Announcing the 14th annual Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) award ceremony to be held on Sunday Sept 25th at the Kay Center Chapel, American University, in conjunction with the “No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism” Conference.
SAAII is honoring former CIA analyst and case officer John Kiriakou whose CIA career spanned 14 years, beginning in 1990, when he served as a Middle East analyst. He later became a case officer in charge of recruiting agents overseas. In 2002, he led the team that located Abu Zubaydah, alleged to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. It later transpired that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times.
John Kiriakou was the first U.S. government official to confirm (during a national news interview in December 2007) that waterboarding – which he described as torture – was used to interrogate al Qaeda prisoners. Kiriakou also stated that he found US “enhanced interrogation techniques” immoral, and that Americans are “better than that.”
Kiriakou subsequently faced persecution by the US government for his act of truth-telling, and was sentenced to a 30-month prison term – ostensibly for revealing classified information. To this day Kiriakou remains the sole US government official – past or present – who has gone to jail over the issue of torture in the post-9/11 era. Kiriakou’s claim of US torture practices was later confirmed by President Obama, who in 2014 publicly acknowledged that “we tortured some folks.”
The Sam Adams Associates will present Kiriakou with its traditional Corner-Brightener Candlestick which honors intelligence professionals for shining the light of truth into dark corners.
Kiriakou is currently an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. The author of two books, he also previously served as a senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as a counterterrorism consultant for ABC News.
He has been the recipient of several exemplary performance awards while at the CIA; also the 2012 Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, as a “national security whistleblower who stood up for constitutional rights and American values, at great risk to his personal and professional life”; the “Peacemaker of the Year” award in 2013 by the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County; a 2013 “Giraffe Hero Commendation,” awarded to people who stick their necks out for the common good; and in 2015, the PEN Center USA, the West Coast branch of PEN International (a human rights and literary arts organization that promotes the written word and freedom of expression), gave John Kiriakou its First Amendment Award for his role in exposing waterboarding as torture used during President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”
The SAAII award event will commence promptly at 4 pm on Sept 25 in the Kay Center Chapel, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC, with a reception planned from 5:30 to 6 pm in the Kay Center Lounge. The event is free and open to the public. Besides John Kiriakou, speakers will tentatively include former CIA officer Larry C. Johnson, former NSA official Thomas Drake and retired Colonel Larry Wilkerson (bios below).
SAAII invites all who wish to attend the September 25th award ceremony to also register for the World Beyond War’s “No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism” conference, which features an impressive roster of prominent non-profit leaders, academic professionals and peace activists and has generously incorporated this event into its program (details here). Individuals can register here for all or part of the 3-day conference (Sept 23-25).
Event speakers will include the following:
Lawrence B. “Larry” Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson has been vocal in his criticism of U.S. foreign policy. He is a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and the 2009 SAAII recipient.
Thomas Drake is a decorated United States Air Force and Navy veteran who became a Senior Executive at the N ational Security Agency, where he witnessed not only widespread waste, fraud, and abuse, but also gross violations of our 4th Amendment rights. He was a material witness and whistleblower regarding a multi-year Department of Defense Inspector General audit of the failed multi-billion dollar NSA program known as TRAILBLAZER, for which NSA management opted instead of THINTHREAD, a much less costly (and 4th Amendment-observant) intelligence data collection, processing, and analysis system that had been tested and was ready for wider deployment. Drake received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2011 and also received the SAAII award that year.
Larry C. Johnson is a former CIA analyst who moved in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, anti-terrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm with expertise in counterterrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management and investigating money laundering. Mr. Johnson works with US military commands in scripting terrorism exercises, briefs on terrorist trends, and conducts undercover investigations on product counterfeiting, smuggling and money laundering. He has appeared as a consultant and commentator in many major newspapers and on national news programs.
We now know more about the shameful behaviour that led to the Iraq war. But with my experience at GCHQ, I could have helped the inquiry
Following the damning Chilcot report, much will be said about the decision to go to war in Iraq. But one thing will be missing: the information I leaked in the runup to the war. It won’t get an airing because I was never questioned or asked to participate in the Chilcot inquiry.
The Iraq inquiry delivered a comprehensively damning verdict on Tony Blair and the decision to join the US-led invasion, but some questions remain
Back in early 2003, Tony Blair was keen to secure UN backing for a resolution that would authorise the use of force against Iraq. I was a linguist and analyst at GCHQ when, on 31 Jan 2003, I, along with dozens of others in GCHQ, received an email from a senior official at the National Security Agency. It said the agency was “mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN security council (UNSC) members”, and that it wanted “the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises”.
In other words, the US planned to use intercepted communications of the security council delegates. The focus of the “surge” was principally directed at the six swing nations then on the UNSC: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan. The Chilcot report has eliminated any doubt that the goal of the war was regime change by military means. But that is what many people already suspected in 2003.
I was furious when I read that email and leaked it. Soon afterwards, when the Observer ran a front-page story: “US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war”, I confessed to the leak and was arrested on suspicion of the breach of section 1 of the Official Secrets Act. I pleaded not guilty and, assisted by Liberty and Ben Emmerson QC, offered a defence of necessity – in other words, a breach of the law in order to prevent imminent loss of human life. This defence had not and, to my knowledge, has still not, been tested in a court of law.
I believed that on receiving the email, UK parliamentary members might question the urgency and motives of the war hawks, and demand further deliberations and scrutiny. I thought it might delay or perhaps even halt the march towards a war that would devastate Iraqi lives and infrastructure already crushed by a decade of unrelenting sanctions. A war that would send UK and US service men and women into harm’s way, leaving hundreds of them dead, disfigured and traumatised. Unfortunately, that did not happen. It couldn’t, for now we know via Chilcot that Blair promised George W Bush he would be “with him, whatever”.
It took eight months before the Crown Prosecution Service announced I would be charged. It had a change of heart two and a half months later, after my legal team demanded to see all the legal advice to Blair in the runup to the war. I left the Old Bailey with a huge weight gone from my shoulders. It was a day I will never forget.
Chilcot’s report does not apportion blame. But it does provide ample evidence of what many of us knew all along: that this was an illegal war, that military intervention was by no means a last resort, that all avenues were not exhausted and that Iraq posed no immediate threat to the UK. Furthermore, the post-invasion plan for Iraq looked like it had been scribbled on the back of a beer mat. Blair was warned by the intelligence services that the threat levels to the UK would increase, that Iraqi weapons would fall into the hands of al-Qaida. The consequences of his lack of concern about these things can be felt to this day.
We know a lot more now than we knew before, but what about the email I leaked? Who did the NSA talk to in the UK to OK it? Did it talk to anyone? How did an NSA official feel bold enough to write to UK civil servants anticipating their cooperation in an attempt to undermine the UN’s diplomatic processes, in a secret effort to garner information to secure “results favourable to US goals”? How far did the surveillance operation proceed? Whose communications did they intercept and record? What, if anything did they discover and did they use any information they may have gathered? Was this email sent to other organisation or agencies besides GCHQ? It seems reasonable to ask why this crucial information was not included in the Chilcot inquiry?
It was a huge relief when the CPS dropped its charges. But I had admitted the leak. Why did it decline to offer evidence? The catastrophe of the Iraq invasion and occupation is painfully evident today. Terrorism and risk has spread across the globe as many said it would. So much for “keeping us safe” and protecting our freedoms.
Chilcot has shone a light on what happened, but it is clear there are still bits of the puzzle that are missing. Now that we know better, will we do better?
(Katharine Gun is a former mandarin specialist at GCHQ and whistleblower. She leaked an email about US plans to spy on the UN, and was charged under the Official Secrets Act. She is the recipient of the 2003 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. Original op-ed at The Guardian.)
U.S. intelligence veterans are calling on German Chancellor Merkel to bring a needed dose of realism and restraint to the upcoming NATO conference, which risks escalating the dangerous new Cold War with Russia.
MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: NATO Summit in Warsaw
REFERENCE: Our Memorandum to You, August 30, 2014
We longtime U.S. intelligence officers again wish to convey our concerns and cautions directly to you prior to a critically important NATO summit – the meeting that begins on July 8 in Warsaw. We were gratified to learn that our referenced memorandum reached you and your advisers before the NATO summit in Wales, and that others too learned of our initiative via the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which published a full report on our memorandum on Sept. 4, the day that summit began.
Wales to Warsaw
The Warsaw summit is likely to be at least as important as the last one in Wales and is likely to have even more far-reaching consequences. We find troubling – if not surprising – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement at a pre-summit press event on July 4 that NATO members will agree to “further enhance NATOs military presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” adding that the alliance will see its “biggest reinforcement since the Cold War.”
The likelihood of a military clash in the air or at sea – accidental or intentional – has grown sharply, the more so since, as we explain below, President Obama’s control over top U.S./NATO generals, some of whom like to play cowboy, is tenuous. Accordingly we encourage you, as we did before the last NATO summit, to urge your NATO colleagues to bring a “degree of judicious skepticism” to the table at Warsaw – especially with regard to the perceived threat from Russia.
Many of us have spent decades studying Moscow’s foreign policy. We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler’s armies launched “Unternehmen Barbarossa” 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead. In our view, it is irresponsibly foolish to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not take countermeasures – at a time and place of his own choosing.
Putin does not have the option of trying to reassure his generals that what they hear and see from NATO is mere rhetoric and posturing. He is already facing increased pressure to react in an unmistakably forceful way. In sum, Russia is bound to react strongly to what it regards as the unwarranted provocation of large military exercises along its western borders, including in Ukraine.
(Remainder of memo at: https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/06/merkel-urged-to-temper-natos-belligerence/ )
Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences. Read more about the history here.
The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.