CIA whistleblower/leaker John Kiriakou foils government plot to retaliate against him

John Kiriakou, the former CIA clandestine officer who was recently sent to Loretto Federal Corrections Institute on charges of leaking the identity of a fellow CIA officer, has written a letter to the public about his experiences in prison. Kiriakou maintains that his prosecution for the leak was in retaliation for his whistleblowing on the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (or EITs) which most now consider to be torture.

While the letter is a very interesting view into life in a federal prison, the event that takes pride of place is an incident in which the prison’s internal security personnel attempted to trick Kiriakou into getting into a fight with another inmate. However, it would seem that tricking a former operative of the US Clandestine Service is not as easy as they thought.

According to Kiriakou, the Special Investigative Service (or SIS), which investigates crimes or other breaches at the prison, pulled Kiriakou into their office to tell him that another inmate was the uncle of the Times Square Bomber, and had received orders from Pakistan to kill Kiriakou. Instead of being intimidated, Kiriakou, who had by this time made friends with just about everyone in the prison, simply walked up to the guy and talked to him. As it turns out, the SIS had told the other inmate (who had nothing to do with the Times Square Bomber) that Washington had ordered Kiriakou to kill him. Kiriakou postulates that the purpose of this plot was to get them to fight and thus produce an excuse to send them both to solitary.

Needless to say, if this story is true, it is should be a scandal. Even if the SIS were operating entirely independently and hatched this half-baked plot on their own, the use of a federal office to not only incite violence, but also to endanger a former CIA officer would be an unforgivable breach of the public trust. So far, little has been reported on this, or anything else related to Kiriakou’s  time in prison.

Paul W. Taylor, Senior Fellow
Center for Policy & Research

Former Detainees in the News: Uighurs in Albania and Palau

This past week, we saw two separate looks at former detainees of Uighur ethnicity and the challenges they face as former Guantanamo detainees.[1] [2]

The Uighurs are of a Chinese ethnic minority that has been subject to persecution in China.  As a result, no released Uighur detainees have been returned to China and have instead been sent to Albania, Bermuda, El Salvador, Switzerland and Palau.  As previously examined in the Center’s National Security Deserves Better: “Odd” Recidivism Numbers Undermine the Guantanamo Policy Debate, the Uighurs in Bermuda have been resettled successfully.

We also now know that at least one other Uighur former detainee, Abu Bakker Qassim, has been somewhat-successfully resettled in Albania.  Qassim initially had difficulty learning the Albanian language and reconciling his idea of Albania with the reality.  However, he has managed to bridge the gap by becoming a pizza-maker.  Qassim notes that while he had never even heard of pizza before he arrived in Tirana, Albania, his work has greatly improved his grasp on Albanian.  However, Qassim notes that it isn’t easy for him to make ends meet; he only works part-time, and the state aid he receives isn’t enough to support him, his wife and infant daughter.  The stigma of Guantanamo remains with him, making it difficult to find a better job.  Because Qassim is not an Albania citizen, he cannot obtain a passport.  Without a passport, however, Qassim must remain in Albania or return to China and face almost-certain persecution and arrest.

The challenges faces by Qassim are mirrored by the Uighur former detainees in Palau.  Six Uighurs in total were sent from Guantanamo Bay to Palau in late 2009, in what was intended to be a temporary stop before a permanent home was found for the former detainees.  However, the years have passed and Palau has been increasingly unable to support its charges.  Although the US and Palauan governments aided the former detainees in obtaining minimum-wage jobs, they struggle to pay for utilities and food.  Even the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, has expressed regret over the situation, noting the unfairness of their situation.

The recent shuttering of the U.S. State Department Guantanamo Closure office has made these six question whether they will ever leave Palau and settle in a permanent home.  Like Qassim in Albania, these six are not Palauan citizens and therefore cannot obtain passports in order to leave.  Ambassador Daniel Fried, who had run the Guantanamo Closure office up until its end, has stated he will continue to negotiate for permanent settlement of the Uighurs, even though he was reassigned to a position overseeing sanctions for Iran and Syria.

In 2008 a Washington federal court judge ordered all Uighurs to be released.  However, three Uighurs remain at Guantanamo Bay, because as with the former detainees in Palau, the U.S. has been unable to find a country to accept them.  Many countries fear the Chinese response to acceptance of Uighur former detainees.  As a world power, the U.S. is seemingly in a position to accept all of the Uighurs and withstand China’s response.  However, the public outcry that has accompanied any talk of bringing detainees to the U.S. to be held in prisons, never mind bringing detainees here for release, has completely shut down any likelihood of this happening.

Both the U.S. courts and the U.S. government have accepted that the Uighurs were never a threat to U.S. interests or forces.  However, if the U.S. government won’t stand and accept these clearly innocent men in our country, it is hard to imagine how we will convince any other country to do so.

Kelly Ross, Research Fellow

Center for Policy & Research


[1] Michelle Shephard, Uighurs who went from Guantanamo to paradise running out of money and patience, The Star  (Toronto), Feb. 7, 2013,  http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/02/07/uighurs_who_went_from_guantanamo_to_paradise_running_out_of_money_and_patience.html.

[2] Nate Tabak, Former Guantanamo Detainee Now Making Pizza in Albania, PRI’s The World, Feb. 7, 2013, http://www.theworld.org/2013/02/uighur-guantanamo-detainee-albania/.