John Kiriakou served nearly two years in federal prison for exposing illegal CIA torture programs. RT spoke to the whistleblower about his upcoming book, “Doing time as a spy,” sharing scary moments in prison, but also the techniques that helped him survive.
“I took 20 life lessons I learned through my years of CIA training, some of them are meant tongue in cheek, things like, ‘Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations.’ But there are others that are serious, [for instance], ‘When calm is not to your benefit, chaos is your friend.’ Or ‘Recruit spies to steal secrets or anything else that you need.’”
That essentially means that “the endgame is to stay safe and to stay on the very top of the social heap in prison.”
The CIA for its part resisted the publication of the book as strongly as it could, using their own red tape tactics, Kiriakou told RT.
“If they don’t like your opinions, they’ll redact them in your text, and they’ll make you appeal, sometimes over and over again. The publication review board has by law 30 days to review a manuscript. They never ever meet that 30-day deadline, and they know there’s nothing you can do about it.”
His own book actually became a cautionary tale about the practice, he said.
“It took them eight months to get back to me, they sent me a letter saying that they needed another year. I said, that’s not the way it works, you have 30 days, I’m going to send it to the publisher. And a week later, they came back and said it was clear. They redacted one sentence, which I was happy to take out,” Kiriakou told RT.
Twenty-three months in prison taught Kiriakou that he was “far more patient, resourceful and ruthless” than he ever thought he was.
“My very first day in prison, the guard told me that if somebody walks into your cell uninvited, that is an act of aggression, and you’re going to have to defend yourself. Well, I’d only been in prison for 40 minutes when two Aryans walked into my cell, one of them with an enormous swastika that took up the whole front of his neck.”
So Kiriakou prepared to defend himself, when ‘the Aryans,’ as he calls them, asked if he was gay, an informant or a child molester, and when he said no to all three… invited him to sit with them at the cafeteria.
Later on, he met an Italian – in this case, meaning ‘a member of the organized crime family’ – who said very dramatically that Kiriakou should be sitting with the Italians from then on.
“It was because I was able to form these bonds with a variety of groups, including the Italians, that they ended up trusting me and valuing my company and my advice.”
When asked if there ever was the darkest moment during his time in prison, when he regretted speaking out against the CIA in the first place, Kiriakou was positive, and told RT about one very disturbing incident.
“Two of the guards, correction officers, tried to trick me into doing physical harm to another prisoner by telling me that he had received orders to kill me in prison. In fact, they called the other guy, and told him that I had received orders to kill him. That was kind of my darkest day.”
Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months at the Loretto Federal Correctional Institution near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His term began on February 28, 2013, and was supposed to end in August 2015.
Kiriakou first spoke of the CIA’s torture program, including waterboarding technics, in 2007, during an interview with ABC News. The investigation that eventually led to Kiriakou began in 2009.
Kiriakou was released on February 3, 2015, to serve the remaining three months of his term at his home in Arlington, Virginia.