'Reluctant Spy' Charged With Passing Secrets to Reporters

Faces 2 decades in prison

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    A former CIA agent who wrote a book called "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror," has been charged with passing classified information to journalists.

    The justice department said that between 2007 and 2009, John Kiriakou disclosed the confidential information about two CIA operatives to three different reporters.  The Arlington man worked for the CIA from 1990 until 2004.

    In one case, prosecutors allege the Arlington man provided information about a CIA operative who had worked on the capture and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.  That information, including the operative's name, later appeared in an article that appeared on the front page of the New York Times titled, “Inside the Interrogation of a 9/11 Mastermind.”

     CIA director David Petraeus released a statement on Monday reminding the public of the officer's presumed innocence.  But then he writes, "When we joined this organization, we swore to safeguard classified information; those oaths stay with us for life. Unauthorized disclosures of any sort—including information concerning the identities of other Agency officers—betray the public trust, our country, and our colleagues."

    Prosecutors said in another instance, Kiriakou provided the identity of a covert agent who is still involved in a classified operation to a different journalist.  That reporter than disclosed the agent's identity to a legal defense team for a Guantanamo Bay detainee, investigators allege.

    The U.S. Attorney's office also said that while Kiriakou was writing his book, he lied to agency investigators in an attempt to secure permission to write about a confidential surveillance technique. Kiriakou wanted to include information about the "magic box," a device that could locate any switched-on cell phone, and allegedly told investigators lies about his knowledge of the device and whether or not it was confidential.

    In the author's note to his book, Kiriakou says the CIA had vigorously vetted his book for publication, and he said he understood why.  He wrote:  "Much of the work of the U.S. government can and should lend itself to greater transparency.  Much of the what the CIA does can and should remain secret because the release of certain information could jeopardize ongoing operations or relationships or otherwise compromise U.S. national-security interests."

    He faces four charges: one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for allegedly identifying a covert officer, two counts of violating the Espionage Act for allegedly passing classified information to reporters, and one count of making false statements to CIA investigators.  Together, the four charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.