JOHN KIRIAKOU: Silencing Another Jailed Whistleblower

The U.S. prison system has put Marty Gottesfeld in one of their modern-day dungeons and cut off his email. But this whistleblower is a fierce fighter for his rights and one day he’ll be doing the same for others.

Boston Children’s Hospital, 2009. (Gary Lerude, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

I’ve written extensively about whistleblower and “hacktivist” Marty Gottesfeld, who was given a draconian 10-year sentence for initiating a directed denial-of-service attack on the fundraising website of Boston Children’s Hospital to protest its treatment of a young girl who’d been forcibly taken from her parents at the insistence of doctors at the hospital.  

The doctors maintained that the girl, Justina Pelletier, was a victim of parental abuse.  It turned out they were wrong. Instead, she suffered from a rare genetic disorder, which Children’s Hospital had misdiagnosed. 

But it was Gottesfeld who became the bad guy and the government’s target.  The doctors who had snatched a little girl from her parents and then accused her parents of unspeakable crimes against their own child, remain free and working at the hospital.

You can read my previous articles about the case here, here, here, and here.  Investigative reporters from The American Conservative and other outlets have also covered the case.  The Peacock Network recently released a documentary about it. It’s the fallout from that documentary that I want to tell you about after a little more background.

As soon as he was incarcerated, Gottesfeld was deemed a “threat to the smooth operation of the institution” by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  Why?  Because he is a prolific writer with access to the media. 

So rather than put him in a minimum-security work camp, which is what the federal sentencing guidelines recommended, he was sent to the restrictive Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the maximum-security penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Two CMUs in the United States were created for the worst of the worst prisoners — one at Terre Haute and the other at the Supermax penitentiary in Marion, Illinois.  They were meant for the most dangerous and prolific terrorists and criminals in the justice system.

A BOP spokesman said in 2011 that the CMUs were created to hold people convicted of terrorism, drug kingpins, criminals who have tried to radicalize other prisoners and prisoners who have abused their communications privileges by harassing victims, judges and prosecutors.  Gambino Crime Family boss John Gotti died in the CMU, as did Omar Abdul Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh. 

The current CMUs house the last surviving member of the Abu Nidal terrorist group, the “Lackawanna Six” terrorists, and C.I.A. traitor Aldrich Ames, among others.  Unfortunately, the CMUs also hold Marty Gottesfeld and heroic drone whistleblower Daniel Hale. 

To me that’s a clear message.  Sure, the CMUs might house some dangerous people. But they also house people whom the government means to silence. 

The Danger in Marty Gottesfeld

What is the danger in Marty Gottesfeld?  The danger is that he’s going to tell Americans what their government is doing in their names. 

He’s going to tell them about the crooked cops, about the vindictive politically-connected judges, about the pervert prison guards and about how the Bureau of Prisons illegally strips prisoners of their constitutional rights. And then he asks, “What are you going to do about it?  Sue me?”

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I’m normally in regular touch with Gottesfeld.  He’s a litigious son-of-a-gun, filing complaint after complaint both in the BOP system and in the federal courts to make sure the government is held to the standards of law and order that it should be. 

I’ve never met anybody who so fiercely fought to protect his own constitutional rights as Gottesfeld. 

He routinely sends me emails, with copies to his wife and his attorneys, detailing his actions. The intelligence and level-headedness behind these complaints has never ceased to amaze me. 

How can a person suffering in one of the worst dungeons run by the U.S. government maintain his clear-headed ability to analyze the situation?  It’s incredible.

Suspended Email Privileges 

U.S. Penitentiary, Terre Haute. (Federal Bureau of Prisons, Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve tried to keep Gottesfeld’s story alive in the press as best I could over the past several years.  He sends me copies of his court filings and I speak to his wife regularly for updates.  But last week, after emailing him, I heard nothing back. 

That was unusual. I called his wife, who told me that she; the director of the Peacock documentary on Gottesfeld’s case and both its producers had been barred from speaking with him. The BOP had suspended their email privileges. 

Apparently, the BOP didn’t like the documentary’s conclusions: that Gottesfeld had been wronged and they were punishing his wife and the filmmakers — and Gottesfeld. 

Just a few days later I received a short email from him saying simply, “I haven’t heard from you in a while.  Is everything ok?”  I responded immediately that I had sent him several emails and that it was I who had not heard from him. 

As soon as I hit the “send” button, I received an automated email from the BOP saying, “The inmate with whom you are trying to communicate does not have access to the BOP email system.” 

They had finally silenced him.

Gottesfeld is due to be released from prison in November. That could slip, of course. The BOP could decide that his “good behavior time” should be revoked because he had spoken with the media.  If they think that would further silence him, they haven’t learned anything in the past decade. 

Mark my words — Marty Gottesfeld is going to be a player, a major voice, in the whistleblower and prison reform community.  The BOP can’t prevent that.  I’ll be there to welcome him when he gets home.

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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10 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Silencing Another Jailed Whistleblower

  1. February 2, 2023 at 18:26

    They can silence him. “Suicide” is not at all uncommon in the prison system.

  2. shmutzoid
    February 2, 2023 at 15:23

    The administrative state, from federal agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security, to all levels of our judicial system, to state and local police departments —–> all exist primarily to maintain and further the interests of the owning class. The truth tellers and poor people are seen as enemies of the state. ———Poor people, to the state, potentially threaten the “public order” (code for capitalist relations).
    Truth tellers, be they journalists, lawyers or employees – all who might disclose info in the public interest – are subject to harsh/punitive measures from the state.
    —– Steven Donziger is a lawyer who simply won a huge case for rural folks in So. America victimized by Chevron’s corporate greed. Not only has Chevron refused to pay the multi-billion dollar fine, the state’s persecution of Donziger through thoroughly corrupt judicial machinations is a warning/threat to lawyers worldwide to not ‘interfere’ with any corporate illegality/greed. ……as is the persecution of J. Assange a warning to journalists worldwide to look the other way when it comes to crimes of the empire, from any waste/fraud/abuse to heinous war crimes.
    ——- The numbers of whistleblowers persecuted by the state is longer than ever and will continue to grow as the state further clamps down of the free flow of info.

    • Valerie
      February 2, 2023 at 17:38

      But Mr. Donzinger hasn’t given up :

      “Environmentalist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán’s death is part of a disturbing trend”

      Steven Donziger
      (Article at the Guardian 2nd feb)

  3. Selina Sweet
    February 2, 2023 at 12:02

    Were Gottsfeld’s Congressional representatives involved? I guess not, since they were not mentioned.

  4. February 2, 2023 at 11:37

    When you were talking about the stellar qualities that Gottesfeld possesses you could have just as easily and justifiably been talking about yourself. Bravo on once again for speaking out for those our government wishes to silence so eloquently and forcefully

  5. February 2, 2023 at 11:02

    The Deep State for which so many erroneously self-denominated liberals and progressives bear responsibility. Obviously, no real leftist would have anything to do with anything like this.

  6. forceOfHabit
    February 2, 2023 at 10:24

    Thanks for bringing this to light. (I had never heard of it before.) This looks like a clear case of the government trying to suppress free speech; free speech that is necessary to shine a spotlight on the more serious crimes (like what happened to Marty’s child) the government continues to commit.

  7. Anon
    February 2, 2023 at 09:19

    Years ago a next door neighbor couple of color had their infant son die in an LA hospital… from ingesting the wrong drug due to staff mistake.
    The initial settlement offer was ridiculously low… as reported by a former in-law who acted as the couples attorney (and negotiated a much higher amount through litigation)… the initial offer was standard based on couple’s racial status!

  8. HelenB
    February 1, 2023 at 22:19

    John, when you get done with the prison system, check out the mental wards of hospitals.

    • John Kiriakou
      February 2, 2023 at 09:01

      OMG, I can only imagine the horrors that must take place there. Thanks for the excellent idea.

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