JOHN KIRIAKOU: US Justice Dept’s Next Victim

Daniel Duggan is facing the same extreme tactics applied to Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Daniel Hale and others caught in Washington’s “national security” dragnet.

(Rawpixel/Public domain)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Many of us who write for and read Consortium News are worried about Julian Assange’s personal well-being, especially amid rumors that the British High Court will soon issue a decision to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher to the notorious Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) to face multiple counts of espionage.

Julian deserves unwavering support, at the very least because he alerted the world to crimes being committed by the U.S. government.  His bravery has been well-documented, even if the government says that he is a danger to American national security.

The U.S. Justice Department has made something of a sport of attacking people on “national security” grounds.  Just look at what has happened in recent years to Tom Drake, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Daniel Hale and this writer.

The Justice Department’s attack dogs told Tom Drake and Chelsea Manning that they had the “blood of American soldiers” on their hands.  That was an outrageous lie, of course.  They told Jeffrey Sterling that he had aided Iran’s nuclear program.  That was made up out of whole cloth.  They told Daniel Hale that he had weakened America’s war-fighters.  That was ludicrous.  They told me that I had “weakened our democracy” and “aided the enemy” after I blew the whistle on the C.I.A.’s illegal and immoral torture program.  Those were more outrageous lies.

Now they’re going after a man who has done nothing to hurt anyone, who has done literally nothing to weaken the United States or to strengthen its enemies.  I’m talking about Daniel Duggan.  The father of six is facing 60 years in prison for allegedly assisting the Chinese.  Let me explain how ridiculous the accusation is.

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Duggan, 54, is a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot who retired from the military in 2002 with the rank of major, married an Australian woman and became an Australian citizen, simultaneously giving up his American citizenship.

From 2005 to 2014, he lived in Australia, where he founded Top Gun Tasmania, a company that offered flights on military jets for tourists.  In 2014, he sold the business and moved to Beijing to work as an aviation consultant.  It was in Beijing that he took a job as an instructor at a South Africa-based flight school, where he trained Chinese fighter pilots.  So what, right?

DOJ Cites Sanctions 

Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Apparently to the Justice Department, that constituted a major crime.  The DOJ maintains that Chinese pilots are on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list.  Prosecutors stated further that the address that Duggan and a Chinese partner used was also on a sanctions list briefly in 2014 and 2016.  As a result, Duggan was charged with arms trafficking and money laundering because of the training.  The odd thing is that literally nobody else associated with the school has been charged with any crime.

Duggan, however, has been held in an Australian maximum-security prison for nearly a year, classified as an “extremely high-risk restricted inmate.”  Much of his time has been in solitary confinement, even though he has not been charged with any crime in Australia and none of the other people at the aviation consultancy has been charged with any crime.

His wife and legal team filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council saying that his incarceration was unjustified and was causing him severe psychological distress.  Furthermore, he is not receiving appropriate care for a condition he has called benign prostatic hyperplasia.

A clinical psychologist called the conditions in which he’s being held “extreme” and “inhumane.”  Earlier this year the Australian inspector general for intelligence and security announced that he would conduct a formal inquiry into Duggan’s detention.  That’s a decent start, but it’s not going to solve anything.

In the meantime, he’s still facing extradition to the United States.

Dan Duggan is facing the same heavy-handed tactics that Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Daniel Hale, and others caught in the U.S. government’s overzealous national security dragnet have faced.  He’s looking at the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.  He’s looking at spending much of that in a system that uses solitary confinement in such a way that the United Nations has declared it to be a form of torture.  He’s looking at being isolated in a maximum-security prison, where he will receive substandard medical care and animal-grade food.  And for what?

The deeper problem is that this is not at all a clear-cut case of a person violating national security law.  Duggan is just a guy caught up in big state politics.  The issue here is that the U.S. government is engaged in a cold war with China, whether it’s over trade, Chinese successes in Africa, the Belt & Road Initiative, espionage and counterespionage, or placating the military-industrial complex. 

Dan Duggan is a victim of that cold war.  He’s a victim of a Justice Department that’s gone hog wild in its prosecution of low-hanging fruit, especially in national security cases. It’s a Justice Department where eager young prosecutors get promoted by prosecuting you, not for not prosecuting you.  It’s going to be a long road for Duggan and his family.  We can only hope that his legal team has the wherewithal to fight that fight.

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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18 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: US Justice Dept’s Next Victim

  1. Edward Q
    September 9, 2023 at 19:19

    One of the things that puzzles me about cases like this is: what the attitude of these prosecutors is toward the law? Do they take the idea of justice seriously? Do they have a flippant attitude toward destroying the lives of other people? Is there a range of attitudes by prosecutors?

    They seem like mercenaries; hired guns that are paid to destroy people. Duggan is hardly the only target of an unjust prosecution. The problem is at the institutional level.

  2. Steve Williams
    September 9, 2023 at 03:51

    And for Duggan and Assange it is the complicity of the present and former Australian governments to do the bidding of US governments and the deep state, Albanese should tell the US release Duggan and Assange or get your assets out of Australia

    • Piotr Berman
      September 9, 2023 at 14:17

      Duggan is in Australian prison, solitary confinement and all. Compare with conditions of Navalny…

  3. WillD
    September 9, 2023 at 00:21

    And the Australian government is obediently acquiescing the the dictates of the US government, just as the UK is with Assange. Holding men indefinitely without charge and without being convicted of any crime! It has a weak government with an even weaker ‘milquetoast’ prime minister, incapable of standing up to the US tyrants! Australia needs to grow a pair of b***s, and push back – hard.

    The democratic notion of innocent until proven guilty has been reversed into guilty until proven innocent!!!

  4. September 8, 2023 at 19:16

    I don’t understand how the US can imprison a person who is not a citizen of this country on trumped up charges. The fact that Duggan was once a US citizen, but is not any more, does not make him a candidate for persecution (or prosecution) in this country. I’m ashamed of Australia too for doing the US bidding by arresting this man who has done nothing against Australia or the US. The total arrogant idiocy of our government, and especially our justice system is becoming more and more obvious and frightening. There are too many people who are apparently willing to do evil things that go against common sense or even humanity simply because someone with “power” of one sort or another tells them to.

  5. Dave E
    September 8, 2023 at 19:11

    So, let’s say I’m in an airport, about halfway through a bag of potato chips. The Chinese national sitting next to me just got off a long flight where all he got was a bag of pretzels. I say, “here, have the rest of these potato chips! They’re all yours!”

    He politely insists on paying for them, knowing how inflated our airport prices are.

    So, I’ve just done business with a person on a the sanctions list. Let’s say he’s a military guy on vacation. Now I’m a criminal?

    I’m just trying to comprehend this.

  6. C. Parker
    September 8, 2023 at 17:06

    The Department of Justice is okay with the US military training and arming Ukrainian uber right wing nationalists since 2014.

    The DOJ is fine when the vice president withholding $1 Billion in US aid to Ukraine until a certain prosecutor is fired. His job was terminated on behalf of Joe Biden due to the prosecutor getting too close to uncovering corruption which includes the son of the vice president.

    Same VP provokes a proxy war against Russia once he is placed in office as President. The US military trains Ukrainian military how to use US made weapons, missiles, tanks and perhaps even F16’s—requiring the US military continue to train Ukrainians.

    Americans are to believe Russia is the aggressor. In fact, as it was said by Lloyd Austin of the DOD the purpose is to weaken Russia.

    Weaken or wipe our Russia so the US military goes to war with China.

    Duggan must have really angered the DOJ. Seeing an ex-patriot whose job is training Chinese pilots in Africa. It is dangerous to anger a failing empire. A lot of innocent people get hurt. Hopefully, this story will grow legs, but, it is just hope.

  7. Selina Sweet
    September 8, 2023 at 12:58

    Ashamed. Lincoln is rolling around in his grave. This is the malignant rotting fruit of Nuland, Sullivan, Biden, Blinken’s corporatized terror of China doing capitalism more smartly (where the citizenry benefit not just the oligarchs) than the USA. Where China – instead of making war – make equitable mutually beneficial arrangements with other countries – methodically and incrementally – cooperatively. And without imposing arm twisting sanctions. In reaction to the growing inevitable, our luminaries attack anything that moves to reassure themselves they are in control of something. What better than a nondescript individual teaching flying lessons to Chinese? Now that is one powerful punch in China’s face, right? At what further lengths will my country go before waking up to right action and cancel student debt and pour money – lavishly – into our public educational institutions to nurture our students into blooming with fire and creativity as a mature response to China’s successes?

  8. Richard A. Pelto
    September 8, 2023 at 12:23

    Is this because this multicultural, diverse society has become imperialistic?
    And do its consequences, both internally and externally, justify its actions?

  9. BettyK
    September 8, 2023 at 12:00

    The “injustice department” strikes again! And again! And again! Ad nauseam.

  10. dfnslblty
    September 8, 2023 at 10:51

    doj /usa govt— absolutely immoral and insane,
    Both are berserk & uncontrolled.

    ¿By what legal force can usa remand a foreign citizen, other than intimidation, coërcion and subterfuge of a foreign nation.

    Protest Loudly!

  11. Carolyn L Zaremba
    September 8, 2023 at 10:42

    We do not live in a democracy. The government of the U.S. really considers the word “democracy” to be a swear word that they spit out whenever they wish to pretend they support it, but they really don’t. The U.S. government is like a creature eating its own legs off, thinking it’s going to walk better without them. How long will it take for the rest of the world to put this rabid animal down?

    • CaseyG
      September 8, 2023 at 17:46

      Hi Carolyn;
      sigh—-it appears that Democracy is now dead—the new name appears to be MOCKracy as America bulldozes the ideas of the Preamble.

  12. Lois Gagnon
    September 8, 2023 at 10:15

    I fear what the Justice Department has done up to now is just the beginning of what they have in store for us as this out of control empire continues its decline. Solidarity with those targeted is our only hope of surviving this empire’s demise.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    September 8, 2023 at 09:36

    {Calvinball} Rules based order.

  14. September 8, 2023 at 09:18

    It is always people like Daniel Duggan, Wen Ho Lee, and Edward Snowden who get the book thrown at them in attempted Espionage Act prosecutions accompanied by concerted character assassination campaigns, rather than highly networked parapolitical insiders who geopolitically play the field in far more meaningful or substantial ways, such as Erik Prince (see Whitney Webb, “The Prince and The Spy,” Unlimited Hangout, May 23, 2023), Hunter Biden and the Branstads (see “Joe Biden Lied At Least 16 Times About His Family’s Business Schemes,” US House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, August 24, 2023, and Mari Hvistendahl and Lee Fang, “China’s Man in Washington,” The Intercept, October 15, 2020), and the assorted domestic operatives within sophisticated foreign espionage networks that have infiltrated Congress, the intelligence agencies, and other institutions of power at all levels of the hierarchy (for example, see “Pentagon Probes Punishment of Whistleblower,” The Washington Times, October 20, 2004, and Brad Friedman, “Sibel Edmonds: The Traitors Among Us,” HUSTLER, March 2010).

  15. September 8, 2023 at 08:27

    Until we dismantle the “intelligence community” and scatter it to the winds as JFK once remarked, we won’t have a free country. Anyone can be charged with anything at this point. Protesters and journalists can be called terrorists and locked up for good. How do regular Americans stand for this? How does anyone stand for this?

  16. TP Graf
    September 8, 2023 at 07:27

    We can arm one despicable government after another (our own foremost) but god forbid some dude trains pilots from China while living outside the country.

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