Everybody has an email disaster story to share: Accidentally cc:ing to your colleagues X-rated correspondence with your lover; prematurely forwarding to your staff the bad news about impending layoffs; using the wrong list to send letters of acceptance to college applicants who have been rejected. But in the grand constellation of email goofs, who can beat the blunders of former CIA officer John Kiriakou? If the criminal complaint filed against him this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria is accurate, he could spend 30 years in prison for his email transgressions.
Drawing on correspondence obtained via search warrants served on two email accounts associated with Kiriakou, the government has charged him with illegally giving up the identity of a covert officer, disclosing classified secrets and lying to the CIA.
The emails, from which the complaint quotes, are less a smoking gun pointing to wrongdoing than they are Kiriakou’s suicide note. How could a CIA officer who worked at the agency from 1990 to 2004 handling dicey, undercover overseas assignments, including the 2002 capture of Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, have been so cavalier as to discuss the name of a covert officer with a journalist in email? Furthermore, how could the journalists — who go unnamed in the complaint — have been so reckless as to use an insecure medium to converse with a spook about classified material?
Don’t these people ever go to the movies?
According to the complaint, Kiriakou exchanged a number of incriminating emails in 2007, 2008 and 2009 with individuals it calls “Journalist A,” “Journalist B,” and “Journalist C.” The complaint asserts that Kiriakou identified “Covert Officer A” to Journalist A by name, which is a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. (The act prohibits government employees who are authorized to know the identity of a covert officer from sharing that information with anyone who is not authorized. Remember the Valerie Plame episode?)
Kiriakou is also alleged to have disclosed information about the classified operation Covert Officer A was working on. Covert Officer A’s name was not published by Journalist A or anyone else, but the complaint alleges that Journalist A shared the officer’s name with legal defenders of Guantánamo detainees. The government first became aware of the leak when Guantánamo lawyers used this information in a 2009 legal filing as part of the defense of one of the detainees.