ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A former CIA officer who was among the first to go public with details about the agency’s use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques was sentenced Friday to 30 months in prison by a judge at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.
The judge, Leonie Brinkema, said that in approving the sentence, she would respect the terms of a plea agreement between the former agent, John Kiriakou, and prosecutors, but added: “I think 30 months is way too light.”
The judge said “this is not a case of a whistle-blower.” She went on to describe the damage that Kiriakou had created for the intelligence agency and an agent whose cover was disclosed by Kiriakou.
Before issuing the sentence she asked Kiriakou, 48, of Arlington, Va., if he had anything to say. When he declined, Brinkema said, “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”
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The sentencing was the latest chapter in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government officials who disclose classified information to the media. Since 2009, the administration has charged five other current or former government officials with leaking classified information, more than all previous administrations combined.
In October, Kiriakou plead guilty to one charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, when he disclosed to a reporter the name of a former agency operative who had been involved in the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation of detainees. The plea was the first time someone had been successfully prosecuted under the law in 27 years.
Kiriakou, who had worked as a CIA operative from 1990 to 2004, had played a significant role in some of the CIA’s major achievements after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In March 2002, he led a group of agency and Pakistani security officers in a raid that captured Abu Zubaydah, who was suspected of being a high-level facilitator for al-Qaida.
In 2007, three years after he left the CIA, Kiriakou discussed in an interview on ABC News the suffocation technique that was used in the interrogations known as waterboarding. He said it was torture and should no longer be used by the United States, but he defended the CIA for using it in the effort to prevent attacks.
After the ABC interview was broadcast, reporters contacted Kiriakou. In subsequent emails with a freelance writer, Kiriakou disclosed the name of one of his former colleagues, who was still under cover and had been a part of the interrogations.
The freelancer later passed the name to a researcher working for lawyers representing several al-Qaida suspects being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who included the name in a sealed legal filing, angering government officials and kick-starting the federal investigation that ultimately ensnared Kiriakou.
The name was not disclosed publicly at the time, but it appeared on an obscure website in October.
In January 2012, federal prosecutors indicted Kiriakou, accusing him of disclosing the identity of an agency analyst who had worked on the 2002 raid that led to Abu Zubaydah’s capture and interrogation.
The prosecutors said Kiriakou had been a source for a New York Times story in 2008 written by Scott Shane that said a CIA employee named Deuce Martinez had played a role in the interrogation. When John Kiriakou plead guilty last October, the charges stemming from that disclosure were dropped along with several others.
The 30-month sentence matched that handed down to Vice President Dick Cheney’s former aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, after he disclosed the name of a covert CIA officer, Valerie Plame, to journalists. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and other charges in June 2007, but Bush commuted his prison sentence a month later.
Material from the Tribune Washington Bureau and The Washington Post is included in this report.