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US charges 'Reluctant Spy' author with leaking secrets to journalists

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, author of 'The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror,' faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly disclosing classified information to reporters.

By Staff writer / January 23, 2012

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou leaves federal court on Monday.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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A former CIA officer who helped capture senior Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan was charged on Monday with disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert US intelligence officer.

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The case is unusual because it is an effort by the Obama administration to prosecute a former government official suspected of leaking sensitive information to the news media. Such cases are rare.

It also stands in contrast to the Justice Department’s decision not to seek criminal charges against intelligence officials who violated a court order and destroyed recordings of the harsh interrogation of high value terror suspects.

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John Kiriakou of Arlington, Va., appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Va. and was ordered released on a $250,000 bond.

Mr. Kiriakou, author of the book “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror,” served in the Central Intelligence Agency from 1990 to 2004. He is accused of providing classified information concerning the identity or activities of two intelligence officers to at least three journalists.

The journalists are not identified by name in court documents, but an affidavit suggests that Kiriakou was a key source for a June 2008 New York Times article written by Scott Shane.

If convicted, Kiriakou faces up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

“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 said in a 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,” he said.

Kiriakou is charged with one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for allegedly revealing the identity of a covert official. He is charged with two counts of violating the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing that a particular CIA official was associated with the agency’s secret rendition, detention, and interrogation program.

He is also charged with lying to the CIA’s publications review board for trying to publish classified information in a submitted manuscript by falsely claiming that he’d simply made the information up.

Prior to publication of "The Reluctant Spy," Kiriakou was required to submit the manuscript for review to ensure it did not include classified information.

Prosecutors say Kiriakou tried to “trick” the review board into allowing publication of a detail of how US officials were able to locate and arrest Abu Zubaydah. The book said the CIA in Pakistan used an electronic scanner that allowed officials to track and pinpoint the location of a working mobile phone. Kiriakou called it a “magic box.”

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