JOHN KIRIAKOU: Another Whistleblower in Solitary Confinement

Marty Gottesfeld is a reminder of the Justice Department’s determination to silence truthtellers, writes John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Last year I wrote about a whistleblower from New England who took direct action to save a child’s life and who paid for it with his freedom.  Marty Gottesfeld is now serving 10 years in prison for trying to save Justina Pelletier from abuse at the hands of her doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston. 

At the age of 14, Justine developed searing stomach pain and inexplicable digestive problems. Her parents took her to a series of doctors until a metabolic geneticist at Tufts Medical Center diagnosed her with mitochondrial disease, a genetic malady that can lead to weakened muscles, neurological problems and dementia.

Her symptoms worsened over the course of the next 18 months until the pain was too much to bear. She began slurring her speech and was unable to stand. Finally, her parents took her to Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading institution affiliated with Harvard University. It was there that doctors said Justina didn’t have mitochondrial disease at all. They said she had mental illness and her symptoms were psychosomatic. They took her off her medications, but her parents refused to comply. When they went to take Justina home, they were blocked by hospital guards. The hospital took Justina into “state custody” and reported her parents to state officials for “medical child abuse.” It was then that the case went off the rails.



Transferred to a Psychiatric Ward

Justina was transferred to the hospital’s child psychiatric ward, where her condition worsened even more. She could no longer stand or walk and her hair fell out. Her toenails were actually ripped out when hospital staff dragged her, accusing her of refusing to walk. Justina was allowed one 20-minute call per week with her parents, but that call was monitored by staff, and they were forbidden from discussing her care. She resorted to making crafts out of paper in which she embedded messages and sent them to her parents. One said simply, “I’m being tortured.”

Justina’s parents sued Children’s Hospital with the full support of the original doctor from Tufts. But the doctors at Children’s argued that the only danger to Justina’s health was her parents. They said that Justina had been overmedicated and that her parents had ignored her mental illness. A judge agreed, at least for the time being. That was until an investigation by The Boston Globe found that Children’s Hospital had done this before, to other parents. Indeed, in the previous 18 months, the hospital had removed at least five other children from their parents for “medical child abuse,” something that hospital staffers called a “parentectomy.”

Marty Gottesfeld. (Twitter)


The story drew the attention of Marty Gottesfeld, a computer-security expert. He was appalled at the treatment to which Justina and her family were being subjected and he decided to act. He initiated a denial of service attack against the Children’s Hospital computer system and against the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, where Justina was later moved. Children’s complained that the attack cost the institution $300,000 to mitigate and $300,000 in lost donations because it took place during the annual pledge drive. But that attack also served to raise public awareness of Justina’s plight and may have been the reason she was finally moved to a facility nearer her family in Connecticut.

Justina’s parents kept up the pressure on the hospital, the state, and the judge overseeing the case. Justina and her sister were able to smuggle out a 45-second video in which she implored the judge to let her go home to her family. It was clear that after 16 months in a psychiatric ward her problems were not “in her head.” They were in her genes. The original Tufts doctor was right. Justina had mitochondrial disease. The judge finally reversed his decision and sent her home.

Prosecutors, however, focused on Gottesfeld and he was soon arrested.  His case was assigned to Judge Nathaniel Gorton, the same judge who oversaw the harsh case against privacy pioneer Aaron Schwartz, who eventually committed suicide under the weight of his spurious federal charges.  Gorton is known as a hanging judge; he proved that with Gottesfeld’s sentence.

Reporting from Prison

Gottesfeld has tried to make good use of his time since he entered the “justice” system.  He has reported on waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality in the Justice Department; he’s written about the corruption and conflict of interest of his judge; and he has spoken out against intolerable prison conditions.  His punishment has been swift and severe.

Author bio page on The Intercept.

(The Intercept.)

Last week Gottesfeld was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York.  This is the same prison that had a power outage last month resulting in conditions so severe that they violated the human rights of the prisoners there and made international news.  And to make matters worse, Marty was placed in solitary confinement and is now scheduled to be transferred to something called a Communications Management Unit (CMU).

A CMU puts onerous controls on a prisoner’s ability to communicate with the outside world.  I was in a “modified CMU” when I was at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania. With a modified CMU, both my incoming and outgoing mail were read, scanned, and kept in the prison’s Investigative Unit. My phone calls were all monitored in real time, and I was subjected to routine and regular “shake downs,” where the guards confiscated whatever it was that I happened to be writing at any given time. 

Marty’s experience will likely be worse.  He has been covering Justice Department malfeasance for years now at such sites as The Western Journal, Red State, World News Daily, and now The Intercept.  But CMU placement will deny him any access to the press whatsoever. It will silence him.  This is, of course, a violation of his constitutional right to freedom of speech.  But the Justice Department has only to say that Marty’s journalism is a “threat to the continuing operation of the institution” to justify this loss of rights. Solitary confinement makes everything even worse.

I called the Justice Department to ask several questions.  Why was Marty Gottesfeld transferred to MDC Brooklyn and not directly to a low-security prison? Why was he placed in solitary confinement?  And why is he being designated for a CMU?  The response was short:  No comment.

The Gottesfeld experience should be a reminder for all of us. The Justice Department will stop at nothing to silence truth-tellers.  It doesn’t want people to know about crooked judges and prosecutors, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, animal-grade food, and the violation of constitutional rights.  It doesn’t matter who the president is.  They all do it.  We just have to keep up the fight.

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.

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39 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Another Whistleblower in Solitary Confinement

  1. g. alan
    March 26, 2019 at 05:53

    Dozens of people die and are injured every hour in this country because of doctor mistakes and prescription drugs . It seemed the girls psychiatrists at Boston Children’s Hospital were suffering from a mental disorder prevalent within their profession – sanctimonious charlatanism.
    Mycotoxins from mold can also be a factor in conditions effecting mitochondrial processes – certain varieties can produce a wide range of symptoms – hopefully this was/is addressed by the girls present physician .

  2. Mark Stanley
    March 22, 2019 at 13:10

    Today, hospitals can be prison-like. There are some great comments here, but few that reflect on the rights of the parents of the child.
    I, serving as power of attorney for my father who had Alzheimer’s, twice experienced hospitals that resisted releasing him. One senior psych ward would not let me in to see him. All while milking we-the-people for expensive tests and excessive meds.
    (I will spare the stories but they’re ugly)
    I wonder if anyone has done a study of how many hospitals are run/owned by the Roman Catholic church? St. Petes, St. Joes, Saint this and Franciscan that etc. Many of them. They are in the hospital business–big time. I heard that groups of nuns are responsible for management in regions.
    Perhaps that will suit Californian sympathies now that women must be in high level corporate positions there.
    But whoops! Those nuns are not being paid at all.

  3. March 20, 2019 at 02:21

    I lived in the U.S when it was a freer country before 9-11, but since then it has started to take the shape of a Psychopathic Totalitarian monster who like Hitler thinks the world can be defeated by the military. That to me is the Lunatics running the Asylum and the American people had better fin these Lunatics before they start Armageddon.

  4. March 19, 2019 at 20:39


  5. Truth first
    March 19, 2019 at 17:47

    Read, ‘Three Felonies a Day’, this book reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us.
    The feds can pin something on anyone they choose. Especially someone who embarrasses them.
    “The land of the free”, don’t kid yourself.

  6. LJ
    March 19, 2019 at 15:55

    It seems like the Trump Administration is making matters worse in many ways but I believe it is all a fait accompli (Bipartisan of course. )

    • LJ
      March 20, 2019 at 14:03

      I’m replying to myself. It is practically impossible to engage in intelligent discourse with a beautiful person hoy en dia. Ha,ha. Occasionally I must improvise. As for fait accompli, I remember in the 2000 Campaign between Bush and Gore. Within the same week Gore made a Speech where he proclaimed that Fuel Cell Automobiles would hit the American market in 2018. This was a sign of Progress. Later that same week, Bush made a speech (Always small case with him, even when he later became ” The Decider”) and wonder of wonders, he said the same thing. 18 years later Fuel Cells hit the market right on cue in 3 Dealerships with Free hydrogen Fuel provided for 3 years as part of the arrangement (Toyota, I remember that San Jose,CA is one of the test markets) . Now that was foresight. Bush didn’t know what a Fuel Cell was any more than he knew the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, let alone Twelvers. “The Clampdown” ( Remember The Clash song, Recorded in 1979?) happened a long time ago. Since then two Generations of adults have been raised that will stand in a group on a street corner ,staring into their own Smartphones ,having a group decide on what next to say, think or share. These are the Barney kids. They have been to Sesame Street, Chucky Cheese, Spring Break, etc. they’ve seen it all. The Moral: Don’t get out of line unless you are marketing a product and Accounting can validate your activities in the Marketplace. I was Immunized for this or that , I had Measles . Whatever. Back then people remembered Polio and had living relatives like an Aunt of mine who wasn’t vaccinated and was then crippled by the disease. . They knew of people who contracted TB and had to go away and rest for a while. . The Government seemed more Trustworthy as well. The USA was doing the Right Thing. When possible. Smallpox killed off more Indians than White man’s guns. . Memories Fade.

  7. Hide Behind
    March 19, 2019 at 14:42

    We often hear of was worst Presideny in regardz to lozz of US Civil Rights, Liberty and Freedoms and In MNSHO all from Truman/Ike till today fall in that catsgory.
    As to most dangerous political party’s both Republican and Democcratic Parties ratenthe same with both the most dangerous do.esticly but to worldas well, with the Repulicans being most destructive to not just individual Rights but a bunch of clinicly insane psychopathic killers willing to kill even the planet in their madness.
    The militarization and complete disregard for humanity outside of US was readily apparent when at end of war with Germany Ike gave order to deliberately starve and let freeze to death over 100,000 German POWs, and Truman’s deliberate barbaric use two nuclear bombs as a geopolitical weapon upon defeated Japan.
    From their Presidency on, except for a short burst of enlightment not by government design but the peoples during Vietnam Conflict, the militarization which has vast industrial-military-financials support we have degraded our Judicial System into no more than the Miliarys Code of Justice, and the Supreme Court being no more thanno more than the highest ranking order of Military Tribunals justice system.
    Where in all of our massive organized Judicial System was there an out th against using torture, not just by military but Condoned by both Houses of Congress and over 300 million citizens.
    Where was our members from cops Judges Lawyers and clicks Judicials System outcry
    about loss of Freedom of Speech when our Government only allowed certain major media’s to get in bed under military officers and only to write what their bedmates told them too in Afghanistan Iraq until today?
    Where were the 300+millions of US citizens, waving flags, attending military spectacles at Bible Camps and listening to shitkicking music artist¿¿¿? and watching Hollywood movies funded with military fund, and every f’n from gradebschool to professional extravaganzas at sporting events.
    This military mindset has finally reached street level with cops killing more innocent and unarmed Americans than that of terrorist kill our soldiers yearly.
    So much Lee way is given to abusive cops bbqnthe call us civilians and their accidental killing of dogs parrots cats and people in line of fire, beaten for misdemeanors they call the wrongfully abused but mere

  8. Deborah Andrew
    March 19, 2019 at 14:05

    How can we start a letter writing campaign to support and bring to light the injustices being experienced by Martin Gottesfeld?

    Just as there are constant vigils in the attempt to protect Julian Assange, we might provide a bit of protection for MG, especially if our letters were also letters to the editor of prominent publications such as NYT.

    Please advise.

  9. Sam F
    March 19, 2019 at 13:31

    The medical issues should be clarified, and this should have been done by the DOJ and judiciary. Did the family-BCH spat originate in BCH tyrannizing, family anger right or wrong, some genuine medical disagreement, carelessness about the first medical opinion, etc.? Why couldn’t BCH persuade the family and prior diagnostician? What are the “differential diagnoses” for this syndrome and why not resolve that with more tests and more opinions? Over-confident bullying was sure to result in resort to forcible means.

    Then what were the options for the family, and how did the DOS attacker get involved? Likely he felt justified. Even if he were wrong, given the apparent abuses and sincerity of opposition, why treat him as acting in self-interest? Why would DOJ side with one opinion over the other?

    My own experience with DOJ shows extreme tribalism and simple-mindedness in presuming the innocence of anyone they choose on the basis of simple notions. Their presumption that the US can do no wrong, in negation of the very Constitution and laws they are sworn to defend, seems to extend to the presumption that no public official and no institution can be wrong. That is simple-mindedness, tribalist tyranny, and would be reined in but for the same disease in the judiciary. Yet when a public official is not of their tribe, they may prosecute enthusiastically. That problem needs to be dissected.

  10. Fredrick (Rick) Getzschman
    March 19, 2019 at 13:30

    True story.

  11. dean 1000
    March 19, 2019 at 12:42

    I forgot to mention who decides which names go on the pardon ballot. Put all the names of those who think they should be pardoned in a database and choose 3 by random selection.

    White House personal and presidential cronies would not be eligible.

  12. dean 1000
    March 19, 2019 at 12:30

    The miscarriage of justice results largely from the lack of sunshine. It doesn’t become public. Yes the courts are open to the public but not as open as when the US was an agricultural society and the majority had lots of slack time between harvest and spring planting. Today people are preoccupied with work, family affairs, and living a normal life.

    Presidents have power to grant reprieves and pardons according to Article 2(2) of the Constitution. Notice that article 2(2) doesn’t give presidents “the” power of pardon, meaning that presidents don’t have all “the” power of pardon. Most of that power is reserved to the people according to the 10th amendment. Even without the 10th amendment presidents wouldn’t have all “the” power according to article 2(2).

    The voters can grant pardons W/O any help from congress, even in cases of impeachment. If congress (and the state legislatures) would make that power explicit, the voters could grant pardons at every election in a rational, consistent, orderly way.
    The ballot can’t be bogged down with the names of all who may deserve a pardon. People stop to vote on the way to and from work. They won’t vote if they have to wade through a list of a hundred or a thousand names of cases they know nothing about. Three names and a blank space for a write-in pardon is enough. The write-in blank space is important so that those who have committed an injustice will know their crime may become known.
    Can you take a few minutes every two years to right a wrong? The corporate media might even publicize the names and circumstances.

    Keep writing John.

    • Antonia
      March 19, 2019 at 15:03

      What a great idea citizen pardons, could you please give us more explicit information so we can BEGIN DOING JUST THAT?
      thank you!

  13. Glennn
    March 19, 2019 at 10:48

    I wonder if the girl’s original problems were due to HPV shots typically given to girls her age. Robert F Kennedy Jr recently gave testimony at a trial showing how Glaxo Smith Kline spiked the placebo so the control group in an HPV test would show similar ill health to the experimental group. Seven girls died during the tests, but of course the FDA approved the vaccine anyway. We are looking at medical tyranny being set in place – as well as tyranny in general – and it is depressing to see so many people cheering it on. This is one of many outrages that corruption in politics gives us.

  14. March 19, 2019 at 10:44

    Ill be next…

  15. michael
    March 19, 2019 at 07:07

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The SCOTUS has ruled that inmates’ first amendment rights can only be curtailed by legitimate security concerns of the penal institute, much like “free” peoples’ rights can only be over-ridden by secret, National Security concerns. Which translates to the whims of those in control, who face no repercussions for what clearly is criminal behavior (“superpredators. No conscience. No empathy.”) They do stuff like this because they know they can get away with it. We have a two tiered Justice system, where the very wealthy like Jeffrey Epstein and the very powerful, like our top politicians and government bureaucrats are above the Law, and everyone else can be treated as the sadistic incarceration system sees fit. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  16. jimbo
    March 19, 2019 at 04:57


  17. Lois Gagnon
    March 18, 2019 at 18:22

    Change the name of the USA to Dystopia Land. This is just plain sick.

  18. Yahweh
    March 18, 2019 at 17:17

    My country tis of thee
    Sweet land of liberty
    Of thee I sing….lol !

    The USA has become the old USSR

  19. ranney
    March 18, 2019 at 16:37

    I agree Skip, the evil of our government is totally frightening. I had just read Chris Hedges essay on Manning and Assange and the whole government attempt to stop information about how our government controls us, and then I turned to Consortium and read Kiriaku’s article which underlined all the things Hedges had written about. This is really scary folks; if you aren’t terrified by what is happening, you clearly aren’t paying attention.
    If I knew how, I’d link Hedge’s article at Common Dreams for all of you, but I don’t have any computer skills so I’ll just suggest you go to Common Dreams and read it. Combined with this article it will definitely make your blood run cold.

  20. Ann Garrison
    March 18, 2019 at 15:11

    I am not saying that Mr. Gottesfeld did the wrong thing, but how does launching a denial-of-service attack constitute whistleblowing?

    • Eric32
      March 18, 2019 at 17:13

      JK is probably referencing Gottesfeld’s prior reporting on DOJ malfeasance. So, they’re making him incommunicado.

    • March 18, 2019 at 17:34

      Marty ( Martyr ) launched a DoS attack to call attention to and punish the Hospital.

      • March 18, 2019 at 21:24

        The actual whistleblower at BCH was the nurse on Justina’s floor who resigned, having stated that the treatment of Justina was “torture.” BCH is one of the most powerful hospitals in America.

    • DW Bartoo
      March 18, 2019 at 18:10

      Ann, I suspect that Eric32 has got it right.

      The DOS is the electronic equivalent of tossing a spanner into the works.

      Obviously, Fottesfeld is accomplished at disrupting communications and, as well, has likely “embarrassed” the DoJ.

      Both these acts, the one, hampering the operation of a hoary old operation, those living in Boston may well appreciate its less than stellar reputation, the other, revealing standard, if again less than “evolved” , procedures of an equally besmirched department of coercion and abuse, far removed from dispensing actual justice, cannot help but infuriate those dedicated to, how does the US Military put it, Full Spectrum Dominance.

      Abuse and control seem to appeal to certain personality types who feel perfectly justified in inflicting what amounts, if we are honest, to various forms of torture.

      There will be order and following orders does not suggest a few bad apples but rather a systemic policy of power dedicated, not to compassion or rational humanity, but to the pleasure of exercising total power without restraint or hindrance.

      Exposing such corruption and tossing spanners into machines of tyranny, petty or grand, is a severe no no.

      That far too many of our fellow citizens have no grasp of what is being covered up nor, apparently much interest in understanding the consequence for all of us should the corruptions continue, is really what our times reveal.

      As well as the fact that few platforms exist to educated our fellow citizens such that they might come, over time, to grasp why they should care.

      Do you imagine that the young, whose future on this planet is made precarious by greed, violence of the organized mayhem sort including nuclear Armageddon and systemic corruption of the capacity of the planet to support life, might well have to ponder the placement of numerous spanners in many of the killing machines?

      Or will that be seen merely as Luddite childishness?

      I wonder.

  21. mike k
    March 18, 2019 at 15:08

    The rotten nonjustice system is an end result of unfettered capitalism. We are entering the end stages of a totally corrupt way of life.

    • Sam F
      March 19, 2019 at 13:16

      Exactly so.

  22. mike k
    March 18, 2019 at 15:04

    There is no justice system in the USA – there is instead a system of kangaroo courts. You may not believe this, unless you have seen it in operation for yourself.

    • Henry
      March 19, 2019 at 22:27

      This is proof enough.

  23. Eric32
    March 18, 2019 at 14:53

    If Gottesfeld was going to involve himself at all in this bizarre case of malpractice, if should have been with the aim of determining who, what and why lay behind what was going on at that hospital.

    He should have been aware that it would take NSA about 10 minutes to figure the source of his DNS attacks.

  24. March 18, 2019 at 14:28

    The US Constitution was destroyed by the US Federal Government on 9/11 when the two planes hit the World Trade Centre flown by two ji-hadis brought to the US to learn to fly by Saudi Arabia. Dick Cheney flew to Colorado the day before 9/11 to shut down all the flights of of protection for the whole East Coast. The US Constitution was removed never to be replaced (still not by 2019) and new war laws were announced.

    • March 18, 2019 at 16:10

      Gen. Wesley Clarke in 2003 stated in a few public forms that a Pentagon employee supplied him with a list of seven nations the USA was planning to attack, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan and Libya.

      • Jim other
        March 19, 2019 at 12:46

        You forgot to include Venezuela!

    • Eric32
      March 18, 2019 at 16:46

      Well, SM, everyone likes an optimist, and you’re being being very optimistic in implying the US Govt. was ok prior to 9/11.

      If elements of the nation’s intelligence, security, law enforcement agencies, military, political authorities, can “come together” to murder the chief executive in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of people, then control the media, and coverup what obviously took place (with the help of numerous followup murders) in the face of obvious evidence, and then publicly murder a couple more leading political figures in the next five years, and then cover those up too, well, gee whiz…..

      Why pay attention to stuff like that, and 9/11, when there are important things like transgenderism and Trump tweets to focus on?

  25. Joe Tedesky
    March 18, 2019 at 13:41

    The police state in the USA is complete with the judicial, legislative, and executive branch heavily supporting such an environment. Our freedom of speech, at last among our other civil rights has, been taken away from us citizens due to our country’s all the time fear mongering of the inevitable dangers of that what lurks within our geopolitical bushes. The drain in DC is not big enough for all the critters which must sink within it.

    • Tiu
      March 18, 2019 at 23:42

      The “ruling class” has created “laws” which allow them to do pretty much anything they like. They have also engineered the rest of society so it is more likely to turn on itself than turn on the “ruling class”.

    • Sam F
      March 19, 2019 at 13:15

      Very true; all federal branches are corrupted, the Judiciary especially enthusiastic in opposing the Constitution.

  26. Skip Scott
    March 18, 2019 at 13:34

    Wow. Just wow. The evil that people are capable of never ceases to amaze me, and our institutions are the worst because it seems that being a sociopath, or even a psychopath, is an asset to climbing your way up the ladder. Thank you John, and yes, let’s keep fighting.

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