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From the Archive: Whistleblowers Kiriakou and Hickman Finger Serial Informant Matthew Cole of The Intercept

In reaction to a new column by James Risen that includes a mini-mea-culpa about the role of The Intercept in exposing Reality Winner and Daniel Hale, here’s a 2017 interview with courageous whistleblowers John Kiriakou and Joe Hickman.Risen himself showed some balls in refusing to testify against CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, and in this reflective commentary, he wrestles with his own failures to protect confidential sources.  In a limited-hangout apology, he offers the passive “mistakes were made” cop-out while citing other sources regarding The Intercept’s burn of Winner, and mentions that the media outlet paid Winner’s legal fees.  His glaring omission here is about Intercept reporter Matthew Cole, who exposed Winner by “verifying” her documents with a government source, using her original watermarked papers–which enabled the FBI to arrest and interrogate her before her leak was even published.  Risen is right that Winner and Hale took big risks–and Hale was more savvy than Winner about the surveillance they were under.  He also is right that Obama led a nasty war on whistleblowers, wich Biden continues. Please listen, at least, the the final 5 minutes of this interview, as Hickman and Kiriakou describe Cole as a serial informant.

One other point about Risen’s column: he laments the continuing persecution of Julian Assange. But The Intercept barely covered the Assange extradition hearings in 2020–as I recall, they did a preview piece, one report on the hearings’ Zoom problems, and afterward an excellent wrap-up by my friend and former ABC mideast correspondent, Charlie Glass.  Consortium News and Shadowproof provided daily coverage, and the latter’s Kevin Gosztola later revealed that he offered his reports to The Intercept and they brushed him off.

Here’s the headline and text of the original podcast post:

In-Depth Interview: Whistleblowers Joe Hickman and John Kiriakou on Abu Zubaydeh, Torture and a Dangerous Reporter

John Kiriakou and Joseph Hickman, co-authors of new book on Abu Zubaydeh, return to the podcast–together–to talk about torture, whistleblowing, and the dangerous reporter Matthew Cole.The new book is The Convenient Terrorist: Two Whistleblowers’s Stories of Torture, Terror, Secret Wars and CIA Lies, just released.

Kiriakou was leading CIA counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan when Abu Zubaydeh was taken into custody after a shoot-out that left him badly wounded, and offers a first-person account, including how he was misled about Zubaydeh (intel wrongly said he was al Qaeda’s #3 leader).  Hickman was on the team that handled the transfer of Zubaydeh from the CIA black site to Guantanamo, where he served in military intelligence.

Together, they explain that there were 2 men called Abu Zubaydeh, and that while the guy we captured was a low-level player in running safe houses and training camps, he wasn’t a member of al Qaeda.  Both men comment on the recent depositions of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, whose firm got $81 million from CIA to devise the torture regimens.  They say they just followed orders, but our guests dismiss this lame “Nurenberg defense”.

Before Zubaydeh was tortured, CIA personnel extracted assurances from CIA brass that he would never be released or allowed to speak publicly, a Mafia-style pact that appears to be still in effect.

Kiriakou acknowledges the weight of the knowledge he has about the people who tortured, and fears they will never be held accountable.  Hickman explains the research he did–including FOIA documents from Jason Leopold–to get the full story of Abu Zubaydeh.

In the final 5 minutes of the interview, both men share their stories of being burned by “journalist” Matthew Cole, whose work at ABC compromised Hickman and sent Kiriakou to prison.  Cole was involved in the recent episode at The Intercept, where NSA leaker Reality Winner was apprehended after Cole shared her leaked document in an effort to verify it.