John Kiriakou is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. He writes a weekly column distributed by the Institute’s OtherWords editorial service that runs in newspapers and online media outlets.
Kiriakou is a former CIA officer, former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former counterterrorism consultant for ABC News. He was responsible for the capture in Pakistan in 2002 of Abu Zubaydah, then believed to be the third-ranking official in al-Qaeda. In 2007, Kiriakou blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program, telling ABC News that the CIA tortured prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy, and that the policy had been approved by then-President George W. Bush. He became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of the revelation.
In 2012, Kiriakou was honored with the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, an award given to individuals who “advance truth and justice despite the personal risk it creates,” and by the inclusion of his portrait in artist Robert Shetterly’s series Americans Who Tell the Truth, which features notable truth-tellers throughout American history. He was later named “Peacemaker of the Year” by the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, California. He won the PEN Center USA’s prestigious First Amendment Award in 2015 and is the author of The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.