Video: An Interview with CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou

(27 minute video)

E. Ethelbert Miller has launched “The Scholars,” a television interview series that explores contemporary scholarship. John Kiriakou is the author of Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror. He worked at the Central Intelligence Agency from 1990 to 2004. He is currently an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies.

Kiriakou was the first U.S. government official to confirm in December 2007 that waterboarding was used to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture. On October 22, 2012, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to disclosing classified information about a fellow CIA officer that connected the covert operative to a specific operation. He was the first person to pass classified information to a reporter, although the reporter did not publish the name of the operative. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison on January 25, 2013, and served his term from February 28, 2013 until 3 February 2015 at the low-security Federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

John Kiriakou is a member of a Greek Orthodox Church in Northern Virginia.

John Kiriakou and ‘Cut Loose The Body’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 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.”
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