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Monday, October 22, 2012

Kiriakou Plea Provokes Bitter Name-Calling Among Lawyers

Is John Kiriakou a leaker or a patriotic whistleblower?  Some rare, public name-calling among lawyers close to the case has broken out over the question.

Some of the ex-CIA man’s most fervent supporters claim the government is persecuting a patriot who helped expose CIA water boarding and the other “enhanced interrogation techniques” many people equate with torture.

The Justice Department begs to differ, of course. It argues the case is simple: Kiriakou “repeatedly” disclosed classified information and the names of covert CIA employees to journalists.

So far, it has been winning. Kiriakou’s lawyers last week lost a key pre-trial ruling when the judge in the case said the feds would not have to prove that Kiriakou meant harm to the United States by exposing the interrogation program to public scrutiny.  

That set-back, apparently, led his lawyers to seek a plea deal with the feds, which one source said might amount to two-and-a-half years in prison. A hearing is scheduled for 11 tomorrow morning in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

[Update: Kiriakou and the Justice Department finalized the deal in court on Tuesday, the former CIA man pleading guilty to one count of illegally disclosing the identity of a covert agent. He's expected to spend 30 months in prison.] 

Even as a plea deal was only rumored, Kiriakou’s most staunch defenders were denouncing his lawyers, which include famed Washington defense attorney Plato Cacheris, for taking it.

The “greatest legal titans in DC have no balls,” tweeted Jesselyn Radack on Friday afternoon. Radack, a former Justice Department whistleblower herself,  had helped defend former NSA official Thomas Drake, who was also prosecuted for leaking documents, about spy-program cost overruns.

Drake, who was cleared of all but a minor charge last year,  tweeted Monday that Kiriakou was being railroaded by his lawyers.

“Just heard that @JohnKiriakou defense attorneys entered a change of plea with the court in the AM w/out his consent! That's fraud on court,” Drake wrote.

On a Tuesday dawn post at the Daily Kos, Radack called the deal "an effectively-forced plea." 

Cacheris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Radack, Drake and other Kiriakou defenders have argued that the ex-CIA man has already suffered grievously for his actions.

“1M legal bills, forcing 2 sell house, go on food stamps & Medicaid not enuf punishit 4 guv,” Radack Tweeted.

On Monday , Radack sent an “SOS 2 #HumanRights journos & activists: Don't let @JohnKiriakou take fall 4 #torture program he refused 2 participate N & helped expose.”

For her frenetic efforts, Radack says she earned the B-word from other lawyers in Washington, some of whom have been her allies on other cases.

“Powerful, sexist lawyers,” she replied on Twitter. “Name-calling is the lowest form of argumentation. If ur gonna call me a ‘crazy bitch,’ man up & do so to my face.”

The prosecution of Kiriakou is ironic, in that he’s credited -- or blamed -- for giving a celebrated interview to ABC’s Brian Ross in which he said water boarding quickly cracked at least one al Qaeda operative.

In a subsequent memoir, he volunteered that he had no first-hand knowledge of the case.