In 2022, I’m going to write more to people in prison and in Congress too, the author vows.
By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News
The new year has arrived. I don’t know why so many of us think that just the beginning of a new year is going to change anything from the old year, but like most people, I make resolutions and hope for the best (despite the business school mantra that “hope is not a strategy.”)
Nonetheless, I am going to try to be positive about things, and I’m going to try to make a positive change in the world in 2022.
First, I resolve to write more. I’m not talking about columns or books. I’m talking about writing to show my concern and support for people, to show them that I’m thinking about them. Rather than just hoping that drone whistleblower Daniel Hale is doing well, for example, I’m going to write to him regularly.
When I went to prison for 23 months after blowing the whistle on the C.I.A.’s torture program, I received a postcard on my very first day there from a woman in Ringgold, Georgia. I had never met her, but she followed my case and wanted me to know that she was thinking about me.
I decided that day that I would respond to every letter I received while in prison; if somebody took time out of their busy day to write to me, I could certainly take the time to respond. Over the next 23 months, I wrote more than 7,000 letters to 675 people.
I’m also going to write to my elected officials. When I was in college, I worked for my local congressman in his office in Washington, D.C. I learned a lot during that short stretch. What has really stuck with me is that members of Congress really do react to constituent mail. If one person wrote to ask that we cosponsor some obscure measure to declare a certain date “National Golden Chickadee Day,” for example, then we’d do it.
If 100 people wrote to ask for something important, something substantive, we would also do it. I remember the Congressman saying that every letter represented 100 people who were too busy to write. I don’t know where he came up with that number, but it has remained with me. His voting record showed that he believed it.
I saw the same thing decades later when I worked for John Kerry on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mail was important. Staff members responded to all of it. And we tallied opinions on every issue. I’m going to write regularly to my senators and congressman about Julian Assange, about the drone program, and about oversight of the C.I.A. These issues are important to me, and I’m going to make sure that they’re important to the people who represent me in Washington.
Resolved to March Too
Second, I’m going to demonstrate more. (Peacefully, of course.) The last demonstration I attended was in 2012, when I took my children to an anti-human trafficking march on the National Mall. The march itself probably didn’t make any difference, but it was the right thing to do. I’m proud to have participated in some important demonstrations over the years.
I marched in the Solidarity Day demonstration in Washington in 1981, sponsored by the AFL-CIO. There were more than 500,000 people there. Two years later, I marched in one of the largest anti-KKK rallies in modern history in Washington. Those marches certainly made a difference.
My grandfather inspired me as a kid, when he told me about taking an enormous risk by calling in sick one day at the U.S. Steel plant in which he worked in Canonsburg, PA to march in Pittsburgh in support of Sacco and Vanzetti, the two Italian anarchists wrongfully convicted of murder and executed in Massachusetts.
He told me when I was eight years old how important solidarity was for all of us who cared about human rights. My friends at Code Pink and at the ANSWER Coalition work hard to highlight some of these important issues, too. I want to lend a hand. Maybe it’ll inspire more people to participate.
Finally, I’m going to speak out more on the issues that are important to me: Torture, human rights, Assange, transparency, and even children’s rights. Judging by the surprising amount of hate mail I get, my positions aren’t always popular. I don’t care. I’m a patriot. I won’t let the enemies of human rights, transparency, and government accountability win without a serious fight.
The new year has energized me. I hope it energizes you, too. Let’s get moving.
John Kiriakou is a former C.I.A. 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.
Winter Fund Drive!
Donate securely with PayPal
Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:
Life without reset points might be a blur.
Optimism is a value likely unique to belief in American democracy.
If we did not have it would democracy be democracy? A kick in the pants is also useful.
Thanks, John for the inspiration. I was one of your 7,000/675 and was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply from you. Your article also reminds me that I have not followed through on my resolve months ago to write to Daniel Hale. If you or Joe could provide the info in order to write to him, I think that would be very helpful.
Also, Amnesty International has writing campaigns for persecuted individuals.
Larry McGovern (brother of Ray)
I sent a box of books to him in prison a few years ago, which was returned by the prison, unopened and without comment.
Wow, Mr. Kiriakou’s Beautiful, Brilliant essay is inspiring as heck!
So is your reply here.
So, I googled “how to write Daniel Hale” and here’s what I found:
Daniel Everette Hale 26069-075
USP Marion P. O. Box 1000
Marion, Illinois 62959 (IL, I think)
Also, instructions are to write on plain white paper (no cards) using black or blue ink, either handwritten or printed.
I have been wanting to write to him as well as Julian Assange and have not so now I will, thanks to you and John.
I’d also like to say that I am a longtime “fan” of your Brother, Ray. I admire his fortitude and courage and all that!
One more thing, I think I read somewhere that Daniel Hale is a descendent of a noteworthy colonial leader?
Again, thanks to the wonderful CN, and to Mr. Kiriakou (whose horrible saga I followed) and to you and your Brother, Ray McGovern.
Sincerely, Jean McKay in Chico, CA (I wrote a check to CN but haven’t mailed it yet. Yikes. Gotta work on my follow-through, right? Stay Safe.
I am in agreement!
Very good sentiments and a good plan, John Kiriakou.
I have written to my Senators and rep in recent years on behalf of Mr. Assange and Daniel Hale among others. Either they did not reply, or believed that the whistleblowers had done irreparable harm, despite having campaigned for press freedom and an end to mindless wars for profit. They had “drunk the Koolaid” of DC from which there is no return.
So I am now forming the Congress of Policy Debate (www.CongressOfDebate.org) to provide the public commented summaries of linked debates on all issues in all regions, with all viewpoints represented and challenged. The biggest problem is designing an incorruptible administration, which turns out to be a model for repairing our dysfunctional shell of a democracy.
But I agree that writing and organizing are essential, and plan to continue that.
Best wishes in all that you do!