John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, gave an exclusive interview to Journal of the Center of the World (DCM) and spoke about Julian Assange’s fight for freedom of the press. The former spy also called Edward Snowden a “true American hero” and commented on journalist Glenn Greenwald.
See some excerpts.
Center of the World Diary: Do you think Biden can pardon Julian Assange?
John Kiriakou: Listen, I hope he forgives Julian Assange. I don’t think he will. I will say and this is just my own review. This is not based on any inside information, but things seem to have been very quiet over the last three weeks with Julian Assange after the British Supreme Court rejected his extradition appeal.
Thus, he can seek clarification on the decision and can then appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. There is a precedent for the European Court of Human Rights to block extradition, I hope it happens.
I’ve heard rumors that Julian’s lawyers in the UK are in some kind of discussion with the US Department of Justice that would allow Julian to plead guilty to some crime I don’t know what and he would be sentenced to serve time and expelled from the UK Kingdom back home in Australia.
That would be a wonderful development. The US and UK are under pressure from the Australian and Brazilian governments to release Julian Assange and allow him to return to Australia.
I hope the tide has started to turn and people can see that it would be a terrible mistake to prosecute a journalist and editor, because that would allow prosecuting and prosecuting all Homeland Security journalists who write anything, based on information that the US government considers confidential.
Or National Defense information, that would be a slippery slope to fascism. Really something that would be a terrible mistake for our country to make.
DCM: Why do you think Julian’s situation got to this point?
JK: It’s a combination of reasons and it’s not specific to either the Democrats or the Republicans. Both are equally guilty.
It all started with Barack Obama. He accused more National Security whistleblowers of espionage three times, I said three times more, than all previous presidents put together. He put himself in an ideological and legal box where he was forced to continue accusing people of spying.
That’s not why the Espionage Act was passed into law. It is not meant to target whistleblowers and truth-tellers.
But Barack Obama did not charge Julian Assange with a crime. He said he had what he called the New York Times problem. Obama said that if I accuse Julian Assange, I have to accuse the New York Times, because the New York Times publishes classified information every day, so he didn’t accuse him of a crime.
Donald Trump accused Julian of a crime.
And so the Biden administration inherited the Trump administration’s accusations. What Joe Biden could have done early on in his presidency was drop the charges. Just walk away from the case and say, look, we didn’t think we could prove this case.
We think it was a mistake by the Trump administration to impeach him and walk away, but they didn’t. They doubled down and went to the British courts and tried repeatedly at all levels of the British court system to have him extraditable.
And now they’ve reached the point where they would have to send him to the United States and try him on espionage charges, in which case he could face 150 years in prison.
Or you can still let him out of prison. But the President was so adamant that he should try him now. If Biden lets him go, he will look weak. So, in the end, Assange is going to have to plead something or he’s going to have to be released by the European Court of Human Rights.
DCM: Why do you think Biden didn’t drop these charges?
JK: I think Biden didn’t want to appear weak on security issues. I think with the economic crisis, he had a lot of problems when he became president.
The economy took a turn for the worse, Republicans were yelling at him, and Trump was saying the election had been stolen. And I think Biden just didn’t want to deal with another issue by letting Julian Assange go.
DCM: What do you think of Edward Snowden and the work of Glenn Greenwald, who today champions free speech on the US model?
JK: Snowden, I’ll say first about why he’s the easier to understand of the two. I think Snowden is a true American hero. Without Snowden and his revelations, we would have no idea that the American government was spying on the American people.
This is clearly illegal. The government, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, they’ve been doing this since 9/11. And we would have no idea if Snowden hadn’t told us. So I think the country owes him a huge debt of gratitude.
I’m glad I was one of the first to support Snowden when he was in prison. When he released his information and I wrote him a letter, a public letter and a private letter, and his father came to the prison to visit me.
We exchanged messages through a CIA friend we both had, so I’m proud to have been an early supporter of Ed Snowden. I’m proud of what he did, it was the right thing to do.
Glenn Greenwald and I went to college together. I was a senior, a fourth year when he was a freshman. We were both members of a college democratic organization together.
So I remember Glenn very well. We were friends. Glenn has become rich and famous and is an international personality. I’m not sure I agree with some of his more recent rampant free speech positions, because some of the positions he’s taken may encourage hate speech.
But I think his heart is in the right place, and I think he also did a great service to the American people, especially in getting the Snowden story out there. I like Glenn, I think he’s a very talented journalist and I wish him well.
Her husband also died recently. [David Miranda]. It was a very sad event.
DCM: Do you think we need a law to protect Brazil from big techs?
JK: Yes. In the United States, the cost was very high, you know, analysts estimated that the media in the United States gave Donald Trump in 2016 a billion dollars in news coverage. They underestimated how unpopular, how deeply unpopular, Hillary Clinton was.
And the joke is that Hillary Clinton was literally the only person in America who couldn’t defeat Donald Trump. It was because of the media. The media continued to promote it day after day with a billion dollars in free publicity.
Then we realized the mistake we made and everyone started attacking Donald Trump. And Trump doesn’t take attacks well and so he responded with lies and fake news and pointing the finger at everyone else.
That all of your problems and all of the country’s problems were the result of your enemies attacking you and now we are in a position where we all hate each other. We are all at odds politically.
I’ve lived in Washington for 41 years and I’ve never seen such anger and meanness as I do now, where people won’t even talk to each other if they are members of opposing political parties.
So we have to try to reverse that and I think a lot of that depends on the media not to promote that kind of hatred and political division, and a lot of that comes from fake news.
Fake news is also a lucrative issue. People have made a lot of money by promoting these fake news.
DCM: How do you live today, how do you work after denouncing the CIA?
JK: There aren’t many companies in the United States that have knocked on my door to offer me a job right now. So I kind of have to make a living for myself. I have a radio show every day here in Washington.
I have a once-a-week television show called The Whistleblowers where I interview international whistleblowers every week.
I write a column for a site called Consortiumnews.com. I write a column for the cover of Action magazine, which is an anti-CIA magazine. And I hope to start a podcast as you can see behind me.
I’m getting ready for my new podcast that I hope to start in the next two or three weeks so you know a little bit here, a little bit there. I do some speeches. And I teach.
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