A former veteran Central Intelligence Agency operations officer was
charged yesterday with frequently disclosing classified intelligence to
journalists, including the identity of a covert CIA officer and
information revealing the identity and role of another CIA employee in
classified activities, according to a U.S. Justice Department reported
obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.
The charges result from an investigation involving CIA Senior
Operations Officer John Kiriakou that was triggered by a defense filing
in January 2009, which contained classified information the defense had
not been given through official government channels, and, in part, by
the discovery in the spring of 2009 of photographs of certain government
employees and contractors in the materials of high-value detainees at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The investigation revealed that on multiple occasions, one of the
journalists to whom the 47-year old Kiriakou is alleged to have
illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that
information to a defense team investigator, and that this information
was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense
team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel.
The journalists are not identified by name in court documents, but
many believe that Kiriakou was a source for a June 2008 New York Times
article written by Scott Shane.There are no allegations of criminal
activity by any members of the defense team for the detainees.
Kiriakou, of Arlington, Virginia, was a CIA intelligence officer
between 1990 and 2004, serving at headquarters and in various classified
overseas assignments. He was charged with one count of violating the
Intelligence Identities Protection Act for allegedly illegally
disclosing the identity of a covert officer and two counts of violating
the Espionage Act for the alleged illegal disclosure of national defense
information to individuals not authorized to receive it.
Kiriakou was also charged with one count of making false statements
for allegedly lying to the Publications Review Board of the CIA in an
unsuccessful attempt to trick the CIA into allowing him to include
classified information in a book he was seeking to publish.
CIA Officer Betrays Fellow Intel Agents
The four-count criminal complaint, which was filed Monday in the
Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Kiriakou made illegal
disclosures about two CIA employees and their involvement in classified
operations to two journalists on multiple occasions between 2007 and
In one case, revealing the employee's name as a CIA officer disclosed
classified information as the employee was and remains covert
(identified in the complaint as "Covert Officer A"). In the second case,
Kiriakou allegedly disclosed the name and contact information of an
employee, identified in the complaint as "Officer B," whose
participation in an operation to capture and question terrorism subject
Abu Zubaydah in 2002 was then classified. Kiriakou's alleged disclosures
occurred prior to a June 2008 front-page story in The New York Times
disclosing Officer B's alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern
District of Illinois, who was appointed Special Attorney in 2010 to
supervise the investigation, announced the charges with James W.
McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office of
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and they thanked the Central
Intelligence Agency for its very substantial assistance in the
investigation, as well as the Air Force Office of Special Investigations
for its assistance.
"Protecting the identities of America's covert operatives is one of
the most important responsibilities of those who are entrusted with
roles in our nation's intelligence community. The FBI and our
intelligence community partners work diligently to hold accountable
those who violate that special trust," said Mr. McJunkin.
The CIA filed a crimes report with the Justice Department on March
19, 2009, prior to the discovery of the photographs and after reviewing
the January 19, 2009, classified filing by defense counsel for certain
detainees with the military commission then responsible for adjudicating
charges. The defense filing contained information relating to the
identities and activities of covert government personnel, but prior to
January 19, 2009, there had been no authorized disclosure to defense
counsel of the classified information.
The Justice Department's National Security Division, working with the
FBI, began the investigation. To avoid the risk of encountering a
conflict of interest because of the pending prosecutions of some of the
high-value detainees, Mr. Fitzgerald was assigned to supervise the
investigation conducted by a team of attorneys from the Southern
District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois, and the
Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division who were not
involved in pending prosecutions of the detainees.
According to the complaint affidavit, the investigation determined
that no laws were broken by the defense team as no law prohibited
defense counsel from filing a classified document under seal outlining
for a court classified information they had learned during the course of
Regarding the 32 pages of photographs that were taken or obtained by
the defense team and provided to the detainees, the investigation found
no evidence the defense attorneys transmitting the photographs were
aware of, much less disclosed, the identities of the persons depicted in
particular photographs and no evidence that the defense team disclosed
other classified matters associated with certain of those individuals to
The defense team did not take photographs of persons known or believed to be current covert officers.
Rather, defense counsel, using a technique known as a double-blind
photo lineup, provided photograph spreads of unidentified individuals to
their clients to determine whether they recognized anyone who may have
participated in questioning them. No law or military commission order
expressly prohibited defense counsel from providing their clients with
these photo spreads.
Upon joining the CIA in 1990 and on multiple occasions in following
years, Kiriakou signed secrecy and non-disclosure agreements not to
disclose classified information to unauthorized individuals.
Regarding Covert Officer A, the affidavit details a series of e-mail
communications between Kiriakou and Journalist A in July and August
2008. In an exchange of e-mails on July 11, 2008, Kiriakou allegedly
illegally confirmed for Journalist A that Covert Officer A, whose first
name only was exchanged at that point, was "the team leader on [specific
operation]." On August 18, 2008, Journalist A sent Kiriakou an e-mail
asking if Kiriakou could pick out Covert Officer A's last name from a
list of names Journalist A provided in the e-mail. On Aug. 19, 2008,
Kiriakou allegedly passed the last name of Covert Officer A to
Journalist A by e-mail, stating "It came to me last night." Covert
Officer A's last name had not been on the list provided by Journalist A.
Later that same day, approximately two hours later, Journalist A sent
an e-mail to the defense investigator that contained Covert Officer A's
full name. Neither Journalist A, nor any other journalist to the
government's knowledge, has published the name of Covert Officer A.
At the time of Kiriakou's allegedly unauthorized disclosures to
Journalist A, the identification of Covert Officer A as "the team leader
on [specific operation]" was classified at the Top Secret/Sensitive
Compartmented Information (SCI) level because it revealed both Covert
Officer A's identity and his association with the CIA's Rendition,
Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) Program relating to the capture,
detention, and questioning of terrorism subjects. The defense
investigator was able to identify Covert Officer A only after receiving
the e-mail from Journalist A, and both Covert Officer A's name and
association with the RDI Program were included in the January 2009
classified defense filing. The defense investigator told the government
that he understood from the circumstances that Covert Officer A was a
covert employee and, accordingly, did not take his photograph. No
photograph of Covert Officer A was recovered from the detainees at
In a recorded interview last Thursday, FBI agents told Kiriakou that
Covert Officer A's name was included in the classified defense filing.
The affidavit states Kiriakou said, among other things, "How the heck
did they get him? . . . [First name of Covert Officer A] was always
undercover. His entire career was undercover." Kiriakou further stated
that he never provided Covert Officer A's name or any other information
about Covert Officer A to any journalist and stated "Once they get the
names, I mean this is scary."
Regarding Officer B, the affidavit states that he worked overseas
with Kiriakou on an operation to locate and capture Abu Zubaydah, and
Officer B's association with the RDI Program and the Abu Zubaydah
operation in particular were classified until that information was
recently declassified to allow the prosecution of Kiriakou to proceed.
In June 2008, The New York Times published an article by Journalist B
entitled "Inside the Interrogation of a 9/11 Mastermind," which
publicly identified Officer B and reported his alleged role in the
capture and questioning of Abu Zubaydah--facts which were then
classified. The article attributed other information to Kiriakou as a
source, but did not identify the source(s) who disclosed or confirmed
Officer B's identity. The charges allege that at various times prior to
publication of the article, Kiriakou provided Journalist B with personal
information regarding Officer B, knowing that Journalist B was seeking
to identify and locate Officer B. In doing so, Kiriakou allegedly
confirmed classified information that Officer B was involved in the Abu
Zubaydah operation. For example, Kiriakou allegedly e-mailed Officer B's
phone number and personal e-mail address to Journalist B, who attempted
to contact Officer B via his personal e-mail in April and May 2008.
Officer B had provided his personal e-mail address to Kiriakou, but not
to Journalist B or any other journalist. Subsequently, Kiriakou
allegedly revealed classified information by confirming for Journalist B
additional information that an individual with Officer B's name, who
was associated with particular contact information that Journalist B had
found on a website, was located in Pakistan in March 2002, which was
where and when the Abu Zubaydah operation took place.
After The New York Times article was published, Kiriakou sent several
e-mails denying that he was the source for information regarding
Officer B, while, at the same time, allegedly lying about the number and
nature of his contacts with Journalist B. For example, in an e-mail
dated June 30, 2008, Kiriakou told Officer B that Kiriakou had spoken to
the newspaper's ombudsman after the article was published and said that
the use of Officer B's name was "despicable and unnecessary" and could
put Officer B in danger. Kiriakou also denied that he had cooperated
with the article and claimed that he had declined to talk to Journalist
B, except to say that he believed the article absolutely should not
mention Officer B's name. "[W]hile it might not be illegal to name you,
it would certainly be immoral," Kiriakou wrote to Officer B, according
to the affidavit.
From at least November 2007 through November 2008, Kiriakou allegedly
provided Journalist A with Officer B's personal contact information and
disclosed to Journalist A classified information revealing Officer B's
association with the RDI Program. Just as Journalist A had disclosed to
the defense investigator classified information that Kiriakou allegedly
imparted about Covert Officer A, Journalist A, in turn, provided the
defense investigator information that Kiriakou had disclosed about
Officer B. For example, in an e-mail dated April 10, 2008, Journalist A
provided the defense investigator with Officer B's home phone number,
which, in light of Officer B's common surname, allowed the investigator
to quickly and accurately identify Officer B and photograph him. Both
Officer B's name and his association with the RDI Program were included
in the January 2009 classified defense filing, and four photographs of
Officer B were among the photos recovered at Guantanamo.
In the same recorded interview with FBI agents last week, Kiriakou
said he "absolutely" considered Officer B's association with the Abu
Zubaydah operation classified, the affidavit states. Kiriakou also
denied providing any contact information for Officer B or Officer B's
association with the Abu Zubaydah operation to Journalists A and B prior
to publication of the June 2008 New York Times article. When
specifically asked whether he had anything to do with providing Officer
B's name or other information about Officer B to Journalist B prior to
the article, Kiriakou stated "Heavens no."
As background, the affidavit states that sometime prior to May 22,
2007, Kiriakou disclosed to Journalist C classified information
regarding Officer B's association with Abu Zubaydah operation,
apparently while collaborating on a preliminary book proposal. A
footnote states that Journalist C is not the coauthor of the book
Kiriakou eventually published.
Prior to publication of his book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life
in the CIA's War on Terror, Kiriakou submitted a draft manuscript in
July 2008 to the CIA's Publication Review Board (PRB). In an attempt to
trick the CIA into allowing him to publish information regarding a
classified investigative technique, Kiriakou allegedly lied to the PRB
by falsely claiming that the technique was fictional and that he had
never heard of it before.
In fact, according to a transcript of a recorded interview conducted
in August 2007 to assist Kiriakou's coauthor in drafting the book,
Kiriakou described the technique, which he referred to as the "magic
box," and told his coauthor that the CIA had used the technique in the
Abu Zubaydah operation. The technique was also disclosed in the June
2008 New York Times article and referred to as a "magic box."
In his submission letter to the PRB, Kiriakou flagged the reference
to a device called a "magic box," stating he had read about it in the
newspaper article but added that the information was "clearly
fabricated," as he was unaware of and had used no such device. The
affidavit contains the contents of an August 2008 e-mail that Kiriakou
sent his coauthor admitting that he lied to the PRB in an attempt to
include classified information in the book. The PRB subsequently
informed Kiriakou that the draft manuscript contained classified
information that he could not use, and information regarding the
technique that Kiriakou included in the manuscript remained classified
until it was recently declassified to allow Kiriakou's prosecution to
Upon conviction, the count charging illegal disclosure of Covert
Officer A's identity to a person not authorized to receive classified
information carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, which
must be imposed consecutively to any other term of imprisonment; the two
counts charging violations of the Espionage Act each carry a maximum
term of 10 years in prison; and making false statements carries a
maximum prison term of five years. Each count carries a maximum fine of
CPP, formerly Fifth Vice-President, is currently a Board Member of the
National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for
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He's former chief at a New York City
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