CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou has pleaded guilty to charges that he turned over material to a reporter about that agency’s program of torture under the Bush administration. This was done as part of a plea deal that will reduce his sentence down to two and a half years:
As part of the deal, prosecutors recommended a sentence of 30 months in prison, rather than the decades he was potentially facing. They dropped several other charges, among them that he helped Scott Shane of The New York Times identify another colleague involved in interrogations, and that he lied to a C.I.A. publication board reviewing his memoir, “Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the C.I.A.’s War on Terror,” published in 2010.
Judge Brinkema will hold a hearing to sentence Mr. Kiriakou on Jan. 25. She noted that the proposed 30-month term was the same time that I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, received in connection with the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of another C.I.A. official, Valerie Plame Wilson. After Mr. Libby was convicted of making false statements, President George W. Bush commuted his prison term.
The message here is clear: if you break the law with the approval of senior administration officials, you will be shielded from liability for your crimes by subsequent administrations. The senior officials who signed off on those activities will also not face any penalties. However, if you see your colleagues breaking the law and call attention to it, you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This is a terrible day for the rule of law.
As every day has been for the last 10 years, no matter who is in the White House.