McLEAN, Va. (AP) – Lawyers for a former CIA officer accused of leaking the names of covert operatives have told a judge that they will need to expose a wide array of government secrets to provide an adequate defense for their client at trial.
Court records unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria show that lawyers for former CIA officer John Kiriakou want to reveal details of the CIA’s capture of al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah, further details about the life of one of the exposed covert operatives, information about alleged CIA discussions on the use of contractors to torture detainees and other classified information.
They also want to depose the journalists who allegedly received the leaks and show a jury emails detailing the CIA’s unsuccessful requests to stop The New York Times from publishing an article that named one of the exposed operatives, an interrogator who questioned Zubaydah and Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Prosecutors say the defense requests amount to “graymail,” an attempt to dissuade the government from bringing Kiriakou to trial by threatening to expose even more classified information than what has already been revealed.
Kiriakou was involved in the capture of Zubaydah, who was waterboarded. Kiriakou publicly confirmed the waterboarding, wrote a book about his experiences at the agency and expressed conflicting opinions about the effectiveness of waterboarding. Kiriakou’s comments were cited by both advocates and opponents in the national debate over whether waterboarding of high-value terrorist detainees is ever appropriate.
The judge in the case, Leonie Brinkema, has already rejected arguments by Kiriakou that he is a victim of vindictive prosecution, specifically that he was singled out for prosecution as retribution for public statements that portrayed the CIA in an unflattering light.
Brinkema will decide what disclosures, if any, are necessary after balancing Kiriakou’s trial rights against the government’s secrecy interests. The judge can also craft an unclassified “substitution” that provides the gist of the information sought but lacks the details that require secrecy.
Kiriakou’s lawyer, Robert Trout, declined to comment Wednesday beyond what was publicly filed.
In court papers, government prosecutors said the information the defense wants to disclose is in many cases irrelevant to the charges.
Another issue in dispute in the case is the legal standard required to convict Kiriakou. Trout argues that the government must prove that Kiriakou intended to harm the United States by leaking, a very high standard that derailed the government’s attempt to prosecute two pro-Israel lobbyists accused several years ago of disclosing sensitive information to reporters.
Prosecutors say that standard does not apply in this case because the defendant is not a private citizen but a government employee who had been trained in his legal responsibilities to protect classified information.
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