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The latest unsealed court pleadings in the Espionage Act case against Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou reveal that Kiriakou's defense team has sought to subpoena journalists.

Steven Aftergood of Federation of American Scientists explained the pleadings, and he is right that the latest pleadings present "a new challenge to press independence." However, the subpoenas for journalist testimony are not the fault of Kiriakou, who revealed and opposed torture and will be awarded the Callaway Award for Civil Courage later this month.  Rather, it is the government that indicted Kiriakou and put journalists at the center of the case. The indictment against Kiriakou specifically outlines alleged contacts Kiriakou had with journalists, and the most serious charges are based on information Kiriakou allegedly gave to journalists. Certainly Kiriakou's defense team is entitled to test those accusations.

Josh Gerstein of Politico (who reported on one journalist's (Matthew Cole) shady-sounding involvement in April) had an astute observation on the subpoenas:

It's unclear precisely what information the defense is seeking from the journalists, but it may be seeking to demonstrate that some of the information the government contends it was making efforts to keep secret was in fact being circulated outside the government.
Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake pointed out how the government's putting journalists at issue forced Kiriakou to subpoena the journalists to defend himself against a criminal indictment that threatens decades in prison:  
The government makes references to these three journalists in their indictment against Kiriakou, but they have refused to seek testimony from the journalists. This puts Kiriakou and his defense in a position where they can either request depositions and appear to be attacking freedom of the press or they can choose to not seek any more information on the journalists and the information, which the government is believed to be using for prosecution.
UPDATE: Marcy Wheeler just published some must-read insights on the Kiriakou case:
So Fitzgerald structured this case so as to avoid mentioning–much less admitting–that at its root lies a bunch of men guilty of torture. At its root lies the effort to hide the identity of torturers, and CIA’s efforts to punish those who brought that to light. If I’m right, and Tate is in that chain of people who exposed the identity of some torturers, then that’s part of what Kiriakou’s after: to show that he was simply involved in an effort to expose torturers. A whistleblower. . . . the Tate and Cole subpoenas sure seem like an effort to put the real lawbreakers–the torturers–back in the forefront of this case.
(Emphasis in original).

Kiriakou's is not the only case where the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers has caught journalists in the cross-hairs. All of the Obama administration's record-breaking Espionage Act prosecutions put journalists and press freedom at risk, and, as I've written previously, serve as a back door for going after journalists and suppressing press freedom.

All the Espionage Act cases involve allegations that the government employee “leaked” information (or retained information for the purpose of leaking it) to journalists.

The government’s spectacularly failed case against NSA whistleblower Tom Drake claimed that he allegedly retained allegedly classified information for the purpose of leaking it to Siobhan Gorman, then with the Baltimore Sun. It turned out that he disclosed unclassified information about a failed and wasteful (multi-billion dollar) NSA spy program that compromised Americans’ privacy. FBI translator Shamai Liebowitz pleaded guilty to leaking information to a blogger. Leibowitz made his disclosure because of an all-too-real fear that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move he saw as potentially disastrous. State Department arms expert Steven Kim is accused of leaking to Fox News that North Korea was planning to respond to a U.N. Security Council resolution by setting off another nuclear test — surely of public interest to China and South Korea. And, of course, Army Private Bradley Manning is accused of leaking to WikiLeaks.

It was surreal moment in the Drake case when the government moved to exclude from the trial any mention of "published newspaper articles" after having specifically referenced the articles in the indictment. The Judge correctly denied the government's request, inquiring as to how the government planned to prove the indictment without discussing the articles the government itself brought into play. In case against Drake there was no need to go down what the judge called the "deep dark hole" of subpoenaing reporters. But, then, despite the indictment's salacious narrative, Drake was never accused of actually disclosing classified information to a journalist, only with retention.

If the government wants to protect press freedom, it should stop using journalists' work as the basis for Espionage Act cases. One blindingly obvious solution would be for the Justice Department to use the Espionage Act as it was intended - to go after spies, not whistleblowers.

Lest we forget what's at stake in Kiriakou's case: Kiriakou appeared on ABC News in 2007 and became the first former CIA officer to call waterboarding torture. He said the U.S. should not engage in waterboarding and helped expose the G.W. Bush-era torture program as the policy it was, rather than the work a few rogue agents. He wrote a book that exposed deception leading up to the war in Iraq, the CIA's torture program, and the FBI bungling potentially valuable evidence after 9/11. And, Kiriakou is the only person to be criminally prosecuted in relation to the Bush-era torture program.

Attorney General Holder just recently foreclosed the last hope of prosecution for anyone who ordered torture, orchestrated the torture program, wrote the legal justifications for torture, or actually tortured prisoners. Another easy way to solve the problem of threats to free press: the Justice Department could focus its considerable taxpayer-funded resources on prosecuting people who tortured prisoners, rather than the whistleblower who exposed torture.

To support Kiriakou go here or "like" the Defend John K Facebook page.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

    by Jesselyn Radack on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 05:38:16 AM PDT

  •  I suspect.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, 2020adam, aliasalias
    So Fitzgerald structured this case so as to avoid mentioning–much less admitting–that at its root lies a bunch of men guilty of torture.
    ... the government will do literally anything to protect the torturers..., more's the pity.  They should be prosecuting them and the whole Bushista "leadership" [IMNSHO].

    It's working, too.  I notice no one's put up a stink about the lack of prosecutions for illegal and unconstitutional wars and the lies that led to the same and the torture that resulted which broke (nearly or) every treaty the US has ever signed.

    It's all so hush-hush.  This is the kind of stuff that makes me still ashamed to be an American.

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 10:23:02 AM PDT

    •  It really was amazing how quickly torture... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias, NonnyO

      dropped out of the conversation here. If Party leadership says it isn't an issue and the two parties aren't officially debating prosecution, it's apparently safe to stop caring.

      "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with."

      by 2020adam on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 01:37:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, good. I wasn't the only one... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... who noticed then, eh?  I figured it would happen if most any of the candidates were selected at the convention, and I knew in '07 that Obama would never pursue charges on the lies or war crimes of the Bushista years if he were selected as the presidential candidate.  [Really, I wanted so badly to be wrong in that premonition!  You don't know how much I wanted to be wrong!]

        To me it felt like when inauguration day '09 rolled around, the oath was done, the cheerful goodbyes said and the lying war criminals waved goodbye as they flew off in a helicopter, someone slammed the door on the lies and war crimes of the previous eight years that the walls shook... and the pall of silence overcame the whole of DC and news media (except for that "pesky Julian Assange" who persisted in publishing documents from the past, of course).

        Actually, the only one who might have pursued the crimes of the past would have been Kucinich, the one who brought the impeachment resolutions to the floor of the House, so the media blitz made him a laughingstock for being short and having funny ears and with that it became a magic spell that no one would take him seriously.  Go to YouTube's channel for Dennis Kucinich and listen to the impeachment resolutions against Dumbya and Dickie.  It's the only time anyone would know how eloquent a speaker Kucinich really is, and, of course, none of that got any publicity; it was barely mentioned on DK where if anyone mentioned Kucinich's name, along came trolls to define him as a gnome based on his looks and short stature.  It felt like an organized set-up to make Kucinich an irrelevant human being and a laughingstock, and he was the only one who displayed any ethical standards and the only one who would have been willing to fight for a single-payer not-for-profit health care plan he had..., guaranteed to piss off insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations, but even he caved in the end after one flight with Obama on AF-1.  Naturally, media ignored Kucinich, and yukked it up about Mike Gravel who had been so instrumental in getting the Pentagon Papers published.  Funniest 17:30 on YouTube....

        I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

        by NonnyO on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 07:31:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  From financial fraud to war crimes, the argument.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is made that the government simply doesn't have an airtight case and risks losing in Court. These cases show what nonsense that claim is. John Edwards, Roger Clemens, Thomas Drake. The Holder DOJ is perfectly fine helping shoddy cases move forward when the politics are right.

    Torture has been made effectively legal because prosecuting it wasn't part of the President's political agenda. National Security whistleblowing effectively illegal because the President believes his Office has the right to act in absolute secrecy whenever it says so.

    "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with."

    by 2020adam on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 01:36:25 PM PDT

  •  And then there's the other torture (0+ / 0-)

    that is imposed on our own soldiers, who return with severe emotional disorders, are denied benefits and care and accused of having "personality disorders."

    The mindset that allows torture of the enemy always seems to manifest itself eventually as torture of its own people.

    Speak the truth, but ride a fast horse.

    by Deep Harm on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 07:00:16 AM PDT

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