A former CIA official who lives in Arlington has been charged with leaking the name of a covert CIA officer and disclosing information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities.
Prosecutors with the Justice Department charged John Kiriakou of disclosing information about the capture and interrogation of alleged terrorists after September 11. Officials also allege he served as a source for stories a couple of years ago for the New York Times.
Kiriakou, 47, was a CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004 and served at headquarters and in various classified overseas assignments. He was among the first to go public with details about waterboarding.
Investigators say they caught on when previously unreleased information appeared in a classified legal brief filed by defense lawyers for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
"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," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "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."
He made an initial appearance in federal court in Alexandria on Monday afternoon. The judge found probable cause to proceed with the case.
Federal authorities allege that Kiriakou made illegal disclosures to two journalists about two CIA employees who were involved in classified operations. He is also accused of giving to reporters the name and contact information of a CIA officer who was involved in an operation to capture and question terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002.
Afterward, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the operation that disclosed the CIA officer’s role in it.
His lawyer, Plato Cacheris, waived Kiriakou's right to a preliminary hearing. After the hearing, Cacheris told a reporter that a potential defense argument could be that the charges criminalize conduct that has been common between reporters and government sources for decades.
"At this point, he will be entering a plea of not guilty and we'll go from there," said Cacheris.
If convicted, he could face decades in prison and a fine up to $1 million.
Kiriakou's trial marks the sixth criminal leak related case since President Obama took office. That's more than all previous administrations combined.