Kiriakou worked as a CIA operative for more than two decades and led a March 2002 raid that captured high-ranking Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. He was also a vocal torture opponent who revealed his knowledge of U.S. enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in an ABC interview in 2007. A confidential 2004 International Committee of the Red Cross report stated that the intentional physical and psychological harm done to detainees at Guantanamo was “tantamount to torture.” While several soldiers involved in the Abu Graib prison scandal were prosecuted and sentenced, the conviction of the only officer court-martialed was thrown out in 2008, and no one has ever been prosecuted for abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Leonie M. Brinkema, the judge who sentenced Kiriakou called his punishment “way too light.”
Kiriakou is the first ever CIA agent to be prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, and the first successful conviction under the statute in 27 years. His case continues a trend of harsh, but selective, crackdowns on whistle-blowers and intelligence leaks by the Obama administration; The Justice Department has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act under Attorney General Eric Holder than under all his predecessors combined.