Posts Tagged ‘Protesters’
Former CIA Agent, Anti-Torture Activist John Kiriakou Toasted By Progressives as He Prepares For PrisonIn News on February 22, 2013 at 7:19 PM
It’s not often that one receives an invitation to a “going to prison reception,” and one taking place at an elite hotel, no less. But in the penthouse room of the Hay-Adams on Thursday, activists gathered to say farewell to former CIA agent John Kiriakou as he prepares to begin a 30-month sentence in federal prison for leaking classified information to reporters.
The party was sponsored by the activist groups Fresh Juice Party and CODE PINK, and underwritten by philanthropist Naomi Pitcairn, heir to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass fortune. The first person in 27 years to be convicted of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Kiriakou views himself as a whistleblower who is being punished for shedding light on the government’s policy of torturing terrorism suspects through the use of waterboarding and so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
“If this case were about leaking, the jails and the prisons in this country would be bursting with former CIA officers and White House officials — and they’re not,” Kiriakou told the partiers gathered for his send-off. “This case was not about leaking; it was about torture.“
Kiriakou, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a cheerful face and dressed in a dark business suit, was introduced by Jesselyn Radack, a director of the Government Accountability Project who described herself as “one of John’s many attorneys.”
“…it’s abhorrent that the people who order torture, the people who wrote the legal memos justifying torture, the people who carried out the torture, and the people who destroyed the videotapes of it — none of them are going to jail,” Radack said. “In fact, they all have blanket immunity, courtesy of the White House.”
The crowd, many dressed in the evening’s “prison chic” dress code, booed. (Interpretations of incarceration-inspired fashion included get-ups in black-and-white stripes, as well as orange jump suits. “Orange is the new black,” read the invite, paraphrasing the late fashion diva Diana Vreeland’s famous dictum.)
Kiriakou’s conviction is part of what the Washington Post describes as an administration crackdown on leakers. In the number of prosecutions of those charged with leaking secret government information, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has exceeded all previous administrations, the Post’s Greg Miller reported.
The Hay-Adams Hotel is an historic venue, and a frequent host to dignitaries from around the world, thanks to its proximity to the White House. The hotel’s penthouse offers a spectacular view of the president’s dwelling from above, with the Washington monument soaring in the background.
Pitcairn explained her choice of venue. Pointing at that view, she declared: “We look down on people who torture.”
Joining Pitcairn and CODE PINK founder Medea Benjamin in lauding Kiriakou were other former national security officials who took issue with the denial of constitutional rights to terrorism suspects since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They included Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency who was charged for revealing what he said was the agency’s waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars (his complaint was later corroborated by a Pentagon report) and Air Force Col. Morris Davis (ret.), who quit his post as chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo detention facility because of the denial of due process to the suspects he was prosecuting.
It was more than a night of dour speeches, though; being a CODE PINK event, there was plenty of music and artistic satire. Kiriakou was serenaded by two dozen activists who sang the anthem, “Have You Been to Jail For Justice,” while Benjamin, resplendent in a striped outfit of hot pink and black, performed choreographed moves with a colleague.
And the duo Emma’s Revolution performed two of their soulful protest tunes.
Before the evening came to a close, I got a few words with Kiriakou. How did he manage the contrast between the evening’s light-hearted approach to what he’ll face next week — more than two years in prison, away from his wife and five kids.
“There’s nothing I can do about it now,” he said. “I have to accept my fate. But I don’t have to sulk, and I don’t have to feel sorry for myself, and be depressed. I’m going to make the most of the last week and have as good a time as I can have, and I’ll deal with the next phase when I come to it.
That all sounded like in-the-moment, Zen-type stuff to me, so I asked if he had a spiritual practice that led him to that point of view.
“Honestly, I am a very devout Greek Orthodox, and I take strength from that; I always have,” he replied. “They can’t take it away from me. They can’t break me.”
The Government Accountability Project has set up a fund for donations to help keep Kiriakou’s family afloat during his absence; the page is here.
Nearly 50 environmental activists were arrested outside of the White House Wednesday afternoon while protesting the planned Keystone XL pipeline.
Demonstrators gathered in downtown Washington, DC on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the project, which would install a massive pipeline from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, stretching from the north to the south of the entire United States.
After using zip-ties to cuff themselves to the fence outside the White House, 48 protesters were arrested, including activist Bill McKibben, actress Daryl Hannah, civil rights leader Julian Bond and Robert Kennedy, Jr., the nephew of former president John F. Kennedy.
US President Barack Obama previously halted the Keystone project in order to call for a more thorough investigation into potential health and environmental concerns caused by the pipeline, but just last month the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said she would soon leave her position, a decision that some say comes from a change of stance expected soon from the president. According to New York Post’s report last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told anonymous sources that the president will sign off on the project as soon as this spring, despite pleas from critics to reconsider further.
“The Keystone pipeline has become the purest test that there’s ever been on whether the president is serious about doing something about climate change or not,” 350.org founder McKibben said earlier in the day during a speech at nearby Lafayette Square, The Hill reports.
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