Former CIA operative John C. Kiriakou on Jan. 25 will become the first agent to face prison for leaking classified information to the media, a crime punishable by 30 months in jail. He was charged with giving the name of another agent to an investigative reporter in an e-mail although it was never published. He agreed on a plea deal.
“If I’d known the guy was still under cover,” Kiriakou said, “I would never have mentioned him.” Kiriakou spent many of his 15 years in the agency undercover chasing al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
He admitted violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act law that was passed in 1982, aimed at radical publications that deliberately sought to out undercover agents, exposing their secret work and endangering their lives.
The New York Times reported that in more than six decades of interaction between the agency and the news media, Kiriakou is the first current or former C.I.A. officer to be convicted of disclosing classified information to a reporter.
The paper noted that Kiriakou, 48, earned numerous commendations in nearly 15 years at the C.I.A., some of which were spent undercover overseas chasing Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He led the team in 2002 that found Abu Zubaydah, a terrorist logistics specialist for Al Qaeda, and other militants whose capture in Pakistan was hailed as a notable victory after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Times reported that he got mixed reviews at the agency, which he left in 2004 for a consulting job. Some praised his skills, first as an analyst and then as an overseas operative; others considered him a loose cannon.