June 8, as the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper was disclosing the identity of the leaker of top-secret National Security Agency PowerPoint slides, I was just finishing up a blog post on the leaker’s revelations. Having contrasted and compared published slides with claims by public officials, and given an in-the-loop Washington Post‘s reporter’s rationale for their selective release, I had the distinct sense that I was already behind the curve. The leaker, former NSA employee Edward Snowden, had fled the country for Hong Kong by the time he handed over the slides to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
In an exclusive video interview with The Guardian from Hong Kong – where he is currently seeking asylum – Snowden made claims even more extraordinary than the slides themselves.
In their video interview, The Guardian immediately took to framing Snowden as a whistleblower. Yet Guardian – along with, again, The Washington Post‘s – staff have refused to release all of the information Snowden had requested they would.
NSA, said Snowden, “targets the communications of everyone.” He added, “While they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they’re collecting [citizens'] communications to do so.”
At one point Snowden’s accounts of life inside seemed contradictory, such as when he asserted that “any analyst at any time can target anyone – any selector, anywhere.” Only a moment later he would claim “not all analysts have the ability to target everything.”
Snowden spoke of a ruthlessly vindictive intelligence community willing to assassinate for his dissidence, exposing what he sees as an abusive panopticon. In retribution, he claimed, U.S. authorities could very well “pay off the triads,” members of Hong Kong organized crime, to take his life, “however long that happens to be.”
Snowden defined a narrow set of NSA analysts, such as himself, with broad omniscience into society. “I sitting at my desk certainly have the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president,” he told The Guardian‘s Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill.
Snowden denied that he was trying to harm the United States or aid it enemies. Had he really wanted to endanger the country, he said, he “could [have] shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon.”
Snowden’s extraordinary claims were bolstered in part by statements to the LA Times by former NSA and CIA counsel Robert Deitz, who said, “There are, from time to time, cases in which some [NSA] analyst is [angry] at his ex-wife and looks at the wrong thing and he is caught and fired.” Deitz did not imply that these abuses by NSA analysts resulted in any criminal prosecutions for payrolled megalomaniacs.
Immediately I intuited that oncoming media profiles of Snowden would descend far lower than mere allegations of treason or defection. Snowden’s earlier leak to The Guardian of a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court memo had detailed not only Verizon’s release to the NSA of vast swaths of telephone records “wholly within” the United States. It confirmed the long-understood cooperation between electronic communications firms and the NSA in seeking out foreign intelligence information.
Quickly, I created a Twitter account with the closest possible match to Snowden’s name, @ejosephsnowden, and sought to begin a cartoonishly radical caricature of the e-dissident. To anyone who understood the implications of Snowden’s claims, the very existence of a Twitter account at all should have seemed impossible and thereby ironic. But how impossible would it seem to most, and how ironic? With that high-minded goal of watchdog journalism (to gauge media and public perception) along with an interest in finding some humor in a too-impulsive media environment, I began what would be a three-day mission of online sockpuppeteering. I was somewhat inspired by the FBI’s long campaign of using the Twitter account of hacker Hector Monsegur, or “Sabu” of LulzSec. Surely, some of the same tactics used to root out cybercriminals can be used in watchdog journalism.
You can read much of the tweeting content from early this week on The Internet Chronicle‘s updated Twitter account, where we have shamelessly co-opted the followers of the Snowden puppet. Although the marionette now sits here.
As the account quickly accelerated and peaked to 4,400 followers, I was struck by how many Twitter users were requesting that Twitter actually validate it. The pretense of such a request was that Twitter would somehow ascertain the identity of any actual Snowden, while somehow maintaining discretion with authorities as to the location of the hounded leaker. Despite assurances from those like Senate Majority Leaker Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Snowden’s allegations of metadata monitoring weren’t anything “brand-new,” clearly many with half a mind to be interested in hearing from an NSA leaker had a rather breathtaking trust in the inviolability of trust Twitter kept with its end users. (Although to be fair, in the wake of PRISM’s having been revealed, Twitter claims it is as resistant as any communications firm to overreaching government requests.)
Additionally, striking is the number of people willing to thank Snowden openly, which – even should the old “Snowden” followers delete tweets or unfollow – I cannot imagine not having some effect in the future on their attaining clearances in the course of future employment with the federal government, the largest single domestic employer. Several people accused me of working for the CIA or the NSA, which is ludicrous, to my knowledge. Yet it was also illustrative of just how jaundiced these agencies’ reputations are.
In the course of his writings at Guardian and Salon, Greenwald has gone to great lengths to undermine the left-right narrative, and his own political connections add great credence to that. Those connections run the gamut, from contributions to the libertarian Cato Institute, to remarks given to an International Socialist Organization conference. Greenwald’s diverse affiliations are key to understanding the partisan political divide that surrounds outrage, when it occurs, over surveillance overreach.
In 2006, at the height of the last decade’s previous warrantless NSA controversy, a Pew poll highlighted acquiescence from 75 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats. On the other hand the past month’s revelations have yielded 64 percent approval on the issue from Democrats and 52 percent from Republicans. Whichever administration doing the monitoring appears to have a pretty serious influence on whether people feel like getting mad.
It was for this reason that my Ed Snowden was to be of what William Buckley termed the “fever swamps.” Heavily ideological, conspiracy-bent libertarians have an extremely ubiquitous online presence, and in the current climate, tend to lean Republican on foreign policy. (For example, Republicans made up a slight majority of the opposition to the Obama-era no-fly zone in Libya, and doubtless any upcoming Syria no-fly zone.) I knew there was going to be a lot of momentum to attempt to try Snowden in the public sphere—a mob mentality for which I have no regard whatsoever, even for the filthiest of criminals.
Former Mother Jones national security editor Adam Weinstein remarked on Twitter, “[T]he solipsism of a young white male libertarian IT guys … is a real problem.”
Don’t hate on David Brooks for pointing out the solipsism of a young white male libertarian IT guys. That is a real problem well beyond NSA.
When as “Snowden,” I started tweeting support for Ron Paul, I had not yet actually heard that Snowden was a supporter of the former congressman and perennial, long-shot president hopeful. Weinstein referenced a stereotype that deserved lampooning, and so I, along with some help from Chronicle correspondent Jaime Cochran, took to the puppet with conspiratorial banter. It is unfortunate that, for much of the general public, anyone who would do what Snowden did would have to be an absolute sociopath. Billy Walshe, or “Kilgore,” had long ago set up a Greenwald sock puppet (@ggreenwild), subsequently shuttered by Twitter. We used that to endow the Snowden puppet with a veneer of undeserved credibility, mostly piloted by Walshe himself.
Even though Greenwald and WikiLeaks had disavowed the Snowden puppet (Greenwald, repeatedly and explicitly) the Snowden and Greenwald puppets apparently duped journalists, including Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed, a former Reuters social media editor, Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow, David Shuster, a co-author of a book with Glenn Beck, and Reason editor Nick Gillespie. I won’t bother denying some degree of tap-dancing schadenfreude at that.
On the other hand, my three-day campaign of feigned anarcho-capitalist lunacy should serve as a warning of Nellie Bly magnitude to journalists and news junkies alike. As this news and entertainment outlet has painstakingly sought to demonstrate, a Brave New Internet demands greater incredulity from the media-consuming public. The Answer will never be that media networks as large as Twitter endeavor to root out impostors or screen for disinformation any more than they screen for the ill-informed. Just as time and experience has lessened susceptibility to (the not benign) 419 scams, the same will have to happen for Twitter users desperate for the ground-level scoop and click bait.
While the Post‘s Barton Gellman had told me that some of the data Snowden handed over was classified for good reason (I can’t know this, but we’ll never hear a admission like that in those terms, even if true, from Glenn Greenwald), it was important to point out, via the puppet, that we’ll always rely on some estate, first or fourth, to filter our data. Maybe the Snowden data the Post and The Guardian are withholding aredangerous if disclosed to the public. For now it’s a subject of speculation, speculation based on conversations that took place between these newspapers and the government before even the three (or in The Guardian‘s case, four) PowerPoint slides went public. But established journalists will always have an interest in maintaining access, daresay staying out of jail for espionage; and those motives may or may not happen to line up with the public’s right to know. Especially when the Fourth Amendment is on the line.
Certainly, Snowden’s personal life is about to get a serious snow job—and one treated with far wider credulity than any Twitter puppet.
Not long into the course of my sockpuppeteering, as Weinstein referenced, New York Times columnist David Brooks would not disappoint, disparaging the leaker for, of all things, not finishing high school and for being mildly rude to a neighbor once. Just as Frontline hyped Bradley Manning’s homosexuality as a factor in his decision to leak, and the media allowed Julian Assange’s alleged sex crimes in Sweden to overshadow legal threats he faced from the Justice Department, the media was sure to be hungry for some red meat, beyond anything high-minded, to explain Snowden’s leaks. Thus widespread banter about matters as insipid as the attractiveness of his ex-girlfriend.
The tabloid chum has and will spread in the waters of public discourse, from sources as serious as paper of record, which the public should have good reason to take with more credibility than an unverified Twitter account. As red as blind anger, the chum will obscure the prescient debate that must be had about the meaning of the Fourth Amendment in a technologically evolving, if not “advancing,” world. We must be sure that it does not attract the real sharks, those complicit in the abuse of power, power needed to protect Americans.
Snowden is an important figure, but not nearly as important as the story he created by releasing these NSA files. President Obama has already confirmed and condoned their practices, but this is a tremendous story substantiated with hard evidence and what follows will have huge, far-reaching implications.
We live in a surveillance state. That much is certain. But there’s a gritty reality behind what that entails.
I just saw graphic photographs of Snowden’s girlfriend on the internet. She’s a lovely lady, but the stories are just despicable – obviously dredged up for titillation to sell readership, but there’s something so animalistic about it. The woman, as meat, without Snowden in her life anymore. It’s fucking tragic, and people are just gawking at her. This “news” outlet describes how she lives alone in her Hawaii home now that Snowden is missing. That’s just sick. Show pictures of her almost naked, and then describe where she’s known to live, and how vulnerable she is. I imagined if that were you, how it would make me feel. I am totally horrified. The United States is currently engaged in an information arms race, and I consider Snowden’s girlfriend a sort of digital casualty, probably worse.
I can say without hesitation no terrorist attack in all the years I’ve been alive has frightened me a fraction as much as the realization I came to myself, that my entire life could be taken away from me in a keystroke on the whim of a government which justifies its Orwellian chokehold on power in the name of “security.”
We may safely declare this is a war between us, and the United States Government.
Even with the awareness of my keywords in the subject line of this email, combined with my position at the Chronicle which is now associated with Snowden – and has undoubtedly triggered the absolute certainty of some nine-to-fiver on federal payroll having to read over this private email to you – I am comfortable saying this to you and to them, and I’d even publish this on the site: We may safely declare this is a war between us, and the United States Government. By ourselves, I mean all the people of the world – even those without a constitution with similar Fourth Amendment rights to privacy & freedoms from searches and seizure – because if our Constitution guarantees us these rights, then shouldn’t it apply to all potential subjects of the US Government? That is to say, every American citizen has been identified by his or her own government as a potential enemy combatant, or a terrorist, or whatever you want to call it… and is treated thusly, with blanketed, aggregate surveillance combined with the specific, surgical analysis of private communications. All tracked, like a herd of sheep, all outliers monitored. I read the figures today, a low estimate puts their requests at around a quarter million US citizens under close surveillance. That is to say, their emails, Facebook messages, Skype messages, Google search histories, Gmail contents, etc. were all turned over for analysis – by law.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, as if that isn’t bad enough, I have it on good authority the US Government is teamed up with Microsoft and Google to allow the government to save files to a person’s computer, if required as part of an investigation. At first you might assume this can include keyloggers, and it certainly could, but technology has advanced beyond the need to trace simple keyboard activity. No, perhaps most damaging of all is the ability of government secret agents to plant files on computers through Google and Microsoft Windows backdoors, designed by these tech firms explicitly for government use – which are later used as evidence against outspoken government critics. Illegal files, like rape videos and child pornography can be dredged up from a person’s hard drive and used against him or her in court, after the government put it there – just like that Dave Chappelle joke about crooked cops dealing with black people: “Alright, let’s sprinkle some crack on him and get the hell out of here.”
People, I am dismayed and horrified by the evidence coming out against my government, and their stubborn refusal to undo this evil perpetrated upon us. Next week, the United States will come out with charges against Snowden. There will be protests, shows of support, but the TV-viewing majority, as I witnessed while staying in TN (around a television), is already being told Snowden is a traitor. That’s right, by the “news” like CNN and FOX and MSNBC and whatever else is on there. Even people I work with believe he is a traitor, but Snowden is not like Manning. Snowden, through Greenwald, carefully released ONLY what the public needed to know and is withholding some even bigger shit because he is using discretion the way a journalist is supposed to use and is expected to use, but still, he’s being made out to be a criminal.
And because Snowden is doomed, we are all doomed.
This is the last generation who knew freedom, and we were just kids. I’m sorry this is happening. I really am trying to come to grips with it myself, and I am sorry the whole world got wired up and went fucking crazy. We’re now witnessing the sad, nervous breakdown of a once prosperous nation, and there is no turning back.
This story is still young, so all the things which I’ve told you will continue to come out over the next few weeks, and then it will be dangerously forgotten. The extradition and judicial process for Snowden will be long and slow, just like Manning’s currently is, but this will be worse. There’s going to be a whole new determination of what it means to be ignorant and naive, and people are going to deny the importance of this event, and say those who don’t are carrying on – but mark my words – American justice just shot heroin, and she thinks it feels good.
The rest of our time spent in America will be characterized almost entirely by the long, drawn-out process of watching it die, and remembering better times.
Plato said that a city driven by luxuries was fevered, and in a state of Eternal War the entire planet is overrun by Jungles as Carbon Dioxide and Global Warming alter the climate and lead to mass-famines in every city except on small islands. Repeated Nuclear Detonations release just enough ash to partially cancel the global warming, ironically becoming the only reason life on Earth can possibly survive.
FROM WITHIN PRISM’S PANOTPIC GAZE — The Empire Has No Clothes, and the Revolution draws ever nearer, just as me and all my friends on Twitter have always agreed. It’s so close I can taste it.
As the Panopticon’s Black Iron Prison encloses the planet Earth from a panoply of hateful Imperial powers — America, China, and every tinpot dictator in each patsy state on the planet, We, The People of the Internet have been busy plotting the perfect and most intellectual plans for the New World Order, which also happens to be the thing conspiracy theorists like me fear most. I’ve done tremendous research on this problem, and have logged untold thousands of hours on many different versions of Sid Meyer’s Civilization series.
The New World Order is a horror, of course, unless you happen to believe in Reparations for all Blacks in America, Gay Marriage, Legal Marijuana, Maximum Salaries, and Maximum Work Weeks. You want some hope? I’ll throw that in, but you’ve got to send me bitcoins.
That’s right! No one in America (Or our patsy semi-colonies!) will EVER work more than 20 hours a week. It’s a bitch when all these RedBoxes, McBoxes, and Combine Harvesters take the jobs of all our illegal immigrants and we have to start paying for their healthcare. But not anymore! No, No! We will have enough jobs even for the freeloaders and the tramps, and people will still be able to become unbelievably filthy fucking rich with a maximum yearly income of 5 million dollars. Sure, some people might say I want to unfairly tax the everliving shit out of those who bring in billions, but I don’t see it that way. They made it all on your dime! Think about it, we’ve been investing tax money into computers and robots for a hundred years in order to fight for freedom and defeat the Nazi Scum. We SHOULD be living in a Techno Utopia with Robots doing Everything! To HELL with Nazi-sympathizing billionaires who think that THEY should get ALL profit off of The Only God Damned GOOD war we’ve fought in a long time. We’re gonna invest it in robots, motherfucker! If you Vote for ME as president of the New World Order, which will surely follow the oncoming Revolution (I believe it was instigated by the Chinese! They’ve taken Snowden into their grips, and I’m afraid it’s too late for Obama. (We can’t fall into the grips of China. Trust me, I would prefer Prism to the Great FireWall ANY DAY.))
Armed militia groups have assembled in public spaces around the nation in response to totalitarian government surveillance.
WASHINGTON – Floods of concerned citizens around the nation are reporting the same chilling story: Convoys of military and paramilitary forces are arriving at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) camps, which are capable of indefinitely interning a large proportion of American citizens. Militia groups have reportedly assembled in downtown Grand Rapids, N.D., at the Citadel patriot community in Benewah County, Idaho, and at least a hundred public spaces across the nation. Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside of the entrance to the access road leading to the deep-underground FEMA Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center. It is unclear whether this is a response to activation of FEMA camps, or if the FEMA camps activated in response to the assembly of these militias, who are likening themselves to an armed Occupy movement.
A spokesperson for the OccupyMilitia, as the spontaneous militarized protest movement has been dubbed, said, “We don’t want death or violence. We just want an end to totalitarian Internet surveillance, and we know from watching the Occupy protests that we need to be armed if we want to be heard.”
Citizens around the nation wait with bated breath as the inevitable conflict approaches, and for some the story has become too much to handle.
“We’ve had several suicides related to this NSA wiretap story,” said Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador of Mercy Hospital in Cuthbert, Ga. “More are coming in by the hour as these FEMA stories spread. People are certain they will soon be sent to their death in these camps, especially those who already believe Obama is the Antichrist.”
One fine morning several weeks ago, I received a phone call from the local FBI office requesting an interview about Barrett Brown, former spokesperson for the Anonymous hacking collective. I told the agent, on the phone, that I didn’t really have any useful information, but he still wanted to talk to me. I didn’t see the harm in it, so I agreed to meet him that afternoon at a nearby coffee shop. For the rest of the day I grew increasingly nervous about the meeting as new and scarier possibilities came into my mind, despite their improbability. Was this guy a legitimate FBI agent, or was he something else? Did he intend to harm me, or possibly kill me?
I arrived to the coffee place a few minutes early and browsed through a selection of used books which included Bruce Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown — on sale for ten cents. Nearly immediately, I was accosted by a gregarious teenage girl, who complimented my beard and compared me to a popular musician I had never heard of. She was blonde, cute, and bubbly, but just underneath the surface lurked high culture. For the next few minutes we talked about Nietzsche and Goethe, until I saw the FBI agent staring at me from the corner of my eye. I said to the girl something like, “I’m sorry. I’m here to meet an FBI agent and talk to him about some shit.” She did not ask why, but instead exclaimed, loudly, “I hope he doesn’t drag you away and poison you!” This bizarre exchange, to which I have done little justice, was surely within earshot of the agent, and I still wonder whether it was some insidious kind of psychological manipulation. I am sure it was even stranger from the point of view of the agent.
He sat at a small table with a little pile of papers, and I joined him. On the papers were questions for me and information about me. I saw my driver’s license photo in full color for the first time, but with a distorted aspect ratio which widened my face. His manner was gentle, as you’d expect from a computer guy, and he wore an impeccable grey suit with fancy wingtip shoes. Because he alluded to a position with national security implications, that is all the description I will provide. Despite warning me that he was not an expert on Anonymous, he came across as generally well-informed, if not hopelessly misled on a few specifics. His praise for my writing was effusive and embarrassing, so much so that he apologized, and I could not help but glance at the girl, who now sat with her friends just a table away, as circuit breakers in my brain began to blow. What does she think of me, sitting here, getting this kind of incredible praise from an FBI agent? Surely she must be hearing this shit, and certainly she must not believe any of it. This boiling cauldron of ego soup was all the hotter for the chilling anxiety I had felt leading up to it. Yet, for all that, I did not detect a hint of inauthenticity in the agent’s manner, and, in fact, I saw genuine disappointment after a joke he told bombed because of my abnormally serious demeanor.
The business of the interview, the source of my anxiety, turned out to be a bit of a sad joke and far less disconcerting than all the continuous praise. Several questions, for instance, hinged on a case of mistaken identity. Because I use the pseudonym Kilgore Trout and had been somewhat of a nemesis to Barrett Brown, the FBI had apparently connected me with another Kilgore Trout who was, several years before I knew of Brown, also at odds with Brown. Both Brown and the other Trout had participated on the Little Green Footballs web site, some despicable hole of fringe punditry, but I knew very little about it. The agent claimed Brown had tasked a hacker with cracking Little Green Footballs — a fairly explosive piece of information. Evidence of Brown giving jobs to hackers has been alluded to in many stories about LulzSec, but no one has been sure of Brown’s level of involvement. If it was true he tasked someone with hacking Little Green Footballs, then his involvement with LulzSec could have possibly been pivotal. It was shocking, but of course I knew nothing that could be of help in any case. With grave seriousness which was not present in any other part of the conversation, he asked something like, “You once wrote that Barrett Brown worked for China or Russia. Is this true?” Like his joke that bombed earlier, my mind was too messed up to laugh at the right cue, and I did my best to seriously explain the joke. While anything is possible, I can’t get over the certainty that the FBI, in general, is seriously convincedin Anonymous and its possible connections to foreign power. It brings to mind reports out of Iranian state-owned media that attacks by Anonymous are orchestrated by the American government.
It’s nice to be reminded that law enforcement agents are real people, but it’s also a bit disturbing — because they’re real people. Anons, especially, tend to imagine law enforcement as a monolithic edifice which sees all and acts like a hatefully inhuman machine in exacting draconian punishments for the smallest infractions. Maybe that likeness is accurate enough in a few cases, but at the same time it’s really humans we’re talking about — prone to the same fear, misinterpretation, misinformation, and confusion as the rest of us.
P.O. Box 1000, FCI Loretto
Loretto, PA 15940
Mr. John Kiriakou:
After catching the publication of one of your letters on Firedoglake, and possessing a great professional investment in the controversies surrounding whistleblowing, I thought I would take some time to reach out to you, a prisoner of conscience, in order to better understand not only the personal toll your whistleblowing has taken but also any ruminations you might be able to offer on some puzzling legal questions. I am including a copy of a recent article I contributed to In These Times magazine regarding the relationship between national security and civil liberties. I have a few questions. I would appreciate your please setting me straight should my facts be otherwise.
In early 2009 I had the opportunity to hear “Matthew Alexander” – the pseudonym of a former Air Force interrogator in Iraq with which you are no doubt familiar – speak at an American University forum and offer his opinion that waterboarding was a poor security choice because of its, he purported, ineffectiveness. Having perused your book and caught your Democracy Now! interview, I found your openness to the concept that waterboarding, torture, is effective, albeit amoral, one of the most striking facets of your perspective. Considering the resentment that techniques like waterboarding inspire from the international community, why do you suppose that individuals, such as “Alexander,” consider (short-term) effectiveness such an important part of the argument around waterboarding?
Recently, a friend pointed out to me Executive Order 13526, which you may recall, iterates that “[i]n no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified … in order to … conceal violations of law.” If the Obama administration chose to discontinue waterboarding, specifically due to it being a violation of treaty obligations, in what sense, if any, was the information you relayed in your ABC interview, daresay your book, functionally a violation of the law in the eyes of the next administration?
From my review of your plight, it would appear that your and your family suffer, in part, due to a journalist, in whom you placed your trust, having revealed Guantanamo treatment information to detainee defense attorneys. Do you in some sense now blame that journalist for any kind of ethical breach—even if that leak to defense attorneys were to help expedite justice for the indefinitely held?
Also, I was curious as to your opinion on the meaning of extant whistleblower protections, given that what constitutes “wrongdoing” by authorities, higher-ups inherently bears some degree of subjectivity. What is conscience, if not sublimely subjective?
I hope you are well. If you wish, in replying, feel free to advise me on the nature of your treatment and its level of fairness, as you wait out what I’m sure will be arduous months. Thank you.
Portrait of Kiriakou, by artist unknown, taken from Kiriakou’s Twitter account
In January we reported on John Kiriakou, the CIA officer who recently started his 30-month stint in federal prison—for what he said was acting on pangs of conscience, not endangering national security, as judges and prosecutors would have it. Brian Sonenstein, at Firedoglake’s Dissenter blog, received a prison letter, and we’ve taken the time to transcribe it all over again to include what was crossed out in the Dissenter text: an accusation the incarcerated father of five seemingly began to level at the Justice Department, not just the “Bureau of Prisons,” for his mistreatment.
An address to write to Kiriakou is at the bottom of the letter.
“Letter From Loretto”
Greetings from the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania. I arrived here on February 28, 2013 to serve a 30-month sentence for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. At least that’s what the government wants people to believe. In truth, this is my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program and for telling the public that torture was official U.S. government policy. But that’s a different story. The purpose of this letter is to tell you about prison life.
At my formal sentencing hearing in January, the judge, the prosecutors, and my attorneys all agreed that I would serve my sentence in Loretto’s Federal Work Camp. When I arrived, however, much to my surprise, the Corrections Officer (CO, or “hack”) who processed me said that the Justice Department Bureau of Prisons had deemed me a “threat to the public safety,” and so I would do serve the entire sentence in the actual prison, rather than the camp.
Processing took about an hour and included fingerprinting, a mug shot (my third after the FBI and the Marshals), my fourth DNA sample, and a quite comprehensive strip search. I was given a pair of baggy brown pants, two brown shirts, two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, and a pair of cheap sandals. My own clothes were boxed and mailed to my wife. The CO then led me to a steel bunk in “Central Unit” and walked away. I didn’t know what to do, so I took a nap.
My cell is more like a cubicle made out of concrete block. Built to hold four men, mine holds six. Most others hold eight. My cellmates include two Dominicans serving 24- and 20-year sentences for drugs, a Mexican serving 15 years for drugs, a Puerto Rican serving [7 ½ years ?] 7 ½ years for drug conspiracy, and the former auditor of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, who’s doing [unintelligible] years a long sentence for corruption. They’re all decent guys and we actually enjoy each other’s company.
The prison population is much like you might expect. Loretto has 1,369 prisoners. (I never call myself an “inmate.” I’m a prisoner.) About 50% are black, 30% are Hispanic, and 20% are white. Of the white prisoners, most are pedophiles with personal stories that would make you sick to your stomach. The rest of the whites prisoners are here for drugs, except for a dozen or so who ran Ponzi schemes. Of the 1,369 prisoners, 40 have college degrees and 6 of us have master’s degrees. The GED program is robust. (Bust when I volunteered to teach a class my “counsellor” [sic] shouted, “Dammit, Kiriakou! If I wanted you to teach a fucking class, I’d ask you to teach a fucking class!”) I’m a janitor in the chapel. I make $5.25 a month.
The cafeteria, or “chow hall” was the most difficult experience of my first few days. Where should I sit? On my first day, two Aryans, completed covered in tattoos, walked up to me and asked, “Are you a pedophile?” Nope, I said. “Are you a fag?” Nope. “Do you have good paper?” I didn’t know what this meant. I turned out that I had to get a copy of my formal sentencing documents to prove that I wasn’t a child molester. I did that, and was welcomed by the Aryans, who aren’t really Aryans, but more accurately self-important hillbillies.
The cafeteria is very formally divided. There is a table for the Aryans whites with good paper, a section of a table for the Native Americans, a section of a table for people belonging to a certain Italian-American stereotypical “subculture,” two tables for the Muslims, four tables for the pedophiles, and all the remaining tables for the blacks and Hispanics. We don’t all eat at the same time, but each table is more-or-less reserved as I’ve described.
Violence hasn’t been much of a problem since I arrived. There have been maybe a half-dozen fights, almost always over what television show to watch. The choices are pretty much set in stone between ESPN, MTV, VH1, BET and Univision. I haven’t watched TV since I got here. It’s just not worth the trouble. Otherwise, violence isn’t a problem. Most of the guys in here have worked their way down to a low-security prison from a medium or a maximum, and they don’t want to go back.
I’ve also had some luck in this regard. My reputation preceded me, and a rumor got started that I was a CIA hit man. The Aryans whispered that I was a “Muslim hunter,” but the Muslims, on the strength of my Arabic language skills and a well-timed statement of support from Louis Farrakhan have lauded me as a champion of Muslim human rights. Meanwhile, the Italians have taken a liking to me because I’m patriotic, as they are, and I have a visceral dislike of the FBI, which they do as well. I have good relations with the blacks because I’ve helped several of them write commutation appeals or letters to judges and I don’t charge anything for it. And the Hispanics respect me because my cellmates, who represent a myriad of Latin drug gangs, have told them to. So far, so good.
The only thing close to a problem that I’ve had has been from the Cos. When I first arrived, after about four days, I heard an announcement that I was to dread: “Kiriakou – report to the lieutenant’s office immediately.” Very quickly, I gave my wife’s phone number to a friend and asked him to call her if, for some reason, I was sent to the SHU (Special Housing Unit) more commonly known as the hole, or solitary confinement. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but this kind of thing happens all the time.
When I got to the lieutenant’s office, I was ushered into the office of SIS, the Special Investigative Service. This is the prison version of every police department’s Internal Affairs Division detective bureau. I saw on a desk a copy of my book, The Reluctant Spy, as well as DVD copies of all the documentaries I’ve been in. The CO showed me a picture of an Arab. “Do you know this guy,” he asked me. I responded that I had met him a day earlier, but our conversation was limited to “nice to meet you.” Well, the CO said, this was the uncle of the Times Square bomber, and after we had met, he called a number in Pakistan, reporting the meeting, and was told to kill me. I told the CO that I could kill the guy with my thumb. He’s about 5’4” and 125 pounds compared to my 6’1” and 250 pounds. The CO said they were looking to ship him out, so I should stay away from him. But the more I thought about it, the more this made no sense. Why would the uncle of the Times Square bomber be in a low-security prison? He should be in a maximum. So I asked my Muslim friends to check him out. It turns out that he’s an Iraqi Kurd from Buffalo, NY. He was the imam of a mosque there, which also happened to be the mosque where the “Lackawana [sic] 7” worshipped [sic]. (The Lackawana 7 were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism.) The FBI pressured him to testify against his parishioners. He refused and got five years for obstruction of justice. The ACLU and several religious freedom groups have rallied to his defense. He had nothing to do with terrorism.
In the meantime, SIS told him that I had made a call to Washington after we met, and that I had been instructed to kill him! We both laughed at the ham-handedness by which SIS tried to get us to attack each other. If we had, we would have spent the rest of our sentences in the [unintelligible] SHU – solitary. Instead, we’re friendly, we exchange greetings in Arabic and English, and we chat.
The only other problem I’ve had with the COs was about two weeks after I arrived. I get a great deal of mail here in prison (and I answer ever letter I get.) Monday through Friday, prisoners gather in front of the unit CO’s office for mail call. One female CO butchers my name every time she says it. So when she does mail call, I hear “Kirkaow, Kiriloo, Teriyaki” and a million other variations. One day after mail call I passed her in the hall. She stopped me and said, “Are you the motherfucker whose name I can’t pronounce?” I responded “Ki-ri-AH-koo.” She said, “How about if I just call you Fuckface?” I just walked away and a friend I was walking with said, “Classy.” I said to him, “White trash is more like it.” And hour later, four COs descended on both of our cells, trashing all of our worldly possessions in my first “shake-down.” Lesson learned: COs can treat us like subhumans but we have to show them faux respect even when it’s not earned.
I’ll write about COs more next time. If you’d like to drop me a line, I can be reached at John Kiriakou 79637-083, P.O. Box 1000, FCI Loretto, Loretto, PA 15940.
The following video was extracted from an archive of federal repossessions and returned the chronicle.su office late last year.
“Years of systematically abusing oneself while praying to Charles Manson leads a person to create music and imagery like this. And in one dark night, it can all disappear. With one murder, all your work can be lost forever, whether you meant to kill the guy or not.” – Ronald Reagan
The pretext for this video more or less implies that the video was released in order to meet serious market demand for distorted pornographic imagery interlaced with swastikas and pictures of world leaders being shredded apart while a man sings into a dildo-enhanced microphone. There is no turning back now. Your mind is on the drugs.
Under Armor Spokesman, @th3j35t3r Attacks North Korea
Under the moniker @th3j35t3r, a little-known Twitter account, Tom Ryan of Provide Security is currently gearing up for cyber war with North Korea, Anonymous in tow.
After a series of test runs against mom-and-pop DPRK websites, we see Tom Ryan, aka John Tiessen, as possessing the ability to completely cripple the entire infrastructure of North Korea’s Internets. While working with OWASP on Web app exploitation, in the mid ’90′s Ryan developed — with the help of a DARPA contract and Adrian Lamo – a tool known only as XerXes, which sends “packets” to a given “serve,”, causing it to go offline temporarily. Some say it was also developed to really annoy Ron Brynaert.
This method, while not new, is very new and effective. The source code of XerXes has been hidden from the world for over two decades and far surpasses everything from WinNuke to LOIC/HOIC.
So is this a military operation? Is this what the NSA has been planning for years, General Keith Alexander at the helm? Or is this just a completely superfluous news article about something so utterly boring no one is reading?
We asked #hatesec’s Chairman of the Board Kevin Eubanks for comment, but all we got were some fucking lame jazz fusion licks instead.