Former CIA agent John Kiriakou gave an exclusive interview to Journal of the Center of the World (DCM) and spoke about President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Kiriakou said he can relate to the wrongful arrest he faced and says he is “surprised” by Lula’s ability to forgive his enemies.
Check out some snippets.
World Center Journal: A Financial Times report states that segments of the US government, including the Army, CIA, State Department, Pentagon and White House, campaigned to keep the 2022 election and the victory of Squid. What explains this?
John Kiriakou: The CIA and the American intelligence community maintained very close relations with former President Bolsonaro. The Financial Times article is credible and usually their sources are very, very good. I know several Financial Times reporters here in Washington and their top journalists.
If this report is to be believed, something has changed in US politics and I tend to think that the change is that Donald Trump is no longer president here in Washington. It’s Joe Biden time.
Joe Biden knew President Lula and had worked with President Lula in the past and it was determined that it would be better for the United States if Lula were president again. The US government, the CIA and the intelligence community do not have the authority or even the ability to decide who will be president of which country, especially a great power like Brazil.
What they might do is offer clandestine help, money for a campaign, or perhaps their media influence operations. I’m not saying it happened. I’m saying it’s possible and it makes sense to me.
DCM: In that same FT article, Tom Shannon, a former senior US official, says that Lula has a “tone of anger and resentment” that is reflected in international relations. Is the new Brazilian president wrong to criticize American imperialism?
JK: Not only is he not wrong. I think that’s a very wise political stance. And frankly, I don’t need to tell you this, of course, but the United States has such a dark history of imperialism, especially in Central and South America. I think that all countries in the region should cultivate good, healthy, strong and equal relations with China, Russia and India.
I especially believe that a country with strong policies would help expand the Brazilian economy and provide resources for the Brazilian people. I think it’s better and healthier if Brazil has good relations with all the big countries in the world. Brazil should not be under the auspices or under the wing of the United States. Brazil must have strong relations with China and Russia and the other Brics countries.
DCM: In 2021, you told Sara Vivacqua, my colleague at DCM, that Operation Lava Jato had an American partnership “fueled by hate and money”. Today, one of the stars of Lava Jato, former prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, is an impeached deputy. What has changed?
JK: We had this failed experiment with Donald Trump and not just Donald Trump as a person with an outsider idea for president. Someone who was going to drain the swamp that is Washington and we saw the same kind of thing happening in Brazil with the election of Bolsonaro for president.
I think a lot of people got caught up in this populist social movement and populist social experiment idea that actually didn’t work out very well. I’ve always had a problem with American policy towards Brazil, which is the idea that we need to help and encourage any candidate who identifies as the most pro-American candidate out there.
That didn’t work with Bolsonaro and it was bad for Brazil. It was bad for the United States and at the same time they had a president like Lula, who was unfairly attacked by the Justice and ended up going to prison. It was an incredible miscarriage of justice. I’m surprised the man can forgive anyone.
We’ve seen the same thing here in the United States, where people have simply crossed their boundaries, gone into the realm of illegality and inadequacy. I am sorry to say that we are pushing Brazil in the same direction.
DCM: John, you became famous for denouncing Al Qaeda’s prisoner interrogation program, which involved torture. Now we have Lava Jato whistleblowers accusing prosecutors who received American training of “extortion”. Has the US method been exported to Latin America? Do you have any identification with Lula’s story?
JK: I wear my prison sentence as a badge of honor. I spent 23 months in prison after denouncing the CIA’s torture program. I was right and they were wrong. And I’m proud of what I’ve done. I denounced the CIA. I continued to denounce the CIA.
And you ask a very good question. Did the CIA export these crimes to Latin America? And the honest answer is that we don’t know because they don’t tell us. Now should we just take the CIA’s word for it?
I spent 15 years in the CIA and I know they lie about literally everything. They say: ‘ah, we don’t export these techniques to other countries’. I don’t know if we can believe them. They tell us that they don’t torture anyone. They tell us they don’t have secret prisons.
They tell us they don’t have an assassination program. They tell us they don’t have an international kidnapping program. I don’t know what the truth is, and I know that our congressional oversight is so weak that it’s not even able to tell us what the truth is, so you ask this question: have they exported this kind of interrogation practice to Latin America? Maybe they did.
I don’t know.
But I wouldn’t trust what they say. And, to answer the second part of your question: yes, I identify a lot with President Lula.
Because of the time he spent in prison. For a brief period of time, I was ashamed that I had been in prison. While I was in prison, I called my wife one day and she said that someone had asked my son, who was very young at the time, he was eight or nine years old, ‘Is it true that your father is in prison?’ .
And he said yes. ‘But Martin Luther King was also in prison.’
And I understood then that this was nothing to be ashamed of. Even my son as a child understood what I did and why I did it and that made it all worth it.
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