NEW YORK – John Kiriakou, the Greek-American counter-terrorism expert and former CIA employee who served 23 months in federal prison for disclosing classified information to journalists, visited Greece last week.
Kiriakou and his supporters believe he was punished for being the first U.S. government official to confirm that waterboarding was used to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners.
Kiriakou, who has roots in Rhodes, knows Greece very well since he worked at the embassy of the United States for two years.
Kiriakou told TNH that “I had a specific purpose for this trip. I work for a think tank in Washington called The Institute for Policy Studies, which collaborates with the Australian think tank Blueprint for Free Speech. We have drawn up a plan together, which helps countries around the world make new laws against corruption and also protects whistleblowers who expose corruption.”
He told TNH he met with Panagiotis Nikoloudis, the Minister of Transparency and Anti-Corruption and other Greek officials.
“Basically we dined together for many hours deep into the night;” he said, and emphasized that “all of them, member of all parties without exception, treated me like an old friend, with respect and friendliness.” He also had meetings with Non-Governmental Organization (NG) officials.
Former PASOK Minister Anna Diamantopoulou told him he should visit Greece every two months.
Speaking about the general situation in Greece, he said: “I cannot figure out how the country will survive if Europe does not offer any plan for economic relief. There must be debt reduction or a lengthening of the payment period – something, anything.”
He said the aid Greece has received is only going for paying back previous loans, causing the country to lose “its most educated people, doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, who are necessary for the reconstruction of Greek society, and this is a great sin.”
He said he saw “Greeks sleeping on sidewalks who were wearing good clothes – middle-class people. The only thing they had left were the clothes they were wearing, and it seems that the middle class is disappearing.
“I was struck by the fact there was no traffic in Athens. I went to a meeting in Halandri and asked the taxi driver and he said no one can afford to run his car.”
Kiriakou believes that “the austerity measures are not productive and probably will never be productive. This I can say from my experience from the Middle East and especially in Yemen.”
Kiriakou has already completed two new books. One will be released close to Christmas and other next spring called Letters from Loretto – the Federation prison where he spent most of his incarceration time – and one that describes his everyday life in prison, the state of the prisons in America, and the judicial system titled Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me To Survive And Thrive In Prison.
When TNH asked him why the authorities were so strict with him yet so lenient with General David Petraeus, Kiriakou said “I am convinced that they were strict with me because I aired the dirty laundry of the CIA. I went on television in 2007 and I said three things, 1) The CIA tortured prisoners. 2) Torture is an official policy and practice of the United States Government; and 3) that this policy was endorsed and signed by the president. ”