John Kiriakou, the only CIA officer connected with the agency's torture program who served jail time, said Monday that the agency did not obtain useful information from the program and that interrogators should face criminal charges.
Kiriakou, a former CIA case officer who assisted with counterterrorism operations in Pakistan after 9/11, is currently serving a 30-month prison sentence for revealing the name of a CIA agent to a reporter. In a 2007 television interview, Kiriakou was one of the first to acknowledge that the CIA waterboarded detainees.
During a phone interview from prison with CNN's Jake Tapper on Monday, Kiriakou also made a distinction between CIA interrogators in the field who were told by superiors that techniques used on detainees were legal and those who knowingly went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department.The latter group, Kiriakou said, should face criminal charges.
Those charges, however, seem unlikely to be filed. Justice Department investigators have reviewed the entire Senate report and announced they did not find sufficient information to bring criminal charges.
Kiriakou also said information obtained through torture techniques did not produce "actionable intelligence."
"It's my experience that prisoners will tell you essentially anything you want to know just so the torture will stop," Kiriakou said. "When I was in Pakistan and we were interrogating prisoners who had crossed the border from Afghanistan, the best actionable intelligence that we were able to glean from them we collected in the course of a normal conversation, just sitting across the table from these prisoners."
"You tell them the truth. You say, 'Look, I'm the nicest guy you're gonna meet in this experience, you can talk to me now. Or you can go to Guantanamo and my colleagues maybe aren't going to be so nice.'"
Kiriakou added that Americans should be considering the morality of torture, not just the effectiveness of it.
"After all, things like rape work or murder work or beating a prisoner’s children in front of him work, and we don’t do any of those things. So why would we torture? I think it’s morally wrong."
Officials from the Bush administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, have defended the CIA's program by saying it produced information that protected the United States from another attack after 9/11.
"It worked. It absolutely did work," Cheney said Sunday on "Meet the Press."
While Cheney has said the Bush administration was careful to make sure the techniques used in the program were legal, Kiriakou said interrogators had broad latitude after 9/11.
"Immediately after 9/11, there really weren't any specific orders," he said. "We were flying by the seats of our pants back in those days and the instructions were just to capture as many al Qaeda fighters as we could and try to get as much information as we could on any planned or impending attacks."