JOHN KIRIAKOU: The Lies Spies Tell About Assange

The imprisoned publisher was attacked during a big-name counter-intelligence event in Washington this week with the same kind of innuendo that a larger gang, back in 2019, threw at the Hunter Biden laptop story. 

Mark Zaid (right), Barry Pollack (left) and Gabe Rottman at Hayden Center event. (Joe Lauria)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

I attended a panel discussion at the National Press Club on Monday about the fate of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.  The event happened to be at the National Press Club, but it was actually sponsored by the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University. 

Hayden, the notorious former director of both the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., who oversaw the C.I.A.’s torture program during part of the George W. Bush administration, was front and center at the event. 

The panel, moderated by Sasha Ingber, a national security correspondent in Newsy’s Washington, D.C., bureau, included Assange’s U.S. lawyer Barry Pollack, one of the finest criminal defense attorneys in America; Gabe Rottman, a senior attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; the notorious Mark Zaid, who bills himself as a “whistleblower attorney,” but who has probably done more damage to legitimate whistleblowers than any other person in Washington; and Holden Triplett, a former F.B.I. agent and former director for counterintelligence at President Donald Trump’s National Security Council.

While acknowledging my own biases (Pollack is a genius and Zaid is a scoundrel), the one thing that surprised me was how utterly clueless Holden Triplett was.  This is a guy who promotes himself as a counterintelligence expert. He runs a consulting company hilariously named “Trenchcoat Advisors.” 

Triplett claims to have been a top F.B.I. counterintelligence official in the U.S. embassies in Moscow and Beijing.  And he served Donald Trump loyally for two years in a GS-14 position at the White House.  Triplett made no mention of why he left the F.B.I. before qualifying for the pension.

What struck me most about Triplett was his willingness during the event to throw a rhetorical turd into the middle of the room and then to expect the audience to nod politely and agree with him. 

On more than one occasion, he made completely unfounded statements about Julian Assange, only to then have the neoliberal Washington swells nod in agreement, despite having literally no evidence to back up his assertions.  He said, choosing his language carefully, for example, that “When I look at anything Julian Assange has done over the years, whatever it is has the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation.” 

‘Hallmarks’ & ‘Earmarks’

April 5, 2010: Julian Assange addressing National Press Club about WikiLeaks Collateral Murder video from Baghdad showing U.S. air attacks that killed civilians. (Jennifer 8. Lee, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Notice the language there.  He didn’t say that Julian was a Russian agent.  He didn’t say that WikiLeaks was working for or on behalf of the Russians.  He said that it all had the hallmarks of something that Russian intelligence would do. 

The language is meant, of course, to bring the DNC/MSNBC crowd over to his point of view.  And judging by the reception he got, he was mostly successful.

Triplett’s disingenuous and damaging statements reminded me very much of an open letter published in October 2019 and signed by more than 50 retired senior C.I.A. and other Intelligence Community officials, saying that the Hunter Biden laptop “had all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” 

They ignored the fact that Hunter Biden said that it was his laptop.  These esteemed intelligence professionals offered no proof of an intelligence operation, of course, even though most, if not all, currently maintain their security clearances. 

They threw that same rhetorical turd into the middle of the room and expected all the rest of us to nod in agreement.

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It wasn’t flunkies who signed this letter. It was otherwise serious people, including National Press Club conference host Hayden; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former Secretary of Defense and C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta (himself a well-documented leaker); torture-supporter and former C.I.A. Director John Brennan; torture apologist and former Acting C.I.A. Director Mike Morrell; among others. 

Hayden at Assange event on Monday. (Joe Lauria)

They offered no proof of any ties between the Hunter Biden laptop and Russia, between Trump’s election as president in 2016 (which they went on about at length) and Russia, or between WikiLeaks and Russia. 

We’re just supposed to take their word for it because they’re important, smart and well-placed.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the likes of these signatories say, when somebody disagrees with them, “Well, if you could only see the information that I see…,” or “If you had access to the information that I have access to … .”

It’s time to call a spade a spade.  They’re lying.  And they want us to believe their lies.  I was at the C.I.A. too.  I underwent the same training that they underwent.  And if there was one thing the C.I.A. taught me, it was that if I was going to make a judgment or draw a conclusion, I had to offer proof.  I wasn’t allowed to hide behind language like, “all the hallmarks of” or “leads me to believe…”. If you don’t have any proof, keep your mouth shut.

In the meantime, I was greatly heartened by the confidence that Pollack exuded at the National Press Club event.  Julian Assange is in good hands.  Barry will provide him with the best defense possible. 

As for these other characters, it’s up to the rest of us to counter them and their propaganda.  It’s up to us to demand the truth.

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.

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9 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: The Lies Spies Tell About Assange

  1. mgr
    December 12, 2022 at 04:21

    Thank you. I think this well describes in microcosm how the US government and its elite supporters treat the American public. The more common way to describe it is, treat them like mushrooms: feed them shit and keep them in the dark. This has become the modus operandi of American “democracy”. Of course, under this regime, democracy is simply an empty word.

  2. michael888
    December 11, 2022 at 10:50

    Kiriakou has noted that “Legacy of Ashes” is his favorite book about the history of the CIA.

    It is remarkable that the CIA failure to success rate is so high, and yet no one is ever held accountable for their spectacular disasters. And yet the CIA is revered rather than reviled.

  3. Lois Gagnon
    December 10, 2022 at 11:15

    Unfortunately, the majority of people in the US believe the lies by the intelligence frauds because they have a gut level need to believe their own government is not the evil empire that it is. They are a danger to everyone else on this imperiled planet.

    • Cal Lash
      December 10, 2022 at 22:20

      After we free Assange and give him a few Million
      i think we should imprison and torture a bunch of politicians. Dont let George W paint in prison. And no golf for Trump.

  4. IJ Scambling
    December 10, 2022 at 10:31

    “When I look at anything Julian Assange has done over the years, whatever it is has the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation.”

    The one encouraging thing here, to me, is that this same-old, knee-jerk, first resort to do a smear has the hallmarks of being worn-out and ready for the turd pile that is “US intelligence.”

    Absurdly oversimplified claims running on hysteria will not last. Recall McCarthyism.

    Change is coming. The wolf-pack is turning inward to consume itself.

  5. Piotr Berman
    December 10, 2022 at 10:29

    ” And if there was one thing the C.I.A. taught me, it was that if I was going to make a judgment or draw a conclusion, I had to offer proof. ”

    Obviously, in the position of an analyst, proofs etc. are important. But I imagine that intelligence agencies also have specialists in fiction writing, and decision makers who choose what the “official version” or a version to be disseminated “according to informed intelligence officials speaking on the condition of anonymity” should be, and build disinformation strategies.

    • WillD
      December 10, 2022 at 20:59

      It’s time to rename these agencies simply because they only use ‘intelligence’ to make people believe their stupid lies. Rename the CIA to Central Information Agency – the word ‘information’ covers anything at all, and is these days far more credible than ‘intelligence’.

  6. December 10, 2022 at 10:06

    If the truth mattered, it would be a very different world….

  7. Larry McGovern
    December 10, 2022 at 06:27

    There you go again, John, speaking truth. Geez, haven’t you yet learned – especially after more than 2 years in the slammer – not to do that?!

    Thanks for being there, and for your courage and integrity.

Comments are closed.