JOHN KIRIAKOU: Biden & Hope for Whistleblowers

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I’m thinking in particular about Darin Jones. And something a friend said about the president elect back in 2017 has stuck in my mind.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

I’ve received a great many phone calls from whistleblowers and would-be whistleblowers since Joe Biden was elected president asking what I think his attitude toward whistleblowers will be once he takes office.

Will the Biden administration be Obama II, using the Espionage Act to silence national security whistleblowers?  Or will Biden support and defend those individuals who bring to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality?  I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I believe it will be the latter.

I don’t arrive at this conclusion by serendipity or hopefulness, but rather from personal experience.  In 2016, in the waning days of the Obama presidency, a group of wealthy and influential Greek-Americans, including two former senior elected officials, told me that they had close ties to then-Vice President Biden and that they were willing to approach him to ask that he support my request that President Obama pardon me.  (I had been convicted of violating the Intelligence Identities Act [IIPA] of 1982 after blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program.)

The Greek-Americans showed Biden an op-ed that he had written in 1982, just after the measure was signed into law, saying that the IIPA was unconstitutional on its face and that it should never have been passed in the first place.  They showed him a letter signed by 70 former CIA, NSA and FBI officers asking Obama to pardon me.  They showed him a letter from Dr. Morton Halperin, the author of the IIPA, saying that I should never have been charged with a crime.  And they showed him a speech made by Rep. James Moran (D-VA) on the floor of the House asking the president to pardon me.  It was a comprehensive pitch.

‘He Went to the Mat’

Much to my surprise, on the evening of Jan. 16, 2017, Biden agreed to speak to Obama.  The three Greek-Americans went to the White House two nights later to meet with Biden again and to accompany him to his meeting with Obama.  One of them finally called me a few minutes after midnight on the last day of the Obama presidency.  “You would have been so proud of Joe Biden tonight,” he told me.  “He went to the mat for you.”

But halfway through Biden’s presentation, Obama put up his hands, my friend told me.  “Guys,” the president said.  “I’m just not going to do this.  It’s either him or it’s (Chelsea) Manning, and Manning got 35 years.”  Why Manning and I had to be mutually exclusive is something I’ll never understand.

I didn’t get a pardon that night.  But what my friend told me — “You would have been so proud of Joe Biden tonight” — has stuck in my mind.  By all accounts, Biden is a decent guy.  I’ve met him a number of times and he couldn’t have been any friendlier.  That’s not to say that he’s suddenly going to end U.S. involvement in foreign wars (that he’s voted and campaigned for) or forgive student debt (given his support for an onerous bankruptcy bill that stripped students of protection).  But he seems to be an amiable “what you see is what you get” kind of person, even if personality only goes so far in politics.

Hope for Darin Jones

Nevertheless, it’s for that reason that I’m hopeful that Biden will weigh in on a whistleblower case that I’ve written about in the past.  Darin Jones is an FBI whistleblower and former supervisory contract specialist who in 2012 reported evidence of serious procurement improprieties. I’ve written about him here and here.

Darin said that Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) had been awarded a $40 million contract improperly because a former FBI official with responsibility for granting the contract then was hired as a consultant at CSC.

Jones maintained that this was a violation of the Procurement Integrity Act. He made seven other disclosures alleging financial improprieties at the FBI, and he was promptly fired for his whistleblowing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, arguably the most pro-whistleblower elected official on Capitol Hill, has gone to bat repeatedly for Jones and has demanded that the FBI reinstate him and pay him all back pay owed to him since his firing.  The FBI has ignored him.

There’s now a hook, however, for a Biden Justice Department to do the right thing for Darin Jones and, by extension, for all federal whistleblowers.  Last month, a Virginia man, Robert Bailey, entered a guilty plea in a federal court in Idaho, saying that he had given an FBI official $128,000 in bribes in exchange for helping him win federal contracts.  The bribes included cash, a “birthday trip” to Dallas to watch the Dallas Cowboys play, and a week’s rental at a North Carolina beach house, among other things.  Bailey faces 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced next month.  The media have not reported what has become of the FBI official.

This is exactly the kind of behavior reported by Darin Jones.  He told the congressional oversight committees, the FBI inspector general, and even the media about wrongdoing taking place in the FBI.  Rather than being celebrated, he was punished, fired and humiliated.

Biden and his new attorney general can rectify that.  Obama looked the other way.  Trump looked the other way.  Now is the time to start fresh and to do the right thing.  Biden can start by making Darin Jones the example.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Consortium News

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