My name is Clifford Reese, I am CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou’s cousin. I was proud to attend the action started by Firedoglake to put pressure on Senate and Congress members to request John be moved to a halfway house near his family.
The day began at the Capitol Cafe the morning of May 9th. I was first joined by Suzanne O’Hatnick from Interfaith Action for Human Rights who has strongly come out against torture and in support of John. We were also with Dr. Lih Young, Todd Wetzelberger, Sarah Damian from GAP and Cayman Kai of Code Pink. Thanks to Sarah and Cayman for tweeting information and photos throughout the day.
It was a small but committed and diverse group, very representative of John’s supporters.
We had packets provided to us by Firedoglake with information on John, letters of support by Congressmen Doggett and Moran and John’s op-ed from the LA times. For the day we visited 18 Senate Offices and 6 offices in the House.
In most of our visits we talked to front office staff and left our information. We didn’t expect to meet with any Senators and Representatives themselves, as most of the staff would tell us “It’s Friday”. Most of the office staff we talked to seemed to be aware of John’s case and were happy to listen to us and take our information. The fact we could show support from Representatives Moran and Doggett helped us a great deal. We got to sit in longer meetings with staff of Senators Susan Collins, Angus King and Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Collins’ staff commented she was surprised that House Representatives wrote letters and wasn’t sure they could do anything in a DOJ case because of “separation of powers”. I reminded her we are not asking to change or reduce his sentence and that halfway house is still punishment which he is eligible for.
Senator Warren’s staff briefly came out to talk with us, didn’t know much about John’s case but listened to us, seemed genuinely concerned and would show the Senator our concerns.
Senators King’s staff had a scheduled meeting with us. We got to meet with Dep. Press Secretary Margaret Williams and assistant Jim Catella. They were well prepared to speak. They talked about Senator King’s commitment to getting the torture report out. Mr. Catella said though that there were “proper channels” for whistleblowers to follow and mentioned John and Edward Snowden as not following those channels. They knew John’s case well and said that in the light of him possibly getting 20+ years for espionage charges, 30 months seemed “lenient”. We countered that the nature of the DOJ charges assumed he meant harm to his country where all he did is verify a name known to reporters that was never published. No more than Leon Panetta did as John has pointed out. We insisted it was part of a culture of CIA retribution that continues even now while John is in prison. We said John would be better served being in a halfway house and being able to add to the discussion on the torture report than in prison. They ended up saying they could see our points and would forward the information to the Senator.
Overall I felt it was a good day and am hopeful that John will get some more support on his behalf. I know that many that couldn’t be with us in DC made calls to their representatives and I thank them all.