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Politics

Second Homeland: Kiriakou Greek Book Launch, Whistleblowing Talk

April 19, 2018

ATHENS – Unafraid of jail after revealing CIA torture methods, former spy-turned-whistleblower John Kiriakou is back in the Greek capital where he worked to break up the notorious November 17 terrorist group and not afraid of anarchists as a book of his experiences is being released in Greek.

Fylakismenos Praktoras, by Patakis Publishers is the version of Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison, an account of his two-year sentence at a high-security Federal jail near Loretto, Pennsylvania.

He was the first CIA officer to be convicted for passing classified information to a reporter, although the reporter did not publish the name of the operative. Kiriakou had been instrumental in a number of key CIA operations and working as a counter-terrorism officer in Athens out of the Embassy after November 17 had killed five Americans, including the then CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975.

Kiriakou, who was stationed here from 1998-2000 will highlight a panel on whistleblowing April 20 at Public Bookstore in Syntagma, also featuring noted journalists Tasos Telloglou and John Psaropoulos, Transparency International Greece Chairwoman Anna Damaskou.

It also highlights the work of University of Melbourne lecturer Suelette Drefyus, who has set up Blueprint Greece to track whistleblowing laws and corruption in a country with one of the worst records in the European Union and is an offshoot of her noted NGO Blueprint for Free Speech.

She is author of a kind of cult work in the field and Information Technology specialist who just appeared on Germany’s Deutsche Welle TV to talk about social media algorithm use on Facebook and other outlets.

Kiriakou has returned to Greece regularly and attained citizenship in 2010, including once with Dreyfus to work with the Greek Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of State for Anti-Corruption on a whistleblower protection law.  

“Unfortunately, nothing came of that work, although we are optimistic that, in light of the Novartis issue, the government will reconsider its opposition,” he told The National Herald, referring to the Swiss pharmaceutical company at the heart of an alleged scandal in which the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has charged 10 rivals, including two former Premiers, with taking bribes to help the company fix prices, which the targets dismissed as a manufactured fraud to discredit government opponents.

Once a hit target of terrorists, he said he’s thought about whether critics would try to disrupt the book launch. “I consider myself to be “one of the good guys” and I ask myself what would the anarchists possibly hope to accomplish by disrupting my appearance here.  It would serve no purpose whatsoever,” he said.

But he added, “Anarchists make trouble for the sake of making trouble.  I remember meeting one young anarchist in 2000 after a major demonstration in front of the US Embassy.  I asked him what kind of anarchist he was. He looked at me blankly. I said, ‘Are you a Marxist-Leninist?  A Trotskyite? An internationalist? A labor anarchist? A Maoist?’”

The anarchist was dumbfounded, said Kiriakou. “He had no idea that anarchism – true anarchism – had an actual ideology.  He thought anarchism was just about fighting the police and setting fire to things. Ridiculous.”

He pointed out that his book is “not just a prison memoir,” and that half is based on his blog series Letters from Loretto that he wrote in prison and smuggled out through his attorney, winning the prestigious PEN First Amendment Award for it.

Was it worth going to jail and losing his career to reveal torture that supporters said was done in the name of saving the country and getting terrorists aimed at spreading even more?

“I said repeatedly that, although the price was very high, it was completely worth it.  Even going to prison was worth it in the name of truth-telling and human rights. That is the message that I hope to convey in Greece,” he said.

“The Greek people are demanding protection for whistleblowers.  It is only through whistleblowers that the government can truly reform itself and can root out corruption,”he added.

“Without any protections for those who would tell the truth, who would report on incidents of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or threats to the public health or public safety, Greece can never move forward politically, economically, and socially.  I hope to help them get there,” he said about his motives.

It could be hard in a country where envelopes carrying bribes are as common as crocuses in the spring, where many benefit from cheating on taxes, hiding income, and wrongdoing and seem reluctant to try to stop it.

If he wasn’t daunted by jail and terrorists, he’s not either by apathy or indifference. “I am confident that the country eventually will move in the right direction.  Every Greek with whom I speak acknowledges that there is a problem and that the only solution is new legislation that would protect those who would be guardians of the public trust,” he said.

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