WASHINGTON — A former CIA officer was sentenced Friday to 30 months in federal prison for disclosing classified information to journalists in a case that underscored the Obama administration's harsh crackdown on national security leaks.
John Kiriakou, a 14-year CIA veteran, pleaded guilty in October to identifying an undercover operative who was involved in the use of severe interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, on terrorism suspects during the George W. Bush administration.
While the Justice Department has said it won't prosecute CIA officials who approved or conducted those interrogations, Kiriakou becomes the sixth current or former government official charged with revealing classified information since 2009.
Kiriakou's lawyers and civil rights advocates portrayed the 48-year-old former counterterrorism officer as a whistle-blower who helped expose CIA torture of detainees then held in secret prisons. The CIA and its defenders denied using torture, which is illegal, referring instead to enhanced interrogation techniques.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema said Kiriakou had damaged the agency. She called the 21/2-year sentence, the result of a plea arrangement, "way too light."
In 2002, Kiriakou helped lead the CIA team that captured Abu Zubaydah, believed to an al-Qaida facilitator, in Pakistan. Five years later, after he had left the agency, Kiriakou said in interviews that Abu Zubaydah and other detainees were waterboarded while in CIA custody, offering among the first insider accounts of the agency's use of simulated drowning.
Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded, divulged valuable intelligence on al-Qaida figures, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. But he also faced conventional questioning, making it difficult to determine if the harsher techniques were effective.