NSA leaker Edward Snowden is the subject of an open letter of support just published from behind bars by John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent currently serving time for sharing state secrets.
In a letter dated June 13 and published Tuesday by Firedoglake, the imprisoned CIA vet salutes Snowden for his recent disclosures of classified documents detailing some of the vast surveillance programs operated by the United States’ National Security Agency.
“Thank you for your revelations of government wrongdoing over the past week,” Kiriakou writes. “You have done the country a great public service.”
“I know that it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now, but as Americans begin to realize that we are devolving into a police state, with the loss of civil liberties that entails, they will see your actions for what they are: heroic.”
Beginning with the June 6 publication of a dragnet court order demanding the phone data of millions of Americans, The Guardian newspaper has released a collection of leaked documents attributed to Snowden for which the US government has charged him with espionage. He is reportedly now hiding in a Moscow airport and has sought asylum from no fewer than 20 countries to avoid prosecution in the US. Should he be sent home and forced to stand trial, however, Snowden will likely find himself in a peculiar position that the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst can most certainly relate to: Kiriakou is currently serving a 36-month sentence at the Loretto, Pennsylvania federal prison for revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent to reporters.
Before Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one count of passing classified information to the media last year, the government charged him under the Espionage Act of 1917. He has equated the prosecution as retaliation for his own past actions, saying the charge wasn’t the result of outing a secret agent but over exposing truths about the George W. Bush administration’s use of waterboarding as an interrogation tool in the post-9/11 war on terror. As in the case of Snowden, Kiriakou’s supporters have hailed him as a whistleblower. As the government sings a very different song, though, the CIA analyst offers advice to Snowden in what is the second of his “Letters from Loretto” published by Firedoglake since Kiriakou’s two-and-a-half-year sentence began earlier this spring.
“First, find the best national security attorneys money can buy,” writes Kiriakou. “I was blessed to be represented by legal titans and, although I was forced to take a plea in the end, the shortness of my sentence is a testament to their expertise.”
“Second, establish a website that your supporters can follow your case, get your side of the story and, most importantly, make donations to support your defense.”
Kiriakou goes on to encourage Snowden toward garnering support within members of Congress and other institutions capable of calling attention to his case, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Before he concludes, however, he bestows on Snowden what he calls “the most important advice I can offer.”
“DO NOT, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI,” Kiriakou warns. “FBI agents will lie, trick and deceive you. They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not — supporters, well-wishers and friends — all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s a part of the problem, not the solution.”
“I wish you the very best of luck,” Kiriakou writes before signing off. “I hope you can get to Iceland quickly and safely. There you will find a people and a government who care about the freedoms that we hold dear and for which our forefathers and veterans fought and died.”
When Snowden first revealed himself to be the source of the leaked documents last month, murmurings quickly began circulating of Iceland possibly extending his way an offer of asylum. The list of countries asked to consider his request reportedly now exceeds 20, and the likes of Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Switzerland have all been floated as options. As Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola recalls, though, the Federal Bureau of Investigation likely won’t rule out dirty tricks to try and take down Snowden before he escapes, at least if Kiriakou’s experiences are any indication.
“According to Kiriakou, the FBI also tried to set him up,” Gosztola writes. He goes on to cite a January 2013 interview in which the CIA whistleblower recounted a previously untold story about the government’s alleged efforts to indict Kiriakou on even more charges.
“In the summer of 2010, a foreign intelligence officer offered me cash in exchange for classified information,” Kiriakou said. “I turned down the pitch and I immediately reported it to the FBI. So, the FBI asked me to take the guy out to lunch and to ask him what information he wanted and how much information he was willing to give me for it.”
“After the lunch, I wrote a long memo to the FBI — and I did this four or five times. It turns out – and we only learned this three or four weeks ago – there never was a foreign intelligence officer. It was an FBI agent pretending to be an intelligence officer and they were trying to set me up on an Espionage Act charge but I repeatedly reported the contact so I foiled them in their effort to set me up.”
Kiriakou is one of eight Americans charged under that World War One-era legislation by President Barack Obama, who has prosecuted more people under that law that all previous leaders combined. Snowden became the latest US citizen to have their name added to that list and joins the likes of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake. In a question-and-answer session hosted by The Guardian last month, Snowden celebrated those men as “examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope and skill involved in future disclosures.”
“Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers. If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they’ll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response,” Snowden said.
In his first statement since entering Moscow more than a week ago, Snowden published a note through WikiLeaks on Monday dismissing the White House’s hunt for leakers, calling their tactics deceptive, unjust and “bad tools of political aggression.”
“In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be,” Snowden wrote.