JOHN KIRIAKOU: A Terrible Take on the Capitol Storming

What does a CIA-style counterinsurgency campaign inside the U.S. look like?  Just use Iraq and Afghanistan as a model. 

Trump supporters on Jan. 6 crowding the steps of the Capitol after displacing the police shield wall preventing access. (TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Like most Americans, I was appalled and disgusted by what I saw take place in the Capitol building on Jan. 6, when a right-wing mob stormed the bastion of U.S.  democracy, killing one Capitol police officer and injuring others.

And like most Americans, I wondered what we could do to make sure it never happened again.  I’ve been following closely news of the arrests of at least 170 demonstrators, and I eagerly look forward to their prosecutions.  They deserve what they get, especially in light of the fact that in June 2020, President Donald Trump, in the aftermath of demonstrations in which Confederate monuments were torn down issued an executive order calling for a draconian 10-year prison sentence for anybody damaging federal property.

With that said, I was horrified last week to see an op-ed written in The New York Times by a former boss of mine at the CIA.  Robert Grenier was a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, a CIA chief in Pakistan before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, and a former associate deputy director for operations.  He opined in the Times that, as he has “struggled both on the side of insurgents and against them” during the course of his career, he believes that here in the United States, “we may be witnessing the dawn of a sustained wave of violent insurgency within our own country, perpetrated by our own countrymen.”

Robert Grenier. (Twitter)

Grenier warns of those Americans “committed to violent extremism:  the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers, Christian national chauvinists, white supremacists, and QAnon fantasists.”

Grenier’s proposed solution at first glance looks perfectly reasonable.  He says the U.S. government must do three things:

First, it must pursue criminal justice against the perpetrators of anti-government violence.  Federal authorities must continue to track, investigate and bring to justice known extremists who commit crimes.  I have no problem with that.  People who plot to kidnap a governor, take over federal installations, or plan sabotage ought to be prosecuted.

Second, he argues that “we must isolate and alienate the committed insurgents from the population.”  That sounds fine too, until you consider just how few people in this country are actually “committed insurgents.”  In a country of around 330 million people how many made real trouble at the Capitol that day?  Around 5,000?  What does “isolation and alienation” mean?  Does it mean segregating them?  Putting them in camps?  Grenier doesn’t say.

‘Insurgency Leadership’ 

Third, he says casually that “the final element of the plan concerns insurgency leadership” before going on to criticize Trump’s unwillingness to accept his own defeat.

It’s that last — unspoken — part of Grenier’s plan that I believe is so dangerous and un-American.  What he means when he warns that we may be headed into a period of political violence “not seen since Reconstruction” is that the government needs to start cracking heads. 

In a subsequent interview with NPR, Grenier opened by saying that he’s not predicting that the U.S. is going to go the way of Iraq or Afghanistan.  But that’s exactly what he’s implying.  And it’s what he implied in his Times op-ed.

After all, what does a CIA-style counterinsurgency campaign look like?  Just use Iraq and Afghanistan as a model.  What it looks like is teams of military or paramilitary forces going around, blowing the doors off of houses, and killing everybody inside — killing them before they can commit a crime against the United States.

April 2005: Armed Iraqi interpreter on patrol with U.S. troops in Baghdad. (Peter Rimar, Wikimedia Commons)

It also means a robust drone program.  Remember Anwar al-Awlaki?  The Obama administration accused him of being a major recruiter for al-Qaeda in Yemen.  They executed him by drone, and then a week later they executed his 16-year-old son and 16-year-old nephew.  The problem, though, is that the Awlakis were all American citizens.  They had Constitutional rights, including the right to face their accusers in a court of law and a right to a trial by jury.  The Awlakis had never been charged with a crime.  The government just decided to murder them without due process.

Recall also former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder who, in response to a question from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in 2013, said that the president had a constitutional right to use lethal force against American citizens on American soil, even if those Americans had never been convicted of a crime.

That is what Grenier is recommending.  He’s supposed to be one of the “moderates,” one of those Americans who is so concerned about America’s future and wants to offer a solution to ensure it.  His recommendation is that we should be prepared to kill Americans whose politics we disagree with.  All we need to do is declare that they’re “extremists” or “insurgents.”

That may be tempting for a lot of Americans who were angered and frightened by the takeover of the Capitol.  But if this kind of retaliatory lunacy becomes the norm, what’s to keep the far right from going after the rest of us if they don’t like our politics?

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.

Donate securely with PayPal


Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:

31 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: A Terrible Take on the Capitol Storming

  1. Janet
    February 11, 2021 at 12:59

    It’s too bad John insists on regurgitating Democratic talking points about the Capitol riot even before we have evidence or reports. Right now all we have is MSM hype, and that’s what the Democrats are using in the impeachment trial — because they have no hard evidence either. For example, a recent medical examiner’s report determined that the Capitol police officer killed during the riot was not, in fact, hit with a fire extinguisher, as all the MSM repeated. He was actually a Trump supporter — as were all the people who died that day — and there were no signs of trauma on his body. He texted his brother that he was pepper sprayed twice that day, which could have been the cause of death if he had breathing problems. The point is, the Democrats are making their case through circumstantial evidence and innuendo, not through witness testimony or facts. I would expect leftists and progressives not to jump on that bandwagon, but you have. It’s disingenuous, therefore, to argue against the inevitable consequenses of this big lie.

  2. Ian Perkins
    February 11, 2021 at 07:01

    This is sick.
    “They executed him [Anwar al-Awlaki] by drone, and then a week later they executed his 16-year-old son and 16-year-old nephew. The problem, though, is that the Awlakis were all American citizens. They had Constitutional rights.’
    The problem is US imperialists assuming they have the right to execute whomever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, with no pretence of due process. Kiriakou only finds it problematic when US citizens suffer the same fate. Why should the rest of the world care about citizens of the Fatherland more than any others? It might even wake them up to the reality of their foreign policy.

  3. Old Sailor
    February 10, 2021 at 22:32

    John Kiriakou continues to perpetuate the lie of the “far right” storming the Capitol and is no better than his old boss Robert Grenier. Both need to go retire out in the Saharan desert with no means of communication. They are not patriots.

  4. Ironclad
    February 10, 2021 at 16:08

    The “violence” at the capital on January 6th was fucking nothing compared to the violence out in the other leftist-controlled cities. Washington DC isn’t a series of smoldering ruins right now, where Seattle, Portland, and other cities with a similar bent are. Condemning it in such strident terms is disingenuous in the extreme, especially if you don’t think the 6 or so months of rioting prior to this are still ‘Peaceful Protests’. It’s gotten to the point that the word ‘peace’ has been subverted. I am opposed to violence, in general, but I understand when it’s needed (like when you need to protect something and the ones you’re protecting it from are violently trying to destroy that something). Now is not the time for violence, but every day we step that much closer to when it is necessary.

    Your former boss is part of the problem, not the solution, but you aren’t helping.

  5. February 10, 2021 at 12:51

    In the main, while our media and “important ” people justified the violence in Portland and around the country because of “systemic” racism, they condemned the behavior in Washington by the unwashed “right”. They easily explained there was a difference, in one instance it was done in righteous anger young whites and blacks, in the other by white supremacist thugs. And it happened in our Capitol! Note the pain, anger and fear generated by the riots in the capitol by our leaders. Far different reactions to the pain, anger and fear of the storekeeper in Portland. I doubt the burned out storekeeper was offered therapy or “Washington” much gives a damn at what happened to him or her.

    Bottom line, the life of everyone is sacred, the life of the storekeeper no less than anyone elected to office in Washington.

    Finally, is the hatred and fear of whites with guns so great that the media and the righteous cannot make and effort to understand and enter into a dialogue without terms for those very angry folks? They are American citizens, in the main law abiding and contributing in useful ways to our society. When your washing machine breaks, who do you call? Who is your neighbor?

  6. February 10, 2021 at 11:56

    I thought CIA agents like your ex-boss weren’t allowed to meddle in domestic affairs. Isn’t it the FBI’s job to infiltrate domestic groups, entrap Americans, and murder dissidents like Fred Hampton?
    The CIA should stick to its remit of overthrowing governments abroad, murdering foreigners and importing heroin and cocaine.
    Let’s get our priorities straight!

    • Jen
      February 10, 2021 at 20:24

      The CIA should have been eviscerated a long time ago.

  7. Anne
    February 10, 2021 at 11:28

    Yes Mr Kiriakou…all horrific, although I would add that if you train (as numerous among the rioters were military/vets) to “knock down doors and shoot everyone inside” bomb them and homes, lands, cultures to smithereens – well, they are of higher melanin skin hues, poorer, live far, far from these shores, and therefore do not count as fully human…and do not tell me that those who train these barbarians don’t know what they are deliberately setting out to create: Compunctionless, inhumane barbaric slaughterers…The US military – like that of the UK, FR, Aussie… are all taught/trained to perceive such as Iraqis, Libyans, Afghanis, Syrians and on and on as those “T**** H****” etc… Laugh and joke as they slaughter them via strafing, torture them in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo…

    Indeed our corporate-capitalist-imperialist ruling elites (MICIMATT included) perceive those of darker hue as lesser and thus eradicable and all the more so when their homelands contain money making resources, ta very much…

    So – it does come home, like chickens, to roost…But I shall guarantee you that Mr Austin will not draw the curtain on this particular aspect, reality of generations of deliberate instruction and development of compunctionless hatred for all beyond our shores…

  8. Anne Weirich
    February 10, 2021 at 09:10

    If you follow your own link, and read the article and you will find that Holder said that the president does not have a right to use lethal force, etc. it even says Rand Paul felt as if he won the argument.

  9. Deniz
    February 10, 2021 at 07:06

    The root of the problems is the corruption, the insurgency is a reaction against it. As our leaders continue down the path of viewing their role as nothing more than a Team Blue vs Team Red fight for the spoils, violent confrontation becomes inevitable. At the moment it is a fringe movement, but at a certain point DC will begin to smell like rotten fish and then the question is how will the average person respond?

  10. Theresa Mitchell
    February 10, 2021 at 03:45

    Given the fact that so many right-wing extremists are cops, I’d say there’s been exactly nothing “to keep the far right from going after the rest of us if they don’t like our politics.” This whole worry seems projection to me. In 1987, I received a letter from your colleague General John Singlaub (happy 100th you bloodsucker!) saying the American Anti-Communist League “would be watching me.” I knew from their WACL/CIA “victories” in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua just what it meant to be watched. Who do you think I’ve relied on for my “due process?” So far it’s been the Left press, my big mouth, and dumb luck.

  11. Marc Mayerson
    February 10, 2021 at 00:46

    listening to Trump’s lawyers bleat about due process caused me to think of alAlwaki

    • February 10, 2021 at 11:57

      And yet it was Obama who had them killed.

  12. robert e williamson jr
    February 10, 2021 at 00:23

    John we are very lucky you have related this story. Who would have known? I expected something like this, your story here cements my personal fears for the future. I’m not sure enough of “We the People” get it.

    We shouldn’t have look to hard to see what might happen here in this country. We have right wingers in every facet of government authority. From the military to law enforcement. In my state if you want to be a state trooper go into the service, any will do and become law enforcement for that branch and when you get out you have a gilded path. As a result I personally believe that one should be able to become a state trooper until on is at least 35 years old and have a bachelors degree in liberal arts. We don’t need special forces for law enforcement.

    Then of course we will have government striving to hire private contractors who are seldom ever held to account for their transgressions, their employer making certain of it.

    Then the Feds, 17 or so intelligence agencies making sure they get their cut. And the citizens who aren’t so bright ,who are ex-military or so brainwashed they have little idea of reality all loaded to the teeth with quality fire arms.

    In addition the CIA has been running rough shod over the country since they managed to somehow allow JFK to be murdered. See Wall of Secrecy by Ralph Thomas and Morley v CIA, The facts they have uncovered amounts to an indictment of CIA activities connected with the case.

    And then we have this crazy bunch of extremely radical right wing leaders in Israel slowly stirring the pot!

    I will, at the great risk, repeat myself, “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.

    Someone needs to put in the ear of every republican and democrat in congress who got the beegeezus frightened out of them a little bug that keeps saying “you had best listen to “We the People” and cut the BS with this two party fallacy you have “We the People ” trapped in.

    I watched today and I’m not at all impressed. I want these elected officials to be held accountable and right now I see nothing. This all is because the republicans wanted it this way. Show me some proof they didn’t!

    I could not agree with Chuckman or Kariakou more. Congress thinks they have problems now what the hell they gonna think when they have something happen 10 times bigger happens.

    Congress, just what the hell do you think a counter insurgency campaign inside the United States will look like!

  13. Moi
    February 9, 2021 at 21:39

    And the US has the hide to criticize Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, et al, for their anti-militant actions.

  14. Willow
    February 9, 2021 at 21:39

    The capitol riots had all the hallmarks of classic COINTELPRO. The have-nots are revolting around the globe.
    In the US, the populist wave that nearly got Bernie nominated was the same reason Trump was elected. Our leaders are united in their goal of fooling the people into begging for martial law and censorship for safety’s sake.

    • Ken Garoo
      February 10, 2021 at 09:17

      The leader of the Proud Boys was an FBI informant. There is sufficient prior form on the part of the FBI to consider the actions of the Proud Boys on the day to have been orchestrated or approved by the FBI.

      I am not a US citizen. I am a citizen of a country that has been on the receiving end of US corporatist greed. I regard all US presidents since Carter as war criminals. I do however support the concepts behind the US constitution and oppose the tyranny and actual fascism (fusion of big business and government) of the US clealy on view once Smedly Butler drew back the curtain.

      • robert e williamson jr
        February 10, 2021 at 13:03

        This is in no way meant as criticism Ken but more of a reminder and for your edification. History tells us that a small group of trouble makers were advising Eisenhower they needed to assassinate certain foreign leaders, or at the very least overthrow their left leaning governments, to his discredit he agreed.

        (Note: It must be noted that he later regretted his actions. See Eisenhower’s legacy of ashes.)

        The CIA was created(hijacked) and they did just that! It did not take long before they got out of hand and on Nov 22, 1963 many of the same men acted in a most foul way and murdered JFK.

        They have never been held accountable and the message they sent to the congress was loud and clear.

        The result is a group sworn to allegiance of the Constitution, our congress, to represent “We the People” failed the Constitution, the rule of law and “We the People” . Our government failed us when they failed their due diligence to demand the truth at any cost.

        Now we are faced with the knowledge that CIA’s incestuous relationship with the Department of Justice who entertains and upholds and empowers CIA leadership with continued support for their “Sources and Methods gives them an unchallengeable Stay Out of Court card! So much for the U.S. being a country of laws.

        Over time the story has been mined from under the treacherously vile forest of lies of one James Jesus Angleton. The story is out, thanks to the determined efforts of many. Ken check out Jefferson Morely and his volumes of work and the work of those who back his assessments.

        It is now undeniable by all but those who routinely drink the cool aide that CIA knew about, aided in and covered up the worst American crime in history. It may be time for Americans to hold their government accountable and work through CIA’s deplorable early history and leave it in the Sunshine for all to see.

        However things do not look good. Currently the powerless democrats seem incapable of correcting and punishing an individual who has the social mentality of a spoiled 12 yer old.

        Thanks to CN

  15. Willow
    February 9, 2021 at 21:28

    Didn’t Hillary suggest droning Assange?
    Michael Hastings’ car crash
    Aaron Schwartz’ untimely suicide.
    Seth Rich non-robbery death,

  16. Zhu
    February 9, 2021 at 20:33

    I’ve long thought that all the death squad crapola we inflict on other countries would come home, bite us on the wazoo. Partisans will make excuses, of course.

  17. zhu
    February 9, 2021 at 20:29

    When the Awlakis were murdered I talked with Democrat friends about what a bad thing it was, what an ominous precedent. The usual attititude was it was OK, Obama was one of us a Dem, we could trust him, and, anyway, bad things only happen to bad people, blah blah blah.

  18. February 9, 2021 at 19:54

    Sick, just plain sick.

    I don’t think Americans have any idea how sick a place the country has become.

    I’ve joked darkly before, but I really do believe the day is coming when America’s extrajudicial killing by drone will be targeted inside the country. Already, Americans outside the country have been disappeared.

    All the sick methods of the sick CIA have, sooner or later, in the past ended up being used domestically.

    Quite notably, assassinations. The CIA came to think of them as ordinary workaday tasks in the 1950s. It required no adjustment to use them at home, notably starting inn Dallas, 1963.

    Instead of just trying to build a better country, America’s elites are committed to dominance, almost like membership in a weird cult.

    America’s greatest problems have the same origin, the terrible division in American society.

    Note, any reasonable person disapproves of what happened at the Capitol, but it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, other than a sick and repressive one, an insurgency or a revolt or a revolution or an act of terror.

    It was an ugly, unruly mob committing some common crimes -vandalism, trespassing, theft, and the like. I’m sure the crowd had a few deadlier minds, but that did not characterize what happened.

    The police were to blame for being unprepared, and the former President was very much to blame for inciting people to extreme behavior. Already a dozen arrested people have said they thought they were doing what the President wanted done. This was, after all, not a very bright crowd

    • James Simpson
      February 10, 2021 at 03:04

      “how sick a place the country has become” like it was better in the good old days, when white Americans owned Black people and forced them to work to produce goods for profit? When there were lynchings as Sunday treats for the whole family to watch? When the US military invaded the Philippines and committed gross atrocities against men, women and children?

      “the same origin, the terrible division in American society” Now you’re sounding like Joe Biden. Division itself is not the problem. There should be division when some people control the lives of the majority through the capitalist system and the war machine.

      • Anne
        February 10, 2021 at 11:36

        An addition – like it was when the Brits came over and began the genocidal ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples from these lands which continued after Independence for a goodly while….

        Division is not, as you point out, the problem. The real problem is that the politics (and political parties/politicos) are a) not really two different parties (and in a country of more than 330 million surely we deserve a wider array of real political parties?) but a single, Janus party with two faces, the color of the lipstick being the single difference; b) are totally – and totally corruptly – owned by the corporate-capitalist-imperialist plutocratic ruling elites (well, the politicos want their share…along with nice bennies for as long as they can steal them; frankly they should get the Fed minimum wage and the same med benefits as – ooh, your hotel cleaner)

      • February 10, 2021 at 12:03

        Ah yes, the good old days–the American way. Same as it ever was

    • Richard Coleman
      February 10, 2021 at 11:48

      “It was an ugly, unruly mob committing some common crimes -vandalism, trespassing, theft, and the like. I’m sure the crowd had a few deadlier minds, but that did not characterize what happened.”

      Wrong.. At least 5 people are D E A D. There were chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” They put up a gallows. Are you so naive as to think that if they had gotten their hands on such as AOC that they wouldn’t have lynched her? Weren’t they roaring through the halls looking for legislators to get their hands on? What do you suppose they intended to do, give them Good Conduct Medals?

      “Unruly” is fans throwing beer cans and trash at a football game. Think this was that?

  19. Tom Kath
    February 9, 2021 at 19:21

    You can give it any name you like, but Americans killing Americans is CIVIL WAR.

  20. Jon Adams
    February 9, 2021 at 19:10

    The “role model” for rightwing extremism in America is our own violent foreign policy.

    • John R
      February 10, 2021 at 08:01

      Bingo ! In one sentence.

    • Anne
      February 10, 2021 at 11:29


  21. CJ
    February 9, 2021 at 17:38

    We already saw this excuse from the right media as the horned shirtless MAGA man howled like a banshee inside the Capitol- “see the Lefty commies caused this due to their lack of enforcement of BLM/Antifa riots!”. The author is correct- the Proud Boys/3 Percenters/militias are just quivering for a reason to declare war on the left who they also see as a clear and present danger to their America. Tucker Carlson, Rush and the like will toss gasoline on the smoldering fire and we will descend in our own sectarian war.

Comments are closed.