Two New York-based reporters, Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito, are among the journalists the government has alleged as being on the receiving end of leaks from Kiriakou, sources familiar with the case told POLITICO.I also guest-posted for Glenn Greenwald's Salon column about the fact that not only do Espionage Act prosecutions have the effect of discouraging whistleblowers and drying up sources for the media, but journalists themselves are directly implicated:
Cole, described in court papers as “Journalist A,” worked until earlier this year as a producer for ABC News’s investigative unit, but the alleged leaks to him took place before he joined ABC.
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Cole’s alleged role is closer to the core of the case against Kiriakou and also raises questions about whether Cole, whose website indicates he was working on a book at the time, was straddling the line between traditional journalism and information gathering for lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees.
At first I thought Obama’s war on whistleblowers was meant to appease the intelligence establishment, which saw him as weak. I soon recognized this assault as a devious way to create bad precedent for going after journalists. All the Espionage Act cases involve allegations that the government employee “leaked” information (or retained information for the purpose of leaking it) to journalists.Gerstein recognizes that the threat the Espionage Act prosecutions poses to journalists is more than simply drying up sources:
Under the Espionage Act, even private citizens who obtain classified information outside of official channels can be charged with disclosing it.Obama's war on whisitleblowers is quietly becoming a war on the media. Without the media able to report both sides of the story, the only side the public will hear is that of the government, a dangerous prospect when a government agency is engaging in waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, torture, warrantless surveillance, assassination, etc.
As for Kiriakou, the sixth whistleblower the Obama administration has prosecuted under the draconian Espionage Act, I detailed the flimsy charges against him in Salon:
Kiriakou is charged with identifying a covert agent, three Espionage Act counts, and making a false statement, for which he faces 50 years in prison. In the government’s own words: “The charges result from an investigation that was triggered by a classified defense filing [by attorneys representing Guantánamo detainees], which contained classified information the defense had not been given through official government channels, and in part, by the discovery . . . of photographs of certain government employees and contractors in the materials of high-value detainees.” In other words, instead of investigating the government’s withholding of exculpatory information from Gitmo detainees’ lawyers, the government investigated how the lawyers obtained the information. And instead of investigating the approximately 70 names and 25 photos of the detainees’ alleged torturers, the government investigated how the prisoners found them out.Conviction or not, the Espionage Act prosecutions are meant to send a message to potential whistleblowers, a fact that the Justice Department readily admitted in the case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake.
Count I accuses Kiriakou of allegedly confirming the name of an allegedly covert agent — even though the covert agent’s name has never been made public. Count II alleges that Kiriakou violated the Espionage Act by affirming the allegedly covert agent’s (the same one whose name has never been made public) involvement with the “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program.” Counts III and IV stem from Kiriakou’s alleged communications with New York Times reporter Scott Shane, for a story he wrote in 2008 and for which Shane had some 23 other sources. Count V alleges that Kiriakou tried to trick the CIA, but failed, during the pre-publication review process for his book, “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.” The Indictment leaves out that Kiriakou took the “trick” information out of his book, and that the CIA cleared Kiriakou’s book in its entirety. More likely, the government is actually upset that Kiriakou’s book sharply criticizes the CIA’s torture program and reveals embarrassing information about the FBI – namely that the FBI shelved potentially-actionable intelligence in the aftermath of 9/11.
The indictment of John Kiriakou, like that of Tom Drake, is meant to chill whistleblowers and the journalists who report their stories. After the Justice Department’s case collapsed, Drake’s prosecutor requested at sentencing that the judge impose a steep fine of $50,000 “to send a message” to intelligence community employees “who live by these non-disclosure agreements.” (“Non-disclosure agreements” are not to be confused with Omertà-style loyalty oaths. Federal employees do take an oath: to the Constitution, not to the President, an Agency, a boss, or a broken classification system.) The judge gave Drake no fine, but the government’s desired message is especially odious because Drake and Kiriakou are the only people to be prosecuted in relation to two of the Bush administration’s biggest scandals—warrantless surveillance and torture. After being put through what a federal judge called “four years of hell,” Drake is out a career, a federal retirement package, and almost a hundred thousand dollars in attorneys’ fees. Kiriakou himself has also spent tens of thousands in attorneys’ fees and is struggling to raise the million dollars his defense is expected to cost. Intelligence community employees with mortgages and mouths to feed no doubt get the message.
As I keep saying, John Kiriakou is the new Tom Drake — an assessment with which Drake himself agrees. And the government’s latest dirty little secret? For these heavy-handed, oh-so-serious, America-harming, foreign nation-benefitting Espionage Act charges, the government was willing to let Kiriakou plead guilty to a single felony with no jail time. Desperate.After the spectacular collapse of the case against Drake and all of these questions about the Kiriakou case within days of the indictment, it is no wonder the government was willing to let Kiriakou plead to a single felony with no jail time.