Friday 7th of October 2022

this is national whistleblower week…….

This is National Whistleblower Week, with Saturday marking National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The National Whistleblower Center in Washington has its annual lunch, seminar and associated events scheduled.  Whistleblowers from around the U.S. attend, a couple members of Congress usually show up and we talk about how important it is to speak truth to power. 

I’ve been attending these events for much of the past decade.  But I’m not sanguine about where our efforts stand, especially on behalf of national security whistleblowers.  Since I blew the whistle on the C.I.A.’s torture program in 2007 and was prosecuted for it in 2012, I think the situation for whistleblowers has grown far worse.



By John Kiriakou

Special to Consortium News


In 2012, when I took a plea to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 for confirming the name of a former C.I.A. colleague to a reporter who never made the name public, I was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison. 

In 2015, former C.I.A. officer Jeffrey Sterling, who blew the whistle on racial discrimination at the agency, was sentenced to what Judge Leonie Brinkema called “Kiriakou plus 12 months,” because I had taken a plea and Jeffrey had had the unmitigated gall to go to trial to prove his innocence.  So, he ended up with 42 months in prison.

Things just got worse from there. 

The prosecutors of drone whistleblower Daniel Hale asked Judge Liam O’Grady to sentence him to 20 years in prison.  O’Grady instead gave Hale 46 months.  But to spite him, and to show prosecutors’ anger with the sentence, the Justice Department ignored the judge’s recommendation that Hale be sent to a low-security hospital facility in Butner, North Carolina, and instead incarcerated him in the supermax facility in Marion, Illinois, with no treatment for his debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. 

I was in the courtroom during Hale’s sentencing.  When prosecutors asked for the draconian sentence, Hale’s attorneys cited my sentence of 30 months and Sterling’s 42 months.  Prosecutors retorted that they had “made a mistake with Kiriakou.  His sentence was far too short.” 

It was clear that since my own case, the Justice Department’s ongoing prosecutions of national security whistleblowers wasn’t discouraging people from going public with evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality in the intelligence community.  Perhaps, they thought, tougher sentences would do it.  Don’t count on it, I say.

In the meantime, I ran into another national security whistleblower at an event recently.  He told me that the F.B.I. had recently paid him a visit.  I chuckled and said, “Because you’re so close to them and they’ve been so kind to you?” 

We laughed for a moment, but he was serious.  He is still on probation and the F.B.I. offered to get that probation lifted if he would tell them anything and everything he knows about Julian Assange and Ed Snowden.  He told them that he speaks through his attorney and wanted no further contact with them.  His attorney told the F.B.I. that his client had nothing to say, would tell them nothing about Assange or Snowden even if he knew something and to not contact his client again.  They haven’t.

The Assange Nightmare 

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely followed the nightmare that Julian Assange has been experiencing for years now.  He could be extradited to the United States by next year and he faces more than a lifetime in prison.  That’s the Justice Department’s goal — that Assange die in a U.S. prison.  Ed Snowden likely faces the same fate if he were to find his way back to the U.S. 

In order to try to smooth the path for Assange’s extradition, prosecutors have promised British authorities that Assange would not be placed in a Communications Management Unit or a Special Administrative Unit, where his access to the outside world would be practically nil. 

They’ve also promised that he would not be placed in solitary confinement. 

But that’s all nonsense.  It’s a lie.  Prosecutors have literally no say in where a prisoner is placed.  It’s not up to the judge and it’s not up to the prosecutors.  Placement is solely at the discretion of the Bureau of Prisons (on recommendation from the C.I.A., which spied on Assange and his lawyers) and they haven’t made any promises to anybody.  

Belmarsh Prison in London is awful. But Supermax Marion, Supermax Florence, USP Springfield, USP Leavenworth, USP Lewisburg and any of the other American hell-holes where Assange and other whistleblowers are and can be placed would be worse. 

Though it’s National Whistleblower Week, we can’t pause to celebrate.  We can’t bask in minor successes. We have to keep up the fight because that’s what the Justice Department is doing.

John Kiriakou is a former C.I.A. counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.






FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW ########################

the CIA pornos…...

By John Kiriakou / Original to ScheerPost

A federal jury in New York last week convicted former CIA officer Joshua Schulte on nine felony counts under the Espionage Act for leaking information to Wikileaks that became known as Vault 7. Schulte has consistently denied that he was the source of the information. Two years ago, he was convicted on two of the original 11 charges, while the jury hung on the remaining nine. The most recent trial, in which Schulte represented himself, was on those nine counts, and he now faces up to 80 years in prison. Schulte is yet to be tried on state child pornography charges.

Prosecutors had literally no forensic evidence that Schulte had taken the data from the CIA and transferred it to WikiLeaks. But they contended that he was a computer genius so brilliant that he was able to cover his tracks. They alleged that he leaked the information because he was a disgruntled former CIA employee who hated his boss, couldn’t get along with his coworkers and sought revenge against the agency. That was enough for the jury.

CIA Deputy Director for Digital Innovation Sean Roche called the Vault 7 leak “a digital Pearl Harbor.” Chief prosecutor Damian Williams said the revelations were “one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history.” And Vice magazine said it was “the worst leak of CIA information ever.” The CIA leadership apparently thought the leak was so damaging that then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo ordered the agency to come up with a plan to kidnap or to kill Julian Assange in London. One former Trump Administration national security official said that Pompeo and other senior CIA leaders, “were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7. They were seeing blood.”

All of the major media outlets reported on the finalization of Schulte’s case. What they haven’t reported on, though, is exactly what Schulte was accused of leaking in the first place. What did we learn from Vault 7?

Vault 7 was a series of 24 collections of documents totaling hundreds of thousands of pages that included the most sophisticated computer hacking, surveillance and cyberwarfare tools that the CIA ever developed. Wikileaks published the first tranche, called “Year Zero,” on March 7, 2017. Just this first installment contained more information than all of that released by Edward Snowden and included vulnerabilities known to the CIA within web browsers, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Opera and the operating systems of most of the world’s cell phones, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

The fact that the CIA knew about these vulnerabilities and didn’t inform the companies was a violation of a longstanding policy the agency claims to have, stating it would assist US tech companies with their security if it learned of security weaknesses. Instead, it exploited those problems in its digital operations. We have no idea if the agency used these vulnerabilities to spy on Americans. Ashley Gorski, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney said at the time, “Our government should be working to help the companies patch vulnerabilities when they are discovered, not stockpile them.”

A second Vault 7 revelation came on March 23, 2017 and included accounts of CIA efforts to hack Apple’s iPhones and Mac computers.

Additional tranches were released every week or two until September 2017. Their revelations included proof that the CIA was able to hack into cars’ computer systems and could take over  control of the vehicle. Was the purpose of this to force the vehicle off the road? Off a cliff? Into a tree? The CIA never commented. Still other documents showed how CIA officers could take over an unsuspecting person’s smart TV and turn its speaker into a microphone to surreptitiously bug a room, even while the television appears to be turned off. Yet more documents showed that the CIA was running digital operations against the National Security Agency (NSA). It is unclear whether this was done as an exercise between the two agencies or if it was something more sinister.

Other revelations included a CIA-created program that was able to track documents transferred by would-be whistleblowers to media outlets (the program is called “Scribblers”), malware that can take over and control computers using the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system (called “Athena”) and malware that can be transferred from one “clean” computer to another through internal systems that are otherwise protected by anti-virus software (called “Pandemic”).  

The revelations were not limited to software. Also leaked was a program called “HammerDrill,” that injects a trojan horse onto CDs and DVDs and then documents information on the discs for later transmission to the CIA. An operation called “Dark Matter” revealed security vulnerabilities unique to Apple operating systems while a huge range of Cisco Systems router models also had their own compromised vulnerabilities known to the CIA, costing Apple and Cisco untold millions of dollars to redesign their products and correct the security flaws.

The American people have a right to know what the government is doing in their name, especially if what the government is doing is illegal. Unfortunately, we most often have to rely on whistleblowers to learn what we need to know.

Either way, I feel strongly about the treatment that Schulte has endured, being held in barbaric conditions over the past two years and kept in a literal cage in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Brooklyn. Now convicted, he’ll likely be placed in a Special Administrative Unit or a Communications Management Unit in a maximum-security or supermax penitentiary. The government will seek to cut him off from the rest of the world for as long as possible. 

In addition, the state of New York, simultaneously with the federal charges, charged Schulte with multiple counts of child pornography, which has given many of Schulte’s natural supporters pause. Prosecutors maintained that they only discovered the pornography when they seized the computer hard drives in Schulte’s apartment while looking for Vault 7 information. Schulte’s defense to the child pornography charges will be that the considers himself to be a libertarian anarchist and that he set up a server to allow people unfettered “free speech,” something akin to the 4chan and 8chan servers. He maintains that he has not “received” or “disseminated” any child pornography personally. However, when child pornographers saw that Schulte’s server supported “unfettered free speech,” they used it to trade illegal images and videos.  Schulte is adamant that none of the pornography was his. His protestations likely won’t matter.