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.


Ohio Proves It: Rehabilitation Works

The Buckeye State has reformed its juvenile justice system because it understands that “children have to be treated like children.”

Nonviolent Offenders Shouldn’t Have to Die in Prison

Inmates on their deathbeds should be free to spend their final days with their loved ones.

An American Mussolini

The GOP front-runner’s calls for violence against his critics are no joke.

The Pentagon is Trying to Cover Up the Toxic Effects of its Deadly Burn Pits

A book that reveals how burn pits poison soldiers and can cause the rare brain cancer that killed Joe Biden’s son has been banned on military bases.

What’s at Stake in Apple’s Privacy Fight

The feds dropped the ball on a key terrorism case, so now they’re going after privacy itself.

Syrian Ceasefire Offers New Era of Hope Between US, Russia

Former CIA counterterrorism officer and whistleblower John Kiriakou told Sputnik that the Syrian ceasefire offers the first substantive step towards a lasting peace and the possibility for a new era of US-Russian cooperation.

Systematic abuse of prisoners is rampant

The federal system’s record isn’t anything to be proud of. Prison guards get away with abusing prisoners every day.

America’s Killer Prisons

Inmates across America die every day because of substandard medical care.

The [Redacted] Truth about the CIA

America’s most notorious spy agency even deceives its own employees.

The GOP Presidential Candidates’ Infatuation With Illegal Torture

In the latest Republican Debate, Donald Trump vows to bring back waterboarding — an impeachable offence.

Let’s End Torture in U.S. Prisons

Survivors call solitary confinement “living death.”

How To Stop The Endemic Problem of Prisoner Abuse in Federal Prisons

Federal prison guards are brutalizing inmates, and too many are turning a blind eye.

Let’s Put Prison Sentences on Probation

Judges share the blame for America’s burgeoning incarcerated population.

Outrage in Oregon

Taking over a federal building at the point of a rifle gives protest a bad name.

The GOP Candidates Know Nothing about Syria

Ending this imbroglio requires robust diplomacy.

Congress has created an average of 50 new crimes per year for the past decade.

Not 50 new laws. Fifty new crimes. That’s criminal.

What the Red Cup Controversy Really Says about Christmas in America

What has modern American culture turned Christmas into?

Buy Today, Kill Tomorrow

Suspected terrorists can buy guns legally in the United States — and that’s how the NRA wants it.

Paying for Patriotism

The Pentagon shells out millions for sports leagues to “support the troops” with cheap stunts.

The CIA Is an Ethics-Free Zone

Members of America’s spy agency don’t even learn the rules.