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Former CIA agent gets 30 months for leaking operative's name

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, left, and defense attorney John Hundley, leave federal court in Alexandria, Va., in January 2012.
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, left, and defense attorney John Hundley, leave federal court in Alexandria, Va., in January 2012.Jacquelyn Martin/ AP file

A former CIA agent was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Friday for revealing the identity of CIA operative involved in the agency’s harsh handling of alleged terrorists.

John Kiriakou, 48, who was among the first government officials to confirm the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures, had been accused of disclosing classified information to reporters and lying about the source of other information he published in a book.

But Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by leaking the identity of an agent to a reporter. 

The sentencing in federal court in Alexandria, Va., was the result of a plea deal between defense and prosecutors. Kiriakou's defense team failed to persuade the judge that his release of information was the act of a whistle blower concerned about practices used in the war on terrorism in the name of the United States.

"I think 30 months is way too light," said U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria, Va. She went on to describe the damage that Kiriakou had caused the agency and the agent whose cover was made public, according to The New York Times' account.

"This is not a case of a whistleblower," Brinkema said. "This is a case of a man who betrayed a solemn trust."

Many of the details of Kiriakou’s alleged disclosures were kept under wraps by the Justice Department in its original criminal filing, the Washington Post  reported. But the complaint suggested that he provided information that was the basis for stories by the Times and other news organizations in 2008 and 2009 about sensitive post-9/11 CIA operations, it said.

The information included the capture and interrogation, including waterboarding, of key suspects, including Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Information and photographs supplied to journalists by Kiriakou ultimately came into play in the defense of these high-value detainees, the Justice Department said.

Kiriakou worked for the CIA from 1990 to 2004.

After a 2007 interview with ABC News, during which Kiriakou provided a description of the waterboarding of Abu Zubaida, he was frequently sought out by the media for interviews.

He went on to publish his memoir, "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror," in 2010.

Prosecutors accused Kiriakou of using media attention to get consulting work and sell copies of his book, the Post reported. 

The FBI arrested him on Jan. 23, 2012, and he pleaded guilty to a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

Kiriakou did not speak at Friday’s proceedings. However, Kiriakou’s lawyer, Robert Trout, said his client did not intend to harm the United States or "cause injury to anyone."

"He was concerned about certain practices that were employed in the war against terror," Trout said.

Since 2009, the Obama administration has charged five other current or former government officials with leaking classified information, the Times reported.