December 16, 2016
CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou On Russia Allegedly Hacking The U.S. Elections: 'This Just Feels Like A Red Herring'

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou says he doesn't understand what all the fuss over Russia allegedly hacking into the Democratic National Committee's emails is about.

"Honestly, in my gut, this just feels like a red herring to me," Kiriakou told Truthdig's Joshua Scheer in an interview for the site's weekly series Informed Rant.

Kiriakou is a 15-year CIA veteran who led the raids to capture Abu Zubaydah, a man the BBC described as "a suspected al-Qaeda financier," in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in 2002. Zubaydah was subsequently waterboarded up to 83 times during his interrogations. The information he provided while being tortured ultimately provided little, if any, useful information, the Washington Post later reported.

In a December 2007 interview with ABC News, Kiriakou criticized the practice of waterboarding, and then subsequently discussed the subject in several other media interviews. He was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in January of 2013 for exposing the names of CIA agents and other sensitive information with reporters while talking about waterboarding.

The CIA did not admit it had been waterboarding prisoners until 2008, according to a subsequent report by ABC.

In a letter penned from prison, Kiriakou told ABC he believes he was sent to prison to make an example of him for being a whistleblower.

"In truth, this is my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA's illegal torture program and for telling the public that torture was official U.S. government policy," he wrote. "But that's a different story."

No other CIA agents, including those directly involved with committing torture, were charged or sentenced in relation to the torture program.

John Kiriakou was released from prison in February of 2015 and has remained critical of many of the CIA's activities.

Scheer caught up with Kiriakou for Truthdig to discuss what it means to be a CIA whistleblower and how the agency is handling the possibility that Russia hacked the DNC's emails and then fed the hacked emails to Wikileaks.

Kiriakou is not impressed with how his former employer is dealing with the hacking case.

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 U.S. 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 Russians 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."

The Inquisitr recently reported on how common it is for governments, including that of the United States, to interfere in the elections and domestic affairs of other countries. John Kiriakou appears to be making a similar point.

In fact, Kiriakou had some harsh words for the CIA's history of involvement in foreign elections.

"[W]hen 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."
Earlier today, President Barack Obama vowed to "take action" against Russia for its alleged involvement in the DNC hacking.

"I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections that we need to take action and we will at a time and place of our own choosing," Obama told NPR.

That sounds perfectly reasonable, but at least one CIA whistleblower doesn't seem to be convinced that Russia is guilty of the hacking or that they did anything out of the ordinary.

[Featured image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]