The truth always comes out! You can try to keep the truth as a secret, for years. But one way or another, the truth always prevails.
John Chris Kiriakou was a CIA analyst and case officer, senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, counterterrorism consultant for ABC News. He was the first U.S. government official to confirm in December 2007 that waterboarding was used to interrogate al-Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison on January 25, 2013, and served his term from February 28, 2013, until February 3, 2015. Now, he co-hosts "Loud and Clear" on Sputnik Radio.
ILNA: Given the possible extradition of Julian Assange, do you think Ecuador officials are using his case as a scapegoat against West?
I do. Here’s why: When it was first reported that the Ecuadorian embassy had cut off Assange’s access to the Internet, several of us in the United States wrote a letter to Ecuadorian authorities demanding that his access to the Internet should be provided. I personally delivered this letter to the Ambassador of Ecuador in Washington. And the title was: Ecuador is open for business. And it said that the new president of Ecuador had asked Donald Trump’s administration to double the amount of Ecuadorian goods imported to the United States. So I realized then that this way bigger than Assange; they don’t care about Assange! They care about money and their own economy and good relations with Donald Trump. And so, I think that if Ecuadorians believe that it’s better for them and their economic interest to throw Assange out of the embassy, they will certainly do so.
On the other hand, for the Americans it’s this obsession with national security and control of information. We have far too much information that is classified; it’s over classified! And I think they want to make an example of Assange. This is more than him. They want to punish Assange and point to him and say “you see what we did to founder of WikiLeaks? So everybody else better keep their mouth shut!” This is the message that’s going out there.
ILNA: In this day and age, it is no longer possible to stop the flow of information. So why countries like United States are so sensitive about this matter?
I think it’s because they know deep down that the free flow of information never stops. There will be always whistleblowers! And this is something that I said also during my own case. The truth always comes out! You can try to keep the truth as a secret, for years. But one way or another, the truth always prevails. I think they see it as a brushfire, where you put it out over here and it starts over there. And they think if they keep putting out these fires, then they can keep the information as a secret, for as long as it’s possible. And they are going to lose!
ILNA: In your opinion, what is the main target of Ecuador Guest Plan?
I think that our analysis of Lenín Moreno was wrong. I think so many of us believed that he was a progressive leftist and a freedom fighter, but none of that was true! The first thing he did when he became president was to try to improve relations with United States. I think it was the opposite of what we needed, especially with Assange in that embassy. Don’t forget that Assange is an Ecuadorian citizen, which means he should have the same right as any Ecuadorian and that is the protection of his embassy. And he’s not getting those same rights.
This will affect Moreno reputation as a Noble Prize nominee, because a lot of people are going to think much less of him. He’s not the hero that we thought he was! He is more comfortable in the pocket of Donald Trump!
ILNA: Lenín Moreno has recently said that if Britain guarantees the safety of Assange, he would be happy to get him out of the embassy. Do you think this kind of deal is practical?
No, I don’t. First of all, I think the American government and the Ecuadorian officials have different ideas of what security guarantee is. The only thing that the American government has promised is that they won’t execute him! I’ve talked to Julian a couple of times and I told him to stay in that embassy as long as he can. If they throw him out, the British government will send him to the United States and he will be charged with spionage, in a same point that I was charged! It’s called the spionage court, because no one ever wins a case there! And so, Julian is looking at 30 years in prison if they send him back to United States. There’s no good outcome here. Nothing!
I’ll compare it to my own case; I hired a jury consultant, who is an attorney who helps us to pick members of jury who will be the best for me. So he came up here, and looked at all my files and information. Then he said to me: “Listen, you are not going to win this case, because it’s in eastern district of Virginia. You should take a plea.” He said that if this case was presented in any other district in America, I would win. It’s the same situation with Julian. He’s going to the eastern district of Virginia and he is going to lose there! In this district, they figuratively hang people in national security cases!
ILNA: Do you think a scenario of exchanging prisoners is possible in Assange case?
I don’t think so, because the only other person that the Americans would like to exchange is Edward Snowden and he’s not going anywhere! I think it’s just really about Assange. I think it’s about Assange embarrassing the United States and releasing all this information. When Mike Pompeo was the CIA director, he said that WikiLeaks was a hostile, non-state intelligent service. Right then, we knew it was over. We thought it was the Obama people that were anti-Assange. And remember that Trump, during his campaign, said that he loved WikiLeaks. Well, he doesn’t! And his Attorney General has said that he would prosecute Assange to the fullest extent. They will try to see to it that he will die in a prison cell here!
ILNA: How is the current situation of Assange right now?
The last thing I heard was that he wanted to leave the embassy for medical treatment. His health is very very poor! He has no direct sunlight for 6 years! He has become very white. It’s not good at all! But he’s even able to leave for a doctor! So, just recently they said that if he were to leave the British will grab him and they will take him to court to face charges of failing to appear in court. Ok, that’s nonsense! In United States, if you fail to appear in court, they take you to jail for 4 or maybe 6 hours, then you pay a fine and you’re out! This is different! They want to grab him and hold him long enough so the officials of U.S to get in their planes and take him back to Washington! So, there is no good scenario here!
The thing is that there is no country that he can get to! He has tried. His lawyers have tried also! There are countries that would accept him; Russia, Cuba, probably half a dozen other places, maybe even Iceland. But he just can’t get out of that embassy! If this was a CIA operation, they could get him out in no time! I guess the Ecuadorians are not that sophisticated!
ILNA: Even if he manages to get to some other countries, it’s possible that he would have to be cautious about the security matters of that country. As you know, many people think that Snowden is going soft with Russia. So does this mean the end of WikiLeaks ideals?
I agree. Of course it’s a difficult question for people like Snowden and Assange. I mean they are whistleblowers and they have to tell the truth. But at the same time they are in very difficult positions; you don’t want to insult your host, you don’t want to be thrown out of the country. So what could you do?
ILNA: What do you think about the future of whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is much stronger than it is in United States. In April, the EU finalized a new law to protect whistleblowers, both in private industry and in government- including national security. This is state of the Art law. Now it’s been passed by European parliament, and now it’s going to each individual member country for passage in their respected parliaments. They are a generation ahead of the United States. In U.S situation is not good at all! We have whistleblower protection law in America, but you work in field of national security –NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. - you are not covered by that law. So if you blow the whistle in illegality, fraud and abuse, you go right inti jail! But if you work for a bank or a company or a hospital, you’re a big hero!
ILNA: In the world that we are living in, do you think whistleblowers can have a concrete impact, besides telling the truth?
Yes. People like Donald Trump are the enemies of transparency, just like Barack Obama! People want transparency! The American people own this information. They have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. And so, if the government is not going to be transparent, it’s up to us whistleblowers to do it for them.
Of course, you are not going to win popularity contest if you become a whistleblower! People in general know what their government is doing, but the whistleblowers confirm it! They give the people the proof and information, and it’s this proof that people has a right to know!
Take my case for instance. I was the first person that said the government is torturing prisoners. Everybody in America knew that! They thought they knew the details, so when I confirmed the details it was a big deal! Same thing works for other whistleblowers. People think they know the truth, but they deserve the details!
Interview: Kamran Baradaran