pursued aggressively by President Biden. But it is interesting because we have been talking during this time about information selectively leaked that is of the far highest classification, and, the government does it. They release it to support their narrative as they have information about Julian Assange. On the other hand, Julian Assange’s crime is that he showed America committing, American troops, committing war crimes, shooting up, reporters and other innocent people in Iraq. 

Kiriakou: Absolutely right. Absolutely right. He’s being punished for telling the truth. He’s being punished for telling the American people about war crimes that our government committed in our name. 

Scheer: And yet you were on a show, I remember you brought this up, I think you did in my class. You were on a show, watching a show. where two reporters from Knight Ritter. Why don’t you tell us about? 

Kiriakou: This is about a year and a half ago. I sat on a panel on which two Knight Ritter reporters participated and one of the audience members got up and asked why they weren’t doing anything to support Julian Assange and without missing a single beat, one of them responded because Julian Assange is not a journalist, he’s an activist. And I said, wait a minute, even if you don’t think he is a journalist, you have to admit that he’s a publisher and Knight Ritter, in addition to every other news outlet in the Western world, used the information that Julian Assange released in their own reporting. So isn’t it incumbent upon you and every other journalist to stand up for Julian Assange? Because he stood up for you. The slippery slope here, and I think that you’ll agree with me, the slippery slope is if Julian Assange is successfully prosecuted, that means that every national security journalist in America is liable for an Espionage Act prosecution just for doing his or her job, just for doing what a journalist is supposed to be doing.

Scheer: And we, the voters, the citizens of this country, are the losers. Yeah. Other people are losers too. Particularly people who are killed when they’re innocent civilians and bombed and everything else. But as someone who’s tried to, I went to Vietnam in 1964 and when we were lying about what we were doing there and everything, the government was releasing all kinds of classified information, body counts, number of enemies, what had happened, what was blown up. So you’re going through a tissue of lies every day. You’re covering things like that. I’ve seen that I was in Egypt and Israel right after the Six Day War, governments lying all over the place. And it’s no secret, governments all over the world use classification as their excuse for not revealing the truth and preventing it from being revealed.

But it is appalling that after all of the lies have been revealed so often, and we had a Senate committee set up, the Church Committee, in the 1970s to keep our intelligence agencies in check, because there had been so many stories revealed about the CIA killing people, overthrowing government leaders, and other intelligent agencies. I want to end on this, that we haven’t made progress on this, and the thing that you went to prison for, really why you went, for revealing the torture program, we had that same Senate committee set up to control and monitor the CIA, thanks to Senator Feinstein, former Senator Feinstein from California. They spent over five years investigating the torture program. There’s a very good movie called The Report that goes into this. And the only part of it, we can’t read the main report. We don’t even know if copies exist anymore or where they are, they’ve never been released. And the introduction, however, even though heavily redacted, revealed that the torture program never came up with any usable information.

Kiriakou: Yeah. No, it’s a documented fact. Senator Feinstein and her investigators proved using primary source CIA documents that no actionable intelligence was ever gathered through the use of torture, period. It’s a fact and you’re going to get the likes of George Tenet, the former CIA director and Jose Rodriguez, the former, deputy director and, Kofor Black, the former head of counterterrorism.

Scheer: Don’t forget the so called journalists like former CIA director Brennan. 

Kiriakou: That’s right and John Brennan, another one. They’re going to repeat over and over again that torture worked because… 

Scheer: They don’t call it torture though. 

Kiriakou: They don’t call it torture. They call it enhanced interrogation techniques. And they’re going to repeat that it worked because that program is their legacy, and when their obituaries are written, that’s what’s gonna be in the first paragraph. They were the fathers, the, godfathers of the torture program. And so they want the American people to believe, falsely, that program worked and that program protected them, protected the American people when it’s all just a lie.

Scheer: Yeah, it certainly protected them because, as I say, and we’re going to end this, John Kiriakou, the only person punished for the torture program because he revealed it and confirmed it. to the American people. And for that act of service, you spent two years in federal prison. All right, John, that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence.

I want to thank Christopher Ho and Laura Kondourajian at KCRW, the excellent NPR station in Santa Monica. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer. Diego Ramos, who writes the introduction, Max Jones, who does the video, projection of this show and the J.K.W. Foundation, which in memory of an excellent independent journalist, Jean Stein, contributes some support, financial support for getting these shows up there.

Thanks again, John. And check in with you, hopefully in more optimistic times.

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Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer, publisher of ScheerPost and award-winning journalist and author of a dozen books, has a reputation for strong social and political writing over his nearly 60 years as a journalist. His award-winning journalism has appeared in publications nationwide—he was Vietnam correspondent and editor of Ramparts magazine, national correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times—and his in-depth interviews with Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and others made headlines. He co-hosted KCRW’s political program Left, Right and Center and now hosts Scheer Intelligence, a KCRW podcast with people who discuss the day’s most important issues.

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