(Corrects sequence of events in 9th paragraph)
* Ex-officer pleads guilty to revealing name to journalist
* CIA Director Petraeus: 'Oaths do matter'
By David Ingram
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct 23 A former Central
Intelligence Agency officer is expected to spend 2 1/2 years in
prison for telling a journalist the name of a covert agent,
marking the first time in 27 years that someone will go to
prison for blowing the cover of a CIA agent.
John Kiriakou, 48, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of
disclosing the identity of a covert agent.
Kiriakou revealed the agent's name in a 2008 email, one of
many instances in which he helped journalists with information
on activities such as waterboarding and the CIA's interrogation
of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.
The guilty plea closes one of six prosecutions the Obama
administration has pursued in an aggressive campaign against
alleged leakers of classified information.
His Justice Department has prosecuted more leak cases than
all previous administrations combined, according to tallies by
multiple news organizations.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema called the expected 2
1/2-year sentence "reasonable under the circumstances" and noted
it was the same sentence that a judge gave to former White House
aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in 2007 in another case of blown
A jury convicted Libby of perjury in a case about who
revealed the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose
husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, had criticized the
Iraq war. President George W. Bush commuted Libby's term,
sparing him from prison.
AGENT'S NAME TURNED UP IN COURT PAPERS
In 2004, Kiriakou retired from the CIA. By 2007, he was
speaking publicly - including on television - about
waterboarding and his participation in Zubaydah's interrogation.
Then, in 2009, defense lawyers for detainees at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, disclosed in a military commission filing that they
knew the identities of some covert U.S. personnel. An inquiry
led U.S. officials to Kiriakou because the journalist with whom
he spoke also talked to a defense team investigator. Prosecutors
said the case is unrelated to Kiriakou's 2007 discussion of
Kiriakou was to go on trial next month on the disclosure
allegation and four other charges. When the charges were made
public in January, he said he was not guilty.
But this month, Brinkema ruled that to win a conviction at
trial, the government was not required to prove that Kiriakou
intended to harm the United States.
Kiriakou made a deal with prosecutors and switched his plea
to guilty on the single count in U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Virginia.
CIA Director David Petraeus hailed the conviction as a
victory for necessary secrecy.
"Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for
those who believe they are above the laws that protect our
fellow officers," Petraeus said in a statement he said was aimed
at CIA employees.
Kiriakou maintained he was not motivated by disloyalty to
the United States or by benefiting himself, his lawyer Robert
"Nothing in today's plea diminishes the importance of John's
service or the value of his contribution to our nation's
security. He would never do anything with the intent to hurt his
country," Trout said in a statement to reporters.
Prosecutors were unapologetic in defending CIA secrets.
"Leaks of highly sensitive, closely held and classified
information compromise national security and can put individual
lives in danger," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a
BINDING PLEA DEAL
Kiriakou briefly lashed out at prosecutors during a
30-minute court hearing on Tuesday.
He told Brinkema that prosecutors required him to describe
in court papers too much of his contact with journalists, with
the coauthor of a memoir about Kiriakou's life as a CIA agent,
and with FBI agents.
The information, he said, was inflammatory and irrelevant to
the one leak charge to which he pleaded guilty.
The judge partly agreed, calling the information in court
papers "window dressing." But she said it would not affect his
In exchange for the change of plea, prosecutors agreed to
drop the four other charges and to limit Kiriakou's prison
sentence to 2 1/2 years.
The sentence is binding under the terms of a deal between
Kiriakou's lawyers and prosecutors, but Brinkema scheduled a
formal sentencing hearing for January.
The maximum penalty Kiriakou faced under federal law for the
one charge was 10 years.
Trout told Brinkema that prosecutors offered Kiriakou a plea
agreement before he was indicted, but that the offer was
"In my judgment, it was not as favorable" as the offer
Kiriakou accepted on Tuesday, Trout said. He did not disclose
Kiriakou would serve his sentence in a minimum-security
prison camp in Pennsylvania if the U.S. Bureau of Prisons agrees
to the arrangement between defense lawyers and prosecutors.
Kiriakou also agreed to a $250,000 fine.
(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Howard
Goller, Jackie Frank and Stacey Joyce)