JOHN KIRIAKOU: DOJ Promises Ring Hollow

The U.S. government hates Julian Assange. Can we trust the Justice Department to not put him in a SAM unit or to keep him out of an ADX super max prison?

ADX Florence in Colorado. (Federal Bureau of Prisons, Wikimedia Commons)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Many of my friends here at Consortium News and elsewhere have written recently about the UK High Court’s decision to allow the U.S. Department of Justice’s appeal of a lower court’s decision against extraditing Julian Assange to go forward.

The Higher Court’s decision is narrow in nature—the court will allow the DOJ to appeal the lower court’s finding that U.S. prisons are dangerous and oppressive—but will not allow the U.S. to appeal any factual findings on Julian’s condition or mental health. Assange faces 175 years in prison in the United States if he is extradited and found guilty of national security crimes related to Chelsea Manning’s revelations to Wikileaks more than a decade ago.

By way of background, the mainstream media in the United States barely touched on the UK ruling. It was a one-day story, and a small one at that, and the editorial line was that the DOJ is working hard to get its man. The ruling, though, wasn’t the real news.

The more important news, which broke just a few days before the court decision, was that the DOJ’s top witness against Julian had granted an interview with an Icelandic newspaper in which he recanted everything he said about Assange.

He admitted he’d lied to the FBI about being instructed by Assange to conduct hacking operations. Everything that Sigudrur “Siggi” Thordarson told the FBI was a lie, and the FBI’s case appears to be falling apart. Indeed, Ed Snowden opined soon after that the case against Assange was “dead.”

While working as a volunteer for WikiLeaks, Thordarson contacted the U.S. embassy in Reykjavik in 2011 to offer himself as an informant, receiving immunity as part of the deal. He then took part in a sting operation against Assange that led then Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson to kick the FBI out of the country.

The Icelandic media report said Thordarson had been diagnosed as a clinical sociopath, that he is a convicted serial pedophile, and that he had embezzled more than $50,000 from Wikileaks. Journalists say it’s unclear why Thordarson would have told a reporter about his lies, especially when the FBI had already chosen either to believe him or to pretend that he was telling the truth. It could be that, as a sociopath, he craved the publicity, even if he harbored no regret or remorse about being called out as a liar.

What Justice?

Artist’s view of an ADX Florence cell design. (RicHard-59, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Still, the case against Assange goes on, a mockery of what “justice” is supposed to be. And what is the “justice” that the Justice Department is promising the UK courts? It’s that Assange won’t be subject to incarceration as part of Special Administrative Measures (SAM) or sent to the notorious “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado (ADX), “unless he were to do something subsequent to the offering of these assurances that meets the tests for imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX.”

In other words, if Julian were to speak to a journalist, if he were to look at a guard cockeyed, if he were to speak disrespectfully to an administrator, or if he were even to say something controversial in a private telephone call (which would be monitored, of course) that would be enough to send him to a SAM unit or even to ADX. The Justice Department’s promises ring hollow.

I spent 23 months in a “modified SAM unit” after blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. Six months or so into my sentence, I decided to file a Freedom of Information Act request on myself just to see what it was that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had on me. I couldn’t understand why my contact with the outside world was restricted, especially after my sentencing judge ordered that I be sent to a minimum-security work camp. (The BOP arbitrarily sent me to a higher-security prison with no explanation.)

When I received my FOIA documents, I was struck by one in particular. It was a memo from the warden to all prison staff, entitled “Incoming Inmate John Kiriakou.” It opened with huge block letters: CAUTION: INMATE HAS ACCESS TO THE MEDIA!! I was a nobody and the Justice Department was restricting my access to the outside world. What were they so afraid of? What did they think I was going to say?

Now imagine Julian Assange in the same position. He’s known around the world. People want to hear what he has to say. He has millions of supporters. Journalists seek out his advice. His case is political. The U.S. government hates him. Can we trust the Justice Department to not put him in a SAM unit or to keep him out of an ADX?

Not a chance. The fight’s not over, but it’s possible that the end—a win for Assange—is in sight. It’s up to us to keep up the pressure on the White House, the Justice Department, and the mainstream media. We can’t let up.

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.

18 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: DOJ Promises Ring Hollow

  1. robert scheetz
    July 12, 2021 at 19:11

    Since when has the US ever been bothered by Law? Power respects only one thing – opposing power.

  2. Ruhrpottric
    July 12, 2021 at 13:49

    Julian Assange is innocent! Here comes another proof!


  3. robert e williamson jr
    July 11, 2021 at 21:56

    One thing is most certain based on the career path of one Bill Barr, that being the justice department has been repeatedly compromised by CIA officials, their respective lobbies and crooked congress members since WWII.

    Meanwhile here in the country of Christian in the great confused state of Illinois the local U.S. repugnaclan state rep is recommending the local states attorney for a promotion to a federal attorney position. As if the repugs owning judgeships weren’t enough.

    Christian country courts are among the slowest moving courts systems in the state, maybe the world. Clogged with meth cases because of this tragic scourge of massive meth addiction , prisons do not want the troublesome speed freaks in their systems, many are brain damaged beyond recovery. As the result a potentially good idea ,the local county sponsors a “Safe Passage Program”, administered by the local courts has fallen to rely on religion as the right medicine. with the local branch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supporting this madness.

    The stories abound about how finding ones faith is the cure all. Really, so many in the medical profession, I’m sure would disagree.

    No word yet on recidivism rates. Did I mention that these courts are clogged with meth cases, many re-offending before they are in court for the first offenses. But no worry, according to Christian beliefs to fall again is forgivable.

    Spoiler alert, the original problem will never be solved in this manner.

    Never mind that during this created “full jail syndrome” the local county sheriff and his dept receives monies from the feds for housing their prisoners.

    The Department of Justice is a joke. A sad misguided at best, corrupt to it’s gills, filthy dirty obscene joke.

    As Jerry “The Killer” Lee Lewis once declared to the Queen of England, in this case the Department of Justice, “can kiss my ass.”

    These sons of bitches constantly, because of the lack of an actual intelligent answer ( something to occurs when one is suffering from an intellect shortage) to their critics are still saying, “Im just doing my job,”. The same lame ass excuse that got so many of the SS hanged or otherwise put to death for their ignorance.

    To everyone writing in here I have one last thought. If we are to make (mayonnaise), progress fixing this nation, we will have to break ( a few eggs ) careers. Bill Barr needs to be in jail. I’m for trading him to the prison system for safe keeping to we can free Julian.

    John, Mr. Kiriakou, you know as well as I do that in your heart of hearts you are embarrassed by the ignorance displayed by partisans in the justice process why can’t these jerks be tested, polygraphed and psych tested, tested for rabies and syphilis and fired or institutionalized for being positive?

    Do you realize how many would quit and walk away rather than testing positive?

    I predict that fixing our terminally mentally ill justice department will be quite painful for all concerned, but then again maybe they all simply need to find a new DOGma!

    Thanks CN

  4. Andrew Peter Nichols
    July 11, 2021 at 07:49

    Fewer rights than Navalny….

  5. nwwoods
    July 10, 2021 at 18:04

    “… the court will allow the DOJ to appeal the lower court’s finding that U.S. prisons are dangerous and oppressive.

    Biden supports continuation of conditions at the Guantanamo prison complex where officials and NATSEC goons are known to have violated lawyer client privileged communications, and where at least one inmate continues to be held without charges since he was kidnapped at the age of 14.

  6. Richard Coleman
    July 10, 2021 at 15:37

    To put the word “trust” in the same sentence with “Department of Justice” (or any U.S. government agency!) is a contradiction in terms.

    (Most people these days would call it an oxymoron, but I truly hate that word!) :^\}

  7. Carolyn L Zaremba
    July 10, 2021 at 15:12

    Thank you, John Kiriakou.

  8. Anon
    July 10, 2021 at 12:51

    Wish you were doing your own podcast on this site as well. We really need john’s voice to be heard not just in an article or 2 but in a podcast form. We need more truth tellers speaking out

  9. Warden Bob Hood
    July 10, 2021 at 10:55

    As former warden of the United States “Supermax” Penitentiary in Colorado, I can assure you that conditions at the nation’s ultra-secure maximum custody prison will be difficult. It would be common for an inmate like Assange to be placed on Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). In our country, this is the most restrictive prison and considered the X-factor among correctional professionals. If the death penalty is X, than being incarcerated at this prison would be X plus one. It is far worse than death because of the conditions of confinement.

    Bob Hood, Retired Warden – Federal Bureau of Prisons

    • county Kerry
      July 10, 2021 at 16:46

      Warden Hood, Can you share with us the necessity of having these SAM’s , what is there purpose ?

      • Warden Bob Hood
        July 10, 2021 at 18:20

        Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) are individually prescribed to offenders when there is a substantial risk that communications or contacts with others could result in the following: Death; serious bodily harm, or substantial damage to property. To my knowledge, there were less than 50 inmates assigned to SAMs since the law became effective on May 17, 1996. These restrictions may be renewed every 120 days — yet some inmates have been placed on SAMs for years. The “special confinement conditions” are authorized by the U.S. Attorney General. He directs the Federal Bureau of Prisons to impose restrictions on housing, correspondence, visits, etc. In the American prison system, the use of SAMs is extremely rare and only used at the federal level.

  10. Paul Meyer
    July 10, 2021 at 10:38

    Chief Red Cloud “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept only one; they promised to take our land, and they did.”

  11. Jeff Harrison
    July 10, 2021 at 10:35

    I have no idea why anyone would trust anything that any part of the US government says.

  12. Erroll
    July 10, 2021 at 10:00

    Yes, Mr. Kiriakou is certainly correct when he writes that pressure needs to be kept on the White House, the Justice Department, and the mainstream media so that Assange’s plight will not be forgotten. But it is the corporate media’s reporters and journalists who need to ask Biden and the White House press secretary why the United States is not dropping its case against Assange especially considering the fact, as the article notes, how Assange’s main accuser has now recanted his testimony. These alleged truth tellers need to do their jobs by keeping this extremely important and germane story in the national spotlight and to ask [nay, demand] Biden why he is not at all concerned why a journalist like Assange is being prosecuted and persecuted even though Biden claims to be a defender of freedom of the press.

    Perhaps more people in this apathetic country need to display a bumper sticker which I have on my vehicle or a button which proclaims:


    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      July 10, 2021 at 15:15

      But it is the mainstream media of the United States that is not reporting on the admission by Siggi Thordarson that he lied! They are collaborating in making the story invisible. It is only the alternative media that has been reporting on this revelation. The American public is in a prison of the mind.

      • nwwoods
        July 10, 2021 at 18:10

        The US media has a long history of making unpleasant, inconvenient truths invisible. One might wonder if the above hasn’t always been the elite media’s very raison d’être.

        • John Ressler
          July 11, 2021 at 09:10

          Thanks for this comment and others on this thread. Thank you CN for informing us.

      • Erroll
        July 11, 2021 at 09:03

        Ms. Zaremba

        Yes, I understand that the “mainstream media is not reporting on the admission by Siggi Thordarson that he ]Assange] lied” which is why I tried to point out, apparently to no avail, that:

        “These alleged truth tellers need to do their jobs by keeping this extremely important and germane story in the national spotlight and to ask [nay, demand] Biden why he is not at all concerned why a journalist like Assange is being prosecuted and persecuted even though Biden claims to be a defender of freedom of the press.”

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