A defense lawyer's classified filing in 2009 in a Guantanamo Bay detainee case triggered an investigation that has led to criminal charges against a former CIA officer, accused of leaking classified information to journalists, federal prosecutors said today.
Justice Department officials said the former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was charged today in Alexandria federal district court with revealing classified information to reporters, including the name of a covert CIA officer. Click here for the criminal complaint.
Kiriakou, an intelligence officer from 1990 to 2004, served at CIA headquarters and in various classified assignments abroad. He was expected to make a court appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Prosecutors said Kiriakou was charged with one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, for disclosing the identity of a covert agent, and two counts of violating the Espionage Act for allegedly providing classified material to reporters.
DOJ officials said The New York Times in 2008 published an article by national security reporter Scott Shane that disclosed one covert officer’s role in the then-secret operation in 2002 to capture terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah.
“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of CIA officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a prepared statement. “Today’s charges reinforce the Justice Department’s commitment to hold accountable anyone who would violate the solemn duty not to disclose such sensitive information.”
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago supervised the investigation of Kiriakou, DOJ officials said. The officials said Fitzgerald was appointed to lead the probe due to the potential conflicts in pending prosecutions of high-value Guantanamo Bay detainees.
A defense attorney’s classified filing in January 2009 in one of those cases caught the eye of the Justice Department and the CIA, court papers show.
That filing, according to charging documents against Kiriakou, contained information about the identities and activities of covert U.S. personnel. DOJ officials said before the lawyer filed the document under seal, there had been no authorized disclosure of the information.
Fitzgerald supervised a team of prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois and from the counterespionage section of Main Justice’s National Security Division.
The investigation concluded that the unidentified defense attorney did not commit a crime in filing the classified document under seal.
Prosecutors said the case against Kiriakou includes e-mail evidence that government investigators obtained from a search warrant executed against two e-mail accounts associated with Kiriakou.
The search of the e-mail accounts revealed that Kiriakou disclosed the name of a covert officer to a journalist, who then provided a defense investigator the full name of the CIA employee.
Prosecutors also said Kiriakou disclosed or confirmed to three unidentified reporters classified information that a particular CIA officer participated in the Abu Zubaydah operation. Kiriakou allegedly provided the officer’s contact information to two reporters.
In the New York Times article from June 2008, titled “Inside A 9/11 Mastermind’s Interrogation,” Kiriakou was an indentified source for some information, prosecutors said, but not for the identity of the undercover CIA agent.
Kiriakou said in several e-mails, after the publication of the Times article, that he was not the source of the officer’s name.