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Ex-CIA agent, a New Castle native, starting over after prison sentence |

Ex-CIA agent, a New Castle native, starting over after prison sentence

| Saturday, February 7, 2015 9:00 p.m
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent who participated in the capture and questioning of the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to be water boarded delivers a lecture titled, 'Deviance and Social Control' to a class at the University of Pittsburgh in 2012.

Out of prison, a New Castle native and former CIA officer hopes to resume teaching college classes and find work with a Washington think tank.

“What I’d really like to do is write, teach and speak,” John C. Kiriakou, 50, of Arlington, Va., said Friday in a phone interview.

“I have some really strong views on prison reform right now, as you can imagine,” he added.

Kiriakou was an intelligence officer with the CIA from 1990 until 2004, when he retired. In 2007, he confirmed in television interviews that terrorism detainees were being waterboarded during interrogations.

The government in 2012 charged him with disclosing the identity of a covert operative, making a false statement and three counts of transmitting national defense information.

A federal judge in January 2013 sentenced Kiriakou to 30 months in prison with credit for time he had spent in custody. He served most of his sentence, which ends May 1, in the federal prison near Loretto in Cambria County. May 1, he begins three years of probation.

The Bureau of Prisons transferred Kiriakou to home confinement Tuesday, as it typically does with prisoners nearing the end of their sentences.

“It’s taken some getting used to,” he said of his first days back home. “There’s no comparison. No keys jingling all night long. No bad food and worse medical care.”

He pleaded guilty to confirming to a journalist the identity of an undercover CIA operative involved in the capture and interrogation of terrorism suspects. The journalist passed the information on to lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Kiriakou said he pleaded guilty to avoid a potential 45-year prison sentence if convicted on all the charges.

“I knew I was not guilty, and my attorneys knew I was not guilty, but a jury would convict a ham sandwich given a chance,” he said.

The government pursued the prosecution on the leak because of the 2007 television interviews, he said.

“I’ve maintained from the very beginning, as did my attorneys, that my case was not about a leak. My case was about torture,” he said.

A Justice Department spokesman said Kiriakou has made the whistleblower retaliation claim since he was indicted.

“We have heard this many times from Mr. Kiriakou,” said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia. “Unfortunately, his own statements and sworn Statement of Facts filed with his plea agreement refute the claim.”

The evidence includes interview transcripts in which Kiriakou claims the waterboarding was necessary and that he gave the initial interview because he believed the CIA was getting a “bum rap” on the issue, he said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or

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