JOHN KIRIAKOU: I Work for Sputnik News

Torture, whistleblowing, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, solitary confinement and corruption in the justice system. Those are Kiriakou’s subjects and he is happy to talk about them anywhere. 

Jan, 11, 2012: Protester outside the White House during a vigil against the Guantanamo Bay detention center in its 10th year. (Justin Norman, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

I work for Sputnik News.  There.  I said it.  I’m not embarrassed or ashamed.  I’m also not a Russian propagandist, despite what you may have read in the “mainstream” media.  Sputnik approached me in 2017 and offered me a job as a radio talk show host.  I turned them down.  Friends told me that it would be a mistake working for the Russian Bear.  They said that I would attract attention from the government, maybe even the FBI.  Did I really want to do that?

About eight months passed, and Sputnik offered me a job again.  Having just been released from prison after blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program, nobody was beating a path to my door to offer me a job, and I was newly separated from my wife.  So I went in for an interview.  The network’s editor-in-chief said that he wanted to offer me my own talk show.  I said that I was interested, but that I had to have complete editorial freedom.  “Done,” was the reply.  I said that I wanted to be able to talk about anything I wanted, to be able to criticize anybody I wanted, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.  “Done,” the editor-in-chief said again.  I asked if he would be willing to put it in writing in my contract.  He did, and I began working at Sputnik in August 2017.

For the first two-and-a-half years, I cohosted a show with Brian Becker, a well-known progressive activist and the co-founder of the ANSWER Coalition.  I have deep respect for Brian, who sits to my left, politically, and the show, Loud & Clear, was a hit.

I later cohosted a show with Lee Stranahan, a conservative populist/libertarian and former journalist with Breitbart.  We agreed on almost nothing in the year we worked together.  And like me, Lee was never told that he had to say something or not say something or to take a certain political position.  We were free to speak our minds.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve cohosted a mainstream progressive show with Michelle Witte, an accomplished and very intelligent news professional.  I thoroughly enjoy going to work every day.  I honestly don’t even see it as work because it’s so much fun.

But to hear The Washington Post tell it (or The New Republic, or the Center for Strategic and International Studies) I’m a dangerous propagandist for Vladimir Putin.  The truth is that anybody who says that is either a propagandist himself or simply has never listened to my show.


I first realized that there were people out there who didn’t like or appreciate alternative viewpoints in 2018, when I received an email from a journalist from The New Republic.  (She was actually a wedding photographer who worked as a freelance journalist.)  She said that she wanted to do a story about my new career at Sputnik.  I declined, saying that I wasn’t interesting in being “the story.”  She responded, “Look, this story is getting written with you or without you.”  I gave her an interview to try to soften the blow, but the result was “The Spy Who Became a Russian Propagandist.”

‘Weakening Our Democracy’ 

The same thing happened again shortly after The New Republic article was published.  In early 2020, CBS News apparently realized that Sputnik was being broadcast on a small station in Kansas City.  They listened to my show Loud & Clear and, reacting specifically to a segment that I used to do every Thursday called “Criminal Injustice,” said that I was “weakening our democracy.”  How was I accomplishing that incredible feat?  I was talking about how the United Nations had declared that the practice of solitary confinement in American prisons is a form of torture.  And I advocated for Julian Assange.

A report later in 2020 from the neo-liberal Center for Strategic and International Studies was more direct.  It said,

“Sputnik’s weekly segment Criminal Injustice on its Loud & Clear podcast similarly portrays itself as bringing attention to justice being denied to citizens, mixing legitimate grievances with distorted information.  Russia’s goal for these programs is not to make the US legal system more just; it is to tell an unrelenting one-sided story to get Americans to believe the system is as corrupt and broken as the legal system in Russia.  Putin’s hope is that Americans will give up on democratic institutions, the way so much of his own population has come to accept the corruption in Russia.”

Wow!  I had no idea that I had that much influence, that I was that cynical in my creation of Criminal Injustice, or that I had strategized with Vladimir Putin to weaken democratic institutions.  If only I could monetize it!  The truth is that, after spending 23 months in prison, I have a first-hand view of just how harsh and corrupt our “democratic institutions” are.

So I decided that every Thursday I would interview two friends of mine:  Paul Wright, the executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center and the editor of Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News magazines; and Kevin Gosztola, an outstanding journalist at who focuses on criminal-justice issues.  They have nothing whatsoever to do with Russian “propaganda.”  They just care about human rights — far more so than does the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Things have gotten tough for Sputnik over the past two weeks.  Our sister outlet, the television news network RT America, was forced off the air permanently a week ago.  And there are calls from members of Congress, the National Association of Broadcasters, and neoliberal think tanks around Washington for the government to do the same to Sputnik.

They may well succeed. But their complaint that Sputnik pushes “the Russian view” doesn’t carry any weight. So what if it does?  BBC carries the British view. DW carries the German view. Al Jazeera carries the Qatari view. Do we ban all of them because Washington objects to a story line?  And then do we sit back while the Russians ban CNN, Fox, Voice of America, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, all of which are available in Russia?  It’s a slippery slope. 

In any case, I would be glad to go on CNN, Fox and MSNBC to talk about my areas of interest, but they have never invited me. Sputnik has given me that platform.  If the Washington swells don’t like it, that’s tough luck for them.

 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 author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

29 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: I Work for Sputnik News

  1. Hatuxka
    March 14, 2022 at 22:50

    The Sputnik Telegram Channel returns a message of being illegal in my location, the US of A. There is a voluntarily run mirror version of it

  2. John Kiriakou
    March 11, 2022 at 18:04

    Thank you so much for your kindness and support, everybody. It means so much to me.

    • Philip Reed
      March 15, 2022 at 12:28

      Ed Schultz ,may he Rest In Peace, said exactly the same thing about RT regarding editorial freedom. That’s just one of the reasons I believe more of what I read and listen to on RT and Sputnik than any other western media outlets. It’s ironic but a fact. The critics are always the ones who never actually watch. That’s also a truism.

  3. John Newsworthy
    March 11, 2022 at 07:02

    People who don’t read, critically think, investigate or question the news and other journalism they consume are the real problem here. To those of us who do, we understand that ANY journalistic content is suspect – NOT because of the source, the journalist(s) who put it out, or even the media company that platforms it.

    I am against censorship of any kind, because then the censor becomes the “journalist of record.” I don’t trust the U.S. govt any more than I trust Putin or Xi; while the latter two might be more severe and dictatorial to its citizens, the ultimate control mechanisms are in place in the U.S. just as much as Russia and China.

    We aren’t going to stop our politicians from looting, lying and criminalizing, just as we aren’t going to stop our established, bought-and-paid-for corporatized mainstream media. Just like when you get on a plane and travel to some new country you’ve never been to before, you have to realize that, to exist and even prosper in that new country, you have to understand the risks of going to that country. And that should be the attitude of living in America – we have risks, as well.

    My parents well understood that they were inserting me into the post-WWII military-industrial complex of pig-in-a-python education. It was up to me to capitalize that for myself so I wasn’t just another cog in their wheel. My choices and decisions from about 1960 on paved my way forward. People called me cynical – the same ones who were buying into the “We’ll never go into Vietnam” even when we were in Vietnam in the late 1950’s.

    Most news consumers are lemmings – we have to realize that. Now that many of the lemmings have outed themselves as MAGAs and white nationalists, it’s just a little more dangerous. Knowing that this phase in our history will probably run its course over a span of years and that our politicians lack of propriety will damage our democracy doesn’t alter the fact that the few of us who know this and learn from the news and opinion sources we have vetted for ourselves to be as bias-free and objective as possible will continue to see the world for what it is, and as it is.

  4. rosemerry
    March 11, 2022 at 04:29

    The fact that the Western media barons and governments are so afraid of any dissent that NOBODY is allowed to say a word in their own defence and be read or heard in the EU, 5eyes, USA is a frightening message. The lies being manufactured about Russia’s “attack on Ukraine” which is really an operation to counteract the 8 years or more of takeover of the Ukrainians by US-led violent far-right groups NOT voted for by the people, fill the news with no right of reply. Civilian deaths are avoided by Russian forces,corridors for them to leave are stopped by the still existing Nazi units the West like to pretend do not exist. Poor President Ze is terrified as his “Western backers” leave him stranded. Sputnik and RT, and any publication in §English of Russian official spokespeople, are denied or distorted by Western media, all exactly echoing the official line decided from above.

  5. Chesa
    March 10, 2022 at 16:58

    I have known John Kiriakou since he was in prison and over the years, he has proven to be honorable in his views and has never caused me to think of him as UnAmerican. Remember our country? The one where all opinions are welcome and tolerated even if you disagree? Never forget that following only the popular opinion is a dangerous path to follow. Never having your own thoughtful, well-reasoned opinion is one of the vulnerabilities everyone should avoid. Indeed, this is one of the dangers we have all faced in the past 6 – 7 years. Stand up for your morals and ethics. Being a shill for those in power or popularity is never what I want to be – nor should you. Thanks, John.

  6. Joe B
    March 10, 2022 at 16:57

    I am able to access RT dot com using the Mozilla browser.

    For those unable to access, RT states that it can be accessed as follows (quotation):
    1. On a smartphone, their Android app can be downloaded via h**ps://cnd.rt dot com/app/rtnews dot apk
    2. On a PC use the Tor browser, downloaded via h**ps://torproject dot org/download/
    3. Use the Psiphon censorship-bypass tool (Windows download h**ps://psiphon dot ca/en/download dot html, Android download h**ps://www.psiphon dot ca/PsiphonAndroid dot apk, other options h**ps://www.psiphon dot ca/ru/download.html?psiphonca).
    4, Or use a VPN service.

  7. Marcellus Vossler MD
    March 10, 2022 at 16:27


  8. Bonnie J.
    March 10, 2022 at 15:11

    Bravo! Thank you for your courage in standing up for truth despite suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”!

    • Rob Pates
      March 11, 2022 at 17:24

      Yes, courage is the operative word. A few years ago Ray McGovern commented that we’d have to “stick our necks out”. He was as right about that as he is about so many other things. Thank you Mr. Kiriako, thank you Consortium News,

  9. Em
    March 10, 2022 at 13:07

    John Kiriakou is an example of worthy leadership, while the likes of a Joe Biden is the archetype of unworthy leadership.
    The American “social system” specifically, has long ago become a closed system, if it ever was open – truthfully transparent.
    ” Stigmatizing any and all critics of a ‘social value programme’ as members of a demonic party or conspiracy is… a standard mechanism of social terror.” John McMurtry The Cancer Stage of Capitalism
    Today, once again, the oppression of social terror reigns supreme; for examples, there is cancel culture, censorship stifling, etc., all the way back, a mere sixty-plus years, to McCarthyism. Isn’t it still what the lingering paranoid fear of Russia revolves around, notwithstanding that the Soviet Union, and its system of exchange formally died and passed into history, in 1991?
    Isn’t this a reason, irrational though it is, why not many dares to speak out against the econometric program of all of animate life being turned into mere resource commodities, whose only purpose is to serving the global markets production requirements. Human beings have been reduced to the least costly natural resource, feeding this blind machine production line, culminating in universal extinction.
    Conformity and a well-inculcated herd mentality is but one result of this exceptional tyrannical power. The imposed tyranny of a long-term propaganda fed populace is the bromide that has induced the requisite fear; while thinking freely and critically, and using the faculty of innate reason – speaking out expressively, is illusive, yet, to date, it is the only available antidote, unless of course something….

  10. Sam F
    March 10, 2022 at 11:49

    The US certainly needs such dedicated spokespeople against government corruption, for which many thanks.
    We also need diversity of viewpoint and tolerance of rational dissent, the foundations of just policymaking.
    Those actually imprisoned for whistleblowing on secret agency wrongdoing deserve our greatest respect.
    When truth requires foreign sponsorship freely admitted, our government needs fundamental reforms.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    March 10, 2022 at 09:27

    Well, John, you have my respect. It may not mean much, but you do. The US is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave but you are proof that we once were.

  12. March 10, 2022 at 08:41

    Who would have thought that the only vehicle for many patriotic Americans to express their views about American society, Americans whose actions have been louder than their words, would be Russian? And that United States media, corporate and social, would have abandoned the first amendment in favor of censorship, calumny and fake news.

  13. Hide Behind
    March 10, 2022 at 02:50

    I honestly believe Americ,an populace at large do not know how our Constitution ,and its included Bill of Rights , hardly any one knows but three phades, 2nd Amendment, freedom of speech Nd religion.
    Most have never read it in total and studied the how and why each portion got incuded.
    Not inferring this ignorance of Governments stated duty to actual outside of hearing and views just how corrupt the system is as for last 70 years any particular generation is just as guilty in allowing so many misdeeds that get excused because of party affiliation, that Grey areas turned into topics we the people cannt get answers too.
    What is so frustrating is populace do not feel that anything that does not affect thdir personal paycheck and sexual pleasures canbjust be ignored.
    That things 50 years ago actions were thought crooked, immoral, and illegal have now been deemed legal, and both characters and the affected results can be seen and by silence allowed as the norm.

  14. March 10, 2022 at 00:06


  15. David Otness
    March 9, 2022 at 22:08

    You and Brian together were the “schtizzle,” John. I’m listening to you again now that you have moved up with your show “Political Misfits” partnered with Michelle.
    Some of the anecdotes you’ve shared over the years featuring personal contacts with everyone from John Brennan and how his CIA career was so quixotically salvaged and saved to George Stephanopoulos’s very weird conceits are priceless—and tres insightful. On any given day I can anticipate an insider-only zinger if lucky.

    Best wishes, always.

    • Stuart
      March 10, 2022 at 07:14

      Brian Becker should be President.

  16. Robyn
    March 9, 2022 at 21:39

    John, you are one of very few heroes in this world of cowards, liars, and propaganda merchants. In this very difficult time for so many, you are an inspiration. Thank you.

  17. UncleDoug
    March 9, 2022 at 20:30

    I’ve been following John Kiriakou’s work for some time and had relatively brief, long-distance interactions with him when young Reality Winner was burned as a source by publishers she trusted. I’m just popping in here to say that Kiriakou is among the most decent stand-up guys anyone will find anywhere. If the US truly honored the principles we claim are embedded in the foundation of our democracy, we would also honor John Kiriakou.

    We do not, but our failure to do so hasn’t stopped him yet. Respect.

  18. Rollin Shultz
    March 9, 2022 at 19:01

    Welcome to America John.

  19. Doug Milholland
    March 9, 2022 at 17:45

    Well, it’s true that Kiriakou is a dangerous man. Disturbing the media mindset, questioning torturous Amerikka uber alles?

    I sure have been enjoying the book seeking truth in a country of lies by Edward Curtin

  20. JMF
    March 9, 2022 at 17:45

    John: You’ve been a source of inspiration to me for several years now. Your courage in blowing the whistle on US torture was exemplary! And your subsequent writings have generally earned my highest esteem.

    We now seem to be re-living the McCarthy era here in the US. That being the case, always remember the dramatic conclusion of Woody Allen’s “The Front”, where his character responds to the committee by saying, “You guys can go f*ck yourselves.”

    I personally am rooting for Russia in this situation, as I believe its intervention in Ukraine was absolutely necessary for many reasons, not the least of which was the (now-established) Ukrainian plan to massacre the people of the Donbass republics.

    If that supposedly makes me a “Putin puppet”, oh well.

    Stand tall, John Kiriakou!

  21. March 9, 2022 at 17:19

    John, I listen to you on Sputnik regularly and deeply appreciate your thoroughly informed, balanced, thoughtful and wise reporting and comments on the vital issues of our times. Thank you for your invaluable contribution to us Americans’ understanding of the context and particulars of the events so impacting us and our world. Those who want to silence you and the other great reporters on Sputnik want to keep us Americans’ in the dark about those events so they have free range to pursue their own nefarious ends, unimpeded by an informed public. If they succeed they will jettison the most precious asset we have — our First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press.

  22. DR-Montreal
    March 9, 2022 at 16:51

    Good for you John on all counts. There is now but a discrete array of glimmering points of light in the enveloping MSM darkness… and you’re one of them

  23. cjonsson1
    March 9, 2022 at 15:33

    Keep it up John. If you need supporters to pledge their approval of you and your shows let us know what we can do to keep Sputnik on the air.
    It was outrageous that RT was shut down like so many other alternative media sources. That goes against our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I hope Sputnick will lawyer up and fight for the right to stay on the air.
    Perhaps some of the people who were on RT will join you at Sputnick.

  24. evelync
    March 9, 2022 at 15:26

    I am broken hearted to think that this country and current allies have fired the most wonderful conductor Valery Gergiev and that our CLIQUE is so ignorant and stupid as to ban Tchaikovsky music at concert halls.
    One can’t make this insanity up! I feel like we’re living in the dark ages…it’s so disappointing that we’ve turned our values upside down to consider the arts a threat.

    I am sorry for your experiences at the hands of our witch hunt thinking.

    Galileo and the other victims of human witch hunts would roll their eyes at what is now happening.

    From what I can tell, Russia’s simple requests to have their security guaranteed is quite reasonable.
    and so easy to have done without any bad consequences.

    We don’t seem to care about peaceful coexistence and are willing to risk nuclear planetary war.

    We are no longer capable of listening.

    Our wise former ambassadors, such as Jack Matlock, who know a helluva lot more that the current crop in DC and tries to explain that we are failing to be responsible in our foreign policy just isn’t heard.

    I am so sorry that you and other whistleblowers who simply respect our democracy and the people of this country so much that you want us to know the truth are not given the highest respect you are due.

    It’s hard to believe that we indeed have “NO SHAME” and follow reckless NEOCON thinking.

    When will we come to our senses?

  25. TP Graf
    March 9, 2022 at 15:07

    Their own words condemn them, as per usual. The whole lot hopes “Americans will give up on democratic institutions, the way so much of OUR own population has come to accept the corruption in AMERICA.”

  26. Afdal
    March 9, 2022 at 14:32

    I really miss Loud & Clear, it was my go-to source for daily news for a while and you and Brian Becker were perfect together. The shows you two have done since separating just aren’t the same.

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