WASHINGTON — A veteran former CIA officer pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., to disclosing information identifying a covert agent.
Under terms of a plea agreement with prosecutors, he is to be sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
John C. Kiriakou, a CIA officer from 1990 to 2004, was arrested in January and charged in April with unmasking a 20-year covert agent to a Washington journalist who then shared that information with defense lawyers for terrorist detainees at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, authorities said.
Other charges of disclosing to two journalists the name and contact information for a CIA analyst and his undercover work in trying to capture Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah were dropped in return for the guilty plea.
Kiriakou, 48, held a top-secret security clearance and had regular access to national defense information. Over the years he repeatedly signed secrecy agreements and acknowledged that should he reveal certain sensitive information it could "constitute a criminal offense."
James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, called Kiriakou actions "a clear violation of the law."
CIA Director David H. Petraeus said the Kiriakou case was the first successful prosecution in 27 years under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. "Oaths do matter," he said in a statement. "And there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy."
After Kiriakou left the CIA, he spoke on television describing the waterboarding interrogation technique used to persuade suspects to divulge details about evolving terrorist plots, and began working on a book called "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror," which was published this year.
According to an 11-page statement of facts signed by Kiriakou and filed in court with his plea agreement, he revealed the identity of the covert agent and the analyst in separate emails to two journalists who were seeking the names. The analyst's name appeared in a June 2008 New York Times article by reporter Scott Shane, and it was picked up and cited in legal papers filed by Guantanamo Bay defense attorneys.
FBI agents interviewed Kiriakou in January and asked him about the connection. According to the agents, he feigned surprise and said: "Oh, my God. No. Once they get names, I mean, this is scary."