A federal grand jury handed down a five-count criminal indictment against former CIA intelligence officer John C. Kiriakou for allegedly disclosing confidential information to journalists on multiple occasions.
According to the indictment, issued Thursday by a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., Kiriakou repeatedly provided three reporters with classified information that could have caused damage to national security — including the names of other CIA employees and their involvement in classified agency operations — without proper authorization. Kiriakou is the sixth whistleblower to be indicted by the Obama Administration under violations of the Espionage Act. The grand jury investigations for most of them were launched by the previous administration.
In the indictment, Kiriakou, who worked for the CIA from 1990 to 2004, is charged with three counts of violating the Espionage Act. Additionally, he is charged with one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and one count for making false statements to the CIA Publications Review Board for a book he published. If found guilty of all five charges, Kiriakou could face up to 50 years in prison.
Enacted nearly 100 years ago, the Espionage Act of 1917, makes it a crime to collect and share information that could potentially damage the national defense, cause injury to the United States and provide an advantage to a foreign nation.
Kiriakou was initially charged in January after a sealed brief, filed by the defense team representing high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, turned up confidential information not authorized through proper government channels, according to a Department of Justice press release. In the original complaint filed against Kiriakou, the Justice Department alleged that he leaked information to a journalist who in turn gave the classified information to the defense team. No journalists were named in the federal indictment.
"Espionage is one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American, and it is a notoriously vague and ambiguous law," said Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security and Human Rights with the Government Accountability Project. "It’s alarming that [the government] is using a law that was meant to go after spies, to go after whistleblowers."
"I find it especially disconcerting given that the people who are being prosecuted are people who revealed a lot of things that were the biggest scandals of my generation – torture and warrantless wiretapping – and yet those actual crimes have gone unpunished," Radack said.
The complaint listed a series of email exchanges from 2007 to 2009 between Kiriakou and three individual journalists in which he allegedly identified two agents and confirmed their involvement in the capture, detainment and interrogations of terror suspects. No journalists were named in the federal indictment.
Radack pointed to the likeliness of the Kiriakou case to that of Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency official who was charged last summer with a 10-court indictment for allegedly leaking classified information to a reporter with The Baltimore Sun. The Department of Justice's case against Drake fell apart before it reached trial, Radack said.
Kiriakou is free on bond. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Friday, April 13 at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.
Related Reporters Committee resources:
· rcfp.org: https://www.rcfp.org/node/123995