Former CIA officer pleads guilty in leak case

The New York Times reports: A former Central Intelligence Agency officer accused of leaking to journalists the identities of two former colleagues involved in the agency’s detention and interrogation program for high-level Qaeda suspects pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single charge. The plea deal was a victory for the Obama administration’s crackdown on unauthorized disclosures of government secrets.

The former officer, John Kiriakou, 48, stood in a federal courtroom in the Eastern District of Virginia and told the judge that he had violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by disclosing the name of a former colleague to a reporter, who has been identified as Matthew Cole, formerly of ABC News. Under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Kiriakou will be sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

But prosecutors agreed to drop several other charges, including accusations that he identified another colleague involved in interrogations to a different journalist, Scott Shane of The New York Times, and that he lied to a C.I.A. publication board reviewing his memoir.

Mr. Kiriakou worked for the C.I.A. from 1990 to 2004. He was a leader of the team that located and captured Abu Zubaydah, a suspected high-level member of Al Qaeda, in Pakistan in 2002. He came to public attention in late 2007 when he gave an interview to ABC News portraying the suffocation technique called waterboarding as torture, but calling it necessary. It later emerged that he significantly understated the C.I.A.’s use of the technique.

Mr. Kiriakou spoke calmly in court as he stood to face the judge, Leonie M. Brinkema. His lawyer, Robert Trout, stood beside him as the judge asked him a series of questions to make sure he understood the details and ramifications of his plea before she asked him how he would plead.

“Guilty,” he said, nodding slightly.

The former C.I.A. officer raised only one objection during the proceedings, questioning why a statement of facts to which he signed included admissions about some of the other charges that prosecutors had agreed to drop. The judge told him that such admissions were “window dressing” that would not change the outcome of the case, and he agreed to keep them in.

Judge Brinkema set a hearing to sentence Mr. Kiriakou formally on Jan. 25. But she indicated that she thought the 30-month term in the plea deal was appropriate, noting that it was the same term that I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, received for obstruction charges in connection with the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson. President George W. Bush later commuted Mr. Libby’s prison term.

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