Whistleblower John Kiriakou Critiques the CIA’s Behavior Following the 2016 U.S. Election
Posted on Dec 16, 2016
On this week’s “Informed Rant,” Joshua Scheer speaks with 15-year CIA veteran and whistleblower John Kiriakou about the U.S. intelligence establishment and its claims that hackers interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections at the behest of the Russian government.
Kiriakou discusses President-Elect Trump’s refusal to receive daily intelligence briefings, the relationship between the CIA and the White House and how it may change under Trump, and the condition of fellow CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.
Lastly, Kiriakou talks about his new book, “Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly
Joshua Scheer: My guest right now is John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower, author of three books, one that is available for pre-order that we will discuss, “Doing Time Like a Spy,” and we’re discussing, obviously, intelligent briefing, Russian hacks, and I want to talk about Jeffrey Sterling, another CIA whistleblower who is still in prison. Thank you for joining me.
John Kiriakou: Oh, very happy to be with you.
Scheer: Let’s start obviously with the CIA and there’s been anonymous sources in the Washington Post, I’m sure you followed the story. Today, there’s discussion of Vladimir Putin being involved in hacking our US election. What do you make of all this?
Kiriakou: Honestly, in my gut, this just feels like a red herring to me. First of all, nobody has really defined what hacking means. Are the Russian being accused of having hacked in the voting machines to steal the election? I’ve not seen that yet. Have they been accused of hacking emails? Yes, but if so, what was the fallout? I mean, this is something that the big powers do to each other all the time, and God knows the United States has a very long history, a rich history of interfering in the elections of other countries. I’m not really sure what the outrage is. To your first point, I’m not sure why we should really care. This is just something that the KGB does to the United States and that the CIA does to the Russians, and it’s just one of those dirty little poorly kept secrets and it has been for decades. I’m just not getting the outrage.
Scheer: It’s very interesting, yeah. This is obviously causing, like many of the issues of this last presidential election causing a divide within the Liberal community. A lot of Liberals, surprisingly enough, have defended the CIA.
Scheer: I’m sure, for them, it’s strange ground. Strangely, in the Washington Post this October, same paper that had these allegations from the CIA that broke the story, talks about that, the long history of CIA involvement in elections. I mean, certainly off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Iran the ‘54 coup in Guatemala, Vietnam, and the list goes on and on. I mean, yeah, you’re part of this organization. You’re a whistleblower. You blew the whistle on the torture program, and every morning, when I read these stories, the first thing that comes to my mind is certainly the movies that have been about the CIA, but certainly is the torture program that you exposed and involvement in elections and gathering information and undermining, even if not involved, undermining foreign interests for US power, right?
Kiriakou: Yeah, and when you look back through history, you can see that even where the CIA, I’m going to use the word in quotation marks, “successfully” influenced foreign elections, almost uniformly, those have turned out to be disasters over the long term. We still had never recovered. At least our policy has never recovered from the Mossadegh overthrow in the Iran in the 1950s. Look at Latin America, it’s still a mess, largely because what the CIA has done there over the years, even in Greece where the CIA, it wasn’t an election, but the CIA supported the overthrow of the Greek government in 1967 by a military junta. Even in Greece, people still hate and distrust the United States because of that. It’s like the CIA does these kinds of things, they carry out these kinds of covert action operations without any thought to long-term policy, and like I said, uniformly, the policy has turned out to be a disaster.
Scheer: I want to get into something, because obviously this is the Washington Post and people have written about this, about Philip Graham’s involvement in the CIA Operation Mockingbird, talking about the use of journalist, Jason Leopold, who we both know wrote about this a few months ago for VICE News, about Leon Panetta getting information into mainstream media into popular shows certainly about the CIA or other intelligence information. There’s a long storied history of the combination of the press. There was a great piece by Philip Giraldi. This is before a lot of this Putin stuff had come out, before the CIA allegations, but discussing his role and a member of the CIA placing fake news articles across the world.
You take all these things into consideration, is it just some people can’t get over the fact that Donald Trump despite not winning the popular vote by millions is the president? Is that really what you think, it comes down to? I mean, certainly China has hacked us and all of this, and I’ve had Malcolm Nance on, who wrote the book about hacking our election. Certainly, this malfeasance shouldn’t go uninvestigated, but when you’re talking about anonymous sources ... As you pointed out, I mean, this is a very confusing time for a lot of people. Do you even get what it is, this red herring with the CIA and Putin?
Kiriakou: I think that’s a part of it. I think the issue is deeper, but first let’s talk about the Washington Post. It’s funny to me that the Washington Post and elements of the Democratic Party have flipped sides, flipped positions with the conservative movement in this country. The Washington Post, for example, last week, listing websites that they’re accusing of being Russian influenced without any proof at all. That bothered me very much. In fact, several are websites that I write for regularly, including Truthdig. I happen to know the proprietors of Truthdig and I know that they’re not Russian agents. That was very disappointing to me.
I would also say that Donald Trump aside, I have found that the Washington Post has made a very dramatic move to the right over the last couple of years. Fred Hiatt, the editor of the editorial page is a well-known conservative and ideologue here in Washington, and he has moved the editorial page pretty solidly to the right. Now, they happen to not like Donald Trump, and because they don’t like Donald Trump, they have taken this misinformation of disinformation that’s been handed to them by the White House, and presumably from the CIA originally, and they just publish it as fact.
You mentioned this report that came out the other day citing anonymous sources or unnamed administration officials or unnamed intelligence officials. Well, my god, if you’re going to accuse a major presidential campaign, and indeed the president-elect of being in the pay of the Russians or being a dupe of the Russians, then show us the evidence. I pointed out in an article just a couple of days ago, and by the way, it was illegal to leak that report to the Washington Post. That meets the Obama administration’s definition of espionage. See, you can’t have it both ways.