ALEXANDRIA, Va. - An ex-CIA agent who has claimed he helped interrogate a top suspected terrorist was charged Monday with leaking classified secrets about fellow officers to the media.
John Kiriakou, 47, of Arlington is charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the Espionage Act. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Alexandria on Monday afternoon.
According to authorities, Kiriakou told a New York Times reporter about a fellow officer who participated in interrogating suspected al Qaeda financier Abu Zubaydah in 2002. That information was classified at the time. Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in 2002. He was reportedly waterboarded 83 times. His case has been made an example by those who believe the interrogation technique should be outlawed.
According to an affidavit, FBI agents interviewed Kiriakou last week, and he denied leaking the names of covert CIA officers. When specifically asked whether he had provided the Abu Zubaydah interrogator's name to the New York Times for the 2008 article, he replied "Heavens no."
Prosecutors started their investigation after defense attorneys for suspected terrorists filed a classified legal brief in 2009 that included details that had never been provided by the government. Authorities concluded that Kiriakou had leaked the information to reporters, and that reporters had provided the information to the defense.
The charges also state that Kiriakou leaked information about the identity of another CIA officer who participated in Zubaydah's interrogation.
In a December 2007 interview with CBS News, Kiriakou said that waterboarding was used effectively to break down Zubaydah (see video below). He said that he considered the practice torture, but sometimes necessary.
Kiriakou has worked in recent years as a consultant to ABC News. He worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer from 1990 to 2004.
According to a court affidavit, the photographs of the CIA officer who participated in the Zubaydah interrogation were found in the possession of terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The charges also accuse Kiriakou of lying about his actions in an effort to convince the CIA to let him publish a book. The book's title is "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror."
"Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of CIA officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Today's charges reinforce the Justice Department's commitment to hold accountable anyone who would violate the solemn duty not to disclose such sensitive information."