— John Kiriakou was born in Sharon and grew up in New Castle before moving to Washington, D.C., to major in Middle Eastern studies at George Washington University.
After spending his postgraduate years as a CIA operative, Kiriakou eventually returned to Pennsylvania – but as a federal prisoner on the wrong side of the nation’s espionage laws.
He reported to the federal corrections institution in Loretto in February after being sentenced in January for violating the Espionage Act and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
Kiriakou was one of the first intelligence officers to speak out against the official U.S. torture policy and outed the identity of a covert operative to an ABC News journalist.
During his imprisonment, he’s written “Letters from Loretto.”
One was an open letter commending former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who publicly revealed the massive scope of the agency’s surveillance program, which has been collecting large amounts of data on American citizens for years.
Kiriakou spoke with The Tribune-Democrat via phone, reflecting on the erosion of domestic civil liberties that led to the wide-reaching PRISM program and the vilification of “leakers” such as Snowden.
“I’ve learned since this whole thing started that no one intends to be a whistleblower.”
He said for him, the situation evolved quickly. Kiriakou got a call from ABC News’ Brian Ross, who told him a source had accused Kiriakou of “waterboarding” al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah, a claim he denied. He was offered to go on-air with Ross to defend himself.
“I decided between the phone call and the interview the only way to protect myself was to tell the truth,” he said.
“And the truth was not only were we torturing people, but it was an official U.S. policy.
“(I thought), if I have to do this, it has to be the whole way; there can be no half-measure.”