JOHN KIRIAKOU: A Whistleblower’s Agony

Denying Joshua Schulte bail because of a fear that he might reveal classified information is one thing. Subjecting him to torture is another. 

(Vectorportal, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

As his second trial began this week, a C.I.A. whistleblower languishes in a federal prison under inhumane conditions and almost nobody is paying attention. 

Joshua Schulte, 33, is a former C.I.A. hacker, one of those computer geniuses whose job it is to work his way into the computer systems of our country’s enemies in support of some of the most highly-classified operations the C.I.A. carries out. 

The government believes that Schulte was a malcontent who released to WikiLeaks in 2017 the equivalent of 2 billion pages of top secret C.I.A. data with code names like Brutal Kangaroo, AngerQuake and McNugget. 

These programs, collectively known as Vault 7, were custom-made techniques used to compromise Wifi networks, hack into Skype, defeat anti-virus software and even hack into smart TVs and the guidance systems in cars.  They were the C.I.A.’s modern-day crown jewels.  One senior C.I.A. officer likened the revelations to “a modern-day Pearl Harbor.”

The C.I.A. accused Schulte of stealing the data in 2016 and of sending it to WikiLeaks in 2017.  He was eventually charged with 13 felonies, mostly related to the Espionage Act.  He was later charged with a number of additional felonies related to child pornography, accusations that he has adamantly denied. 

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Schulte went to trial in New York in early 2020 with the Justice Department accusing him of “the single biggest leak of classified national defense information in the history of the C.I.A.” 

After four weeks of testimony and six days of jury deliberation, he was found guilty of contempt of court and making a false statement, both minor charges for which federal sentencing guidelines call for imprisonment of zero-to-six months.  The jury deadlocked on all other counts, and the judge declared a mistrial.  Schulte remains in prison awaiting retrial.  He has been incarcerated since October 2018.

Treated Differently 

Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. (Jim Henderson, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

Schulte is not treated like other prisoners in the facility where he is being held, New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC).  When he goes to court, for example, he is required to wear shackles around his ankles and chains around his waist to which his handcuffed hands are attached. His hands are then enclosed in a steel box that is itself locked separately. 

In the Justice Department’s classified conference room, where he is required to meet his attorneys, he is chained to an eye bolt in the floor, just as the C.I.A. restrains Al-Qaeda prisoners during their interrogations.  He is not permitted to use the restroom during these visits.  His guards give him a plastic bag at the start of the meetings, and if he has to go to the bathroom, he must urinate and defecate in the bag.

Schulte’s day-to-day existence is far more difficult.  First, he has been subject to “Special Administrative Measures” (SAMs) since his arrest.  He is in solitary confinement in a cage in a small concrete box the size of a standard parking space 24 hours a day.  He is allowed two showers a week and is not permitted to use the phone or email.  He is not permitted to watch television or to listen to the radio.  He is not permitted to have visitors other than his attorneys.  He is not permitted to make purchases from the commissary.

How to Complain

There is a mechanism within the federal Bureau of Prisons by which to complain about these conditions.  A prisoner must first fill out a form BP-8 ½, which goes to the person you are accusing of violating your rights, saying, “Hey, you violated my rights.”  The response, of course, will be “No I didn’t.” 

Main office of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C. (AgnosticPreachersKid, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

You then have 14 days to file a Form BP-9, which goes to the warden.  The warden, not surprisingly, almost always supports his staff member.  You then have 60 days to file a Form BP-10, which goes to the Bureau of Prisons regional office.  Once the prisoner loses there, which is almost guaranteed, he can file a Form BP-11, which goes to the Bureau of Prisons headquarters in Washington.  No prisoner ever wins at BOP headquarters.

There are also ways in which the prisoner is routinely stymied in an attempt to file a complaint.  The filing of every form is time-sensitive, so the warden and others will withhold their responses, backdate them and then send the responses at a point when the prisoner only has a day or two to respond.  Since it’s not possible to get it done in time, it’s dismissed as “not responsive in a timely fashion.” 

The prisoner has no recourse because the federal courts have ruled that a prisoner must exhaust the “administrative complaint process” before going to the courts.  But if the complaint is dismissed by the BOP as “not responsive” because of time, he’s out of luck.

Schulte isn’t complaining just about the heavy-handed circumstances of his incarceration.  He’s complaining about what his attorneys argue amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, perhaps torture.  They noted in a recent lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons that Schulte is:

“locked in a cage in a concrete box the size of a parking space with purposefully obstructed views of outside, the cages are filthy and infested with rodents, rodent droppings, cockroaches and mold; there is no heating or air conditioning in the cages, there is no functioning plumbing, the lights burn brightly 24 hours per day, and the inmates are denied normal visitation, access to books and legal material, medical care, and dental care.  All attorney-client privilege is also void as the prison confiscates, opens, and reads all legal mail.  The process imposed is arbitrary and not tailored to any legitimate government interest.” 

The attorneys add that,

“No matter what crime an individual is alleged to have committed, the United States Constitution grants all a presumption of innocence.  Indeed, no American wants to be treated like a caged animal if accused of a crime — dependent, deserted, dehumanized, demoralized, and detained.”

That is exactly what Joshua Schulte is.  He’s dependent, deserted, dehumanized, demoralized, and detained.  He hasn’t seen an open window in more than two years.  He hasn’t seen a doctor for his congenital heart defect in that period, either.  He hasn’t seen a dentist.  Denying him bail because of a fear that he might reveal classified information is one thing.  Torture is another. 

How does it protect the national security to not allow him to see the sky for years at a time?  How does it protect the national security to not allow him to see a doctor or dentist?  How does forbidding him to read protect the national security?  It doesn’t.  It just proves that the United States has no respect for human rights or for the rule of law.  As the meme goes, “Prove me wrong.”

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.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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27 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: A Whistleblower’s Agony

  1. LeoSun
    June 16, 2022 at 12:26

    “ The C.I.A. accused Schulte of stealing the data in 2016 and of sending it to WikiLeaks in 2017.’

    JUNE 14, 2022- The SECOND Trial begins: “Vault 7, Joshua Schulte’s, the Operations Support Branch (OSB-C.I.A.’s secret hacker unit, in which a cadre of élite engineers create cyberweapons).

    “They were the C.I.A.’s modern-day crown jewels.  One senior C.I.A. officer likened the revelations to “a modern-day Pearl Harbor.”

    Hovering over the proceedings was a dark question: “HOW MUCH HARM” had been caused by the leak?

    Shroff (Schulte’s Atty) cross-examined Sean Roche, the C.I.A. official who described Vault 7 as a “digital Pearl Harbor,”

    HOW many people died in Pearl Harbor?” She asked.
    “More than three thousand,” Roche replied.
    HOW many people died as a result of Vault 7? she asked.
    “I don’t have an answer to that,” Roche said.
    “In fact, none, correct?” Shroff said.

    Shroff further suggested that the story of Vault 7 was a parable not about the rash decision of one traitor but about the systemic ineptitude of the C.I.A.

    The agency didn’t even realize that it had been robbed, she pointed out, until WikiLeaks began posting the disclosures.

    “For God’s sakes,” Shroff said in court. “They went a whole year without knowing that their super-secure system had been hacked.” Then the agency embarked on a witch hunt, she continued, and quickly settled on an “easy target”: Schulte. Within this narrative, the string of prosecution witnesses recounting horror stories about Schulte’s workplace behavior almost seemed to play in Shroff’s favor. Her client was a scapegoat, she insisted—the guy nobody liked.” Source: The New Yorker-June 13, 2022 Edition

    • LeoSun
      June 16, 2022 at 12:49

      June 15, 2022, “A C.I.A. whistleblower languishes awaiting trial in a federal prison under inhumane conditions and almost nobody is paying attention.”

      WHERE”s the Outrage?”

      June 14, 2022, The Washington Post, “Accused CIA leaker Josh Schulte claims gov mounted ‘witch hunt’ against him”

      June 13, 2022, The New Yorker, The Surreal Case of a C.I.A. Hacker’s Revenge (A hot-headed coder is accused of exposing the agency’s hacking arsenal. Did he betray his country because he was pissed off at his colleagues?)

      June 16, 2022, “Many People” feel The White House has set into motion military, economic, political and social processes that they cannot control and the outcome of which they cannot foresee.”

      The Divided $tates of Corporate America is on fkn’ fire; & Joe Robinette Biden posing as POTUS, masquerading as Human, sleeps!!!

      TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2022 !!! After, 35 MINUTES of yappin’ & yellin’, in Philadelphia, Joe Biden checks out! ”It’s LIGHTS OUT!!!” The president made it back to the White House by 1:30 p.m. and did NOT take questions from reporters upon his return to the White House.

      “The White House called a “lid” for the president’s public activities at 1:51 p.m., EST. The “lid” typically informs reporters that the president will not appear again in public until the following day.”

      The unhinged POTUS’ growing inflation, his domestic agenda, his foreign agenda, his plummeting poll numbers, the extreme dissatisfaction in the country, outrageous gas and food prices, a broken supply chain, government agency’s run amok; &, the bankrupt, demented political corpse “calls it a day,” @ 2-in-the afternoon; Says, “Times Up!”

      Deliver the 25th Amendment; AFTER, POTUS CANCELS the Extradition/Execution of Julian Assange. Give US peace & Julian Assange a “Life w/his wife, family, friends, lawyers. Give Assange the FREEdom to heal.”

      POTUS, “if, you’re reading this,” For Once, Do the Right thing, “FREE, Julian Assange.” TY.

    • LLM
      June 17, 2022 at 11:38

      Another CIA fail = 9/11, about 3,000 murdered
      need to remove funding for this rogue agency

  2. michael888
    June 16, 2022 at 11:42

    Equality before the Law is noted as outdated by our present “Justice” system.

    97% of federal convictions are through plea bargains (94% of state convictions). Few can risk the results of a jury trial, particularly when the prosecution controls the evidence (more often than not)

    Establishment figures are above the Law. They love the System, which is a Police State when “necessary” (national security or disparaging our “betters”).

    Real criminals convince the witnesses that bad things will happen to them and theirs if real criminals are convicted. They game the system.

  3. June 16, 2022 at 07:45

    The United States’conduct not only on the International stage but also domestically,as revealed here, continue to reveal a country that doesn’t care about anything regarding the rule of law and respect for the laws that are meant to keep everyone safe and protected so long as those in positions of authority maintain the status quo. But,such behaviour doesn’t only hurt the United States domestically but Internationally as a country which says one thing but does exactly the opposite.With such blatant disregard for their own constitution and laws,how do they expect their own citizens to respect the law when their own leaders/institutions that would have served as examples – behave as if they themselves are the law? How will leaders keep that country United for the good of all and the country? With that contempt for the own constitution,why do they think they can or are in position to dictate to the rest of the world? The danger of all that though,is the United States’ leaders/ authorities,slowly but surely are leading the country into very dangerous territory which can culminate,GOD forbid,into a civil war or at worst the break up of the country. To avoid that, people like Mr. Kiriakou and other patriots should strive hard resurcitate the once respected United States of America for the good of themselves, their children and the International community.

    • Rebecca
      June 17, 2022 at 12:22

      Thank you for your comment. It is apparent that many people in the United States do not respect the Constitution or Bill of Rights. We have mobs of “seemingly acceptable” working and middle class individuals who eagerly violate our nation’s fundamental laws on a daily basis. They engage in harassing, stalking and threatening designated innocent people, including whistle blowers, former journalists, true educators, political dissidents who are generally on the right side of things, but also ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, employee rivals, etc. Apparently these Americans believe it is their right to criminally violate the law by engaging in long-term mob harassment campaigns. These individuals also drive in threatening manner, and apparently feel perfectly free to block traffic for dozens of cars in order to harass their one victim. They also act as accomplices to criminals who break and enter, vandalize property, steal, make violent threats, and sometimes physically poison or harm the person they victimize. It is crazy what is going on where I live in the Albany, NY area. I never thought I would see the USA become what it has become. I hope more people here learn what is taking place. We need a renewed effort to stand up for the Constitution and human values.

  4. Henry Smith
    June 15, 2022 at 19:15

    It’s not just whistle-blowers on the corrupt mainland shores of the West, let’s all remember Guantanemo Bay and the men held without charge and tortured by the USA. Vile empire of lies, indeed.

  5. Realist
    June 15, 2022 at 16:23

    I see. What this man is charged with is exposing how the totalitarian government of the United States relentlessly works to deprive us of our privacy and constitutional rights as they spy incessantly upon all friends and enemies alike, and hack away on the internet to cause the most outrageous financial, legal and other problems for whomever is targeted, activities I daresay are not formally “protected” by the constitution, though black ops always get a pass in the land of the “free” and the home of the “brave.”

    Whether that charge against him is true or not (and already one trial has failed to bring about a conviction) our totalitarian government takes it upon itself to treat him as if already found guilty and, unless torture has been made legal within the past four years, to treat him worse than with the penalties prescribed for offenses such as murder, rape and kidnapping. It seems he is being treated as badly, or even worse, than those poor unfortunates held under “extraordinary rendition” back when stowing the constitution and replacing it with a bloodthirsty medieval modus operandi first took precedence in this wonderful democratic republic of ours under the Cheney-Bush reign.

    Who among us would have believed that Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning might actually have had it pretty cushy compared to this fellow. Along with Assange, Manning and Snowden, this is the sort of person we should consider a hero of the republic–assuming he is even guilty of the charges leveled against him. I read these articles by Mr. Kiriakou and have to reassess my emotional, moral and humanitarian responses to authors like Orwell and Kafka who, I assumed, intended to stretch our capacity to process such outrages to the limit. Orwell and Kafka were play time compared to what really happens in Uncle Sam’s chamber of horrors. This poor soul is the first guy I would let out if America ever managed to have its own Bastille Day.

  6. JonT
    June 15, 2022 at 15:07

    The description of the conditions imposed upon Joshua Schulte is horrific. The USA “the land of the free”. It sounds like something out of one of Hieronymus Boschs’ worst nightmares.

  7. StandingOnYourHead
    June 15, 2022 at 14:26

    “Denying Joshua Schulte bail because of a fear that he might reveal classified information is one thing. Subjecting him to torture is another.”

    They are both forms of coercion and educative simultaneously, lending the object opportunities of pondering whether he was a little naive working for his previous employers and/or “country” since we the people hold these truths to be self-evident that it is “our country”.

  8. Me Myself
    June 15, 2022 at 12:58

    Does the new New York State “Tattletale Law” apply here? Because I am sure to violate it with what I really think about the disturbing treatment of this warrior (human) of truth!

  9. Carolyn L Zaremba
    June 15, 2022 at 12:54

    Thanks for this report, John. I did not realize this was going on. This is what the U.S. governments want to do to Julian Assange as well. Horrible.

  10. Dfnslblty
    June 15, 2022 at 12:45

    abominable and revolting conditions — actionable upon his release.
    Thankyou for writing about such occurrences.
    potus46 and doj should attend to this before j6 and uae vacations — shame.
    Keep writing.

  11. Bob Graham
    June 15, 2022 at 12:30

    I rather believe that history would show that within Imperial Empires that aspire to rule the world, that torturing whistleblowers is the norm rather than the exception.

  12. Sabine Dohrn
    June 15, 2022 at 12:25

    Dear John Kiriakou, thank you for the information on the situation of Joshua Schulte. Your article on how he is being treated is sickening to read. It makes me feel as if I were transported back to the Middle Ages where using the most revolting tortures seemed a common practice of meting out ¨justice¨.

    What can we do? Who can we contact, write to? Which organizations defend prisoners in such situations?

    • Marika Czaja
      June 15, 2022 at 20:01

      Perhaps it is worth contacting Amnesty International?

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    June 15, 2022 at 12:19

    Stand up for your country but…your country won’t stand up for you. Has been like this forever and a day…

    • StandingOnYourHead
      June 15, 2022 at 19:36

      “Stand up for your country but…your country won’t stand up for you.”

      It never was “your country” and significant effort continues to be expended on obfuscating this in various derivatives “we the people hold these truths to be self-evident” that it is “our country”.

      Your role has always been and continues to be, food sources and human shields for others who hold you in contempt irrespective of “citizenship”.

  14. June 15, 2022 at 12:03

    Ethics and rule of law are no longer a thing in the united corporations of Scamerica ,if they ever were . Thank you for exposing this horror , and helping to keep us aware . Maybe we can change .

  15. Alex Cox
    June 15, 2022 at 11:52

    Thank you for this piece, John. It is terrifying, but important, for us to know that Julian Assange is not alone in being tortured by a self-proclaimed democracy.

  16. UncleDoug
    June 15, 2022 at 11:43

    “How does it protect the national security to . . .”

    We all know it doesn’t of course. But we also know how the people torturing Schulte think it’s protective, or want badly to believe it is: pour encourager les autres.

    And that’s all they need to justify to themselves the torture they appear to enjoy inflicting.

  17. Vincent ANDERSON
    June 15, 2022 at 11:41

    Tremendous insights into Schulte’s most basic conditions here. THANKS. His retrial btw started yesterday. hxxps://

    With the incredible procedural hassles presented by those ‘Form BPs’ you describe, I wonder whether he even knows that Assange may (by legal implication, if that counts in Boris Brit-land) become the beneficiary of the ECHR’s last-minute order to block Priti Patel’s intended Rwandan deportations. hxxps://

    Maybe Boris and Liz will attempt to withdraw from the ECHR. Without such inconveniences as a vote, etc.

  18. D. C. Galvin
    June 15, 2022 at 10:43

    Thanks for this important report: Sickening by any measure. Yet the DOJ — which has done nothing in eighteen months to jail the leader of a real & nearly successful coup against the United States — still contend that Julian Assange will be treated “fairly?” How is this permissible “under law?” Very strange indeed.

  19. Charles Carroll
    June 15, 2022 at 10:43

    How does an ordinary country peasant complain about the treatment of this “American” citizen? He is being used by our Govt as an example for the rest of us.

  20. evelync
    June 15, 2022 at 10:38

    It never crosses their minds that there are people of conscience who refuse to be complicit with a criminal enterprise run by a White Supremacist ideology based on WE KNOW; WE’RE RIGHT; THE “OTHER” (whose land/lives. resources we steal) deserves what they get and anyone who exposes the false narrative gets severely punished.
    Like a courageous, moral whistleblower who cares about this country because he risks everything to bring us the truth.

    Meanwhile, deep down WE at the highest levels of government including our national security state MUST have a sense of this if we have any personal awareness of right and wrong that we have, beneath it all a shame and self loathing but our conscious minds work 24/7 to push back against that truth and we become even more brutal.

    Think of the momentary embarrassment of John Brennan when he was confronted with his lying in Congress.
    I think he denied it but there was a flicker….

    I’m not sure whether Gina Haspel is human or not…she may lack a conscience if the original release of The Report was accurate.
    I watched it again and they seemed to have airbrushed her out of one of the last scenes or else I missed it.

  21. June 15, 2022 at 10:25

    The Deep State’s horrendous conduct, strategies and tactics make even the most absurd conspiracy theory seem credible. Is it any wonder the sane among the population, the cognitively objective refuse to accept its narratives, whether concerning the 2020 “election”, the crisis in the Ukraine, the economy or anything else? Our real heroes, men like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Joshua Schulte are either held captive under inhumane conditions or forced into exile, while American voters quibble and squabble over inane issues designed by the Deep State to polarize and control us. Have we passed the point of no return into an Orwellian dystopia? Did that definitively happen in 2020?

  22. forceOfHabit
    June 15, 2022 at 10:20

    The US government had devolved into a bunch barbaric, hypocritical criminals. And this is the “justice” system to which the UK wants to deport Julian Assange, although his treatment in the UK is equally appalling.

Comments are closed.