Visiting CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou in Federal Prison


Kevin Gosztola driving away from FCI Loretto after visiting CIA whistleblower John KiriakouOn Saturday, I drove three and a half hours with Firedoglake editor-in-chief Jane Hamsher from Washington, DC, to the federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, to visit former CIA officer and whistleblower John Kiriakou.

He has been imprisoned for nearly a year and in that time Firedoglake has been publishing “Letters from Loretto,” which have provided him a way to share his experiences inside the prison with the world (and also provided the prison with excuses for retaliating against him).

We arrived at the prison about noon. Though we had tried to go in as press, we did not get approved because it is a lengthy bureaucratic process that time did not allow for.  The prison had only started processing our request a few days ago when we requested permission to interview Kiriakou. So, we instead went in as visitors, who Kiriakou had put on his visitors list.

The guard at the security station by the entrance to the facility took our personal information and began the process of allowing us to enter the facility. He noticed that Hamsher was wearing camouflage pants and told her she could not enter wearing them, so she went into the bathroom and turned the pants inside out. (Kiriakou had never known or heard of such a rule.)

I looked at the “Visitors Rules.” The facility could not have been more clear that they want all visitors to come in “conservative dress.” I could not find anywhere that it said specifically no camouflage pants. Visitors are apparently not supposed to wear “utility pants” or “fitness” clothing for whatever reason. It said in one part of the rules “nothing vulger.” (Yes, the word was spelled like that.)

The visitors room can probably seat fifty to seventy-five people. An officer seats us in plastic utilitarian chairs.  The room is probably a little over half full with visitors and inmates filling rows of chairs, which face each other. The inmates sit on one side and visitors sit on the other.

I sit across from Hamsher while she asks if I have ever been to a federal prison. I answer no. Minutes later, we see Kiriakou come out of a door wearing teal colored inmate attire and hand some kind of a slip to a guard in a station watching over the visitors room. He shakes my hand, gives Hamsher a hug and then tells me a guard is going to ask me to move because I am sitting on the wrong side. I move and Kiriakou sits down.

Kiriakou does not waste a moment getting to the latest on his situation in prison. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP), he reports, has come back with an even worse deal for finishing the last part of his 30-month sentence. He says he is only going to get 86 days in a halfway house. (According  to Kiriakou’s wife they recently released a guard who had assaulted a prisoner to a halfway house after serving only 6 months of his sentence.)

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