In 2007 Joseph Ross and I edited a collection of poems titled Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib Paintings and hosted a reading when Botero’s collection was on display in Washington, D.C.
That same year, CIA officer John Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the agency’s use of waterboarding as well as other torture. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in Pennsylvania. Kiriakou was recently released to house arrest. He’s now living in the D.C.-area and has made appearances at the Institute for Policy Studies at Dupont Circle.
This week my friend Sarah, who directs Split This Rock, a collective of poetry and protest with an office at IPS, related this story:
I met John Kiriakou at IPS on Friday … I told him about Split This Rock and gave him a copy of Cut Loose the Body. Here’s what he wrote me yesterday: “Thank you very much for Cut Loose the Body, which I read on the way home. It was absolutely wonderful, and I hope there will be many more. My wife also read it and said the poems were wonderful and the two Botero sketches were breathtaking. Thanks again.”
It’s so gratifying to know that work done in good faith makes its way out into the world and finds the people it needs to find. Thank you Sarah — and thank you John for your service to your country. John Kiriakou, who is Greek Orthodox, spent his two-and-a-half years in prison serving in the chapel. And, in a total quirk of fate, the federal prison where Kiriakou spent his time was called FCI Loretto. It used to be a Catholic monastery. The Bureau of Prisons turned it into a “low-security prison” and converted the “monks’ bedrooms” into “prisoners’ rooms.”
More about John Kiriakou below:
Mr. Kiriakou, who first came to public attention in 2007 when he spoke publicly about waterboarding, is one of eight current or former government employees prosecuted by the Obama administration for disclosing secrets to reporters; only three such cases were prosecuted under all previous presidents.
More about John Kiriakou below:
John Kiriakou is a retired CIA agent who has just been released from prison after blowing the whistle on the George W. Bush administration’s torture program. In 2007, Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the agency’s use of waterboarding. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. Under a plea deal, Kiriakou admitted to a single count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing the identity of a covert officer involved in the torture program to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it.
In return, prosecutors dropped charges brought under the Espionage Act. Kiriakou is the only official to be jailed for any reason relating to CIA torture. Supporters say he was unfairly targeted in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers. A father of five, Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and case officer, leading the team that found high-ranking al-Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in 2002. He lives at his home in Virginia, where he remains under house arrest for three months while completing his sentence.
In a wide-ranging interview on Democracy Now!, Kiriakou says, “I would do it all over again,” after seeing the outlawing of torture after he came forward. Kiriakou also responds to the details of the partially released Senate Committee Report on the CIA’s use of torture; argues NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden did a “great national service,” but will not get a fair trial if he returns to the United States; and describes the conditions inside FCI Loretto, the federal prison where he served his sentence and saw prisoners die with “terrifying frequency” from lack of proper medical care.