DOJ charges ex-CIA officer with leaking classified information

A former CIA officer was charged Monday with illegally leaking the identity of a covert officer and other classified information to journalists.

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer and author who defended waterboarding, was charged by the Department of Justice with one count of illegally disclosing a covert officer’s identity and two counts of violating the Espionage Act for illegally leaking classified national defense information.

He was also charged with making false statements for allegedly trying to trick the CIA’s Publications Review Board to let him use information in his 2010 book, The Reluctant Spy.

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The investigation led by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was triggered in 2009 after defense attorneys made a classified filing that included the covert officer’s name, as well as by the discovery of photographs of government officials that were given to Guantanamo detainees.

The DOJ said in its filing Monday that the defense attorneys received the information about the covert officer from an unnamed journalist, after Kiriakou had given the journalist the officer’s identity. The defense attorneys did not break any laws, according to the filing.

Kiriakou, 47, who worked for the CIA from 1990 to 2004 and was a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2009 to 2011, gained prominence by way of a 2007 interview with ABC News, where he defended waterboarding and said it helped obtain valuable information from terror suspect Abu Zubaydah. Kiriakou also said he participated in the 2002 capture of Zubaydah.

The charges say that Kiriakou was a source who provided contact information for another covert officer who had also participated in the capture of Zubaydah to a second journalist. That led to a 2008 New York Times article disclosing the officer’s identity.

Kiriakou, who lives in Arlington, Va., was interviewed by the FBI last week, and denied having revealed the first covert officer’s identity, which is still not public, according to the filing.

“How the heck did they get him?” Kiriakou said, according to the complaint.

The combined charges against Kiriakou carry a maximum 30-year sentence. He's scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Va., Monday.