Rep. Moran Urges Presidential Pardon for John Kiriakou

Rep. James P. Moran this week called on President Obama to pardon John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who was convicted of disclosing the name of an undercover intelligence officer and who is currently serving a prison sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask for a Presidential pardon for John Kiriakou,” said Rep. Moran (D-VA), who is retiring from Congress, in a statement entered in the Congressional Record. “Mr. Kiriakou is an American hero.”

John Kiriakou is a whistleblower, as well. The first American intelligence officer to officially and on-record reveal that the U.S. was in the torture business as a matter of White House policy under President Bush. In confirming what the American media and policymakers were hearing whispered–that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques were a matter of standard military and intelligence procedures–he helped begin an intense and overdue debate over whether torture violated international law, tarnished our higher American principles and undermined the critical need for reliable, actionable information,” Rep. Moran said.

“And John Kiriakou is a convicted felon, serving a 2\1/2\ year plea bargained sentence in a Pennsylvania federal prison. The charge against him is violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, whereby John answered a question from a U.S. reporter who was duplicitously fronting for lawyers defending Al Qaeda prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and in the process unintentionally confirmed the classified identity of a CIA colleague. A colleague who, by the way, was being erroneously labeled as an enhanced interrogation techniques torturer.”

“The real issue here is the extremely selective prosecution of John and the ongoing efforts to intimidate him from talking about our intelligence community’s misfires,” he said.

“Whatever John’s misdeeds–and he admits that answering that reporter’s questions was ill-advised and naive–he has more than paid for them. After fifteen years of service to his country, the personal risks and costs of a life in the intelligence world, the legal double-standard applied, and now two years in prison John Kiriakou deserves a Presidential pardon so his record can be cleared, just as this country is trying to heal from a dark chapter in its history,” Rep. Moran said.

Rep. Moran’s statement does not constitute an application for a presidential pardon, and Mr. Kiriakou would not normally be eligible for such a pardon until at least 5 years after his impending release from prison.

The Moran statement does, however, represent a rare congressional expression of sympathy for a convicted leaker, and an unusual gesture of respect for an incarcerated American of any kind.

And in fact, there is some precedent for a pardon, even among the small cohort of convicted leakers of classified information.

In January 2001, President Clinton formally pardoned Samuel Loring Morison, the first person to be convicted of unauthorized disclosure of classified information to the press. A copy of the certificate of clemency is here.

“What is remarkable is not the crime,” wrote Sen. Patrick Moynihan in a 1998 letter to the President about the Morison case, “but that he is the only one convicted of an activity which has become a routine aspect of government life: leaking information to the press in order to bring pressure to bear on a policy question.”

“A presidential pardon is a sign of forgiveness,” wrote Justice Department pardon attorney Roger C. Adams at the time. “It does not erase or expunge the record of conviction and does not indicate innocence.”

House Amendment Would Cut NSC Budget by a Third

The House of Representatives yesterday approved an amendment to cut the budget for the National Security Council by one third in response to NSC moves to block congressional access to information.

“Over the last few months, we have had several instances in which the National Security staff has mandated that the Department of Defense and other agencies selectively withhold information from congressional oversight committees,” complained Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who introduced the amendment. It was not immediately clear which instances of withholding he was referring to.

“Accurate, complete, and timely reporting by the Department of Defense is essential for the [Appropriations] committee to conduct its oversight responsibilities,” added Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN), who endorsed the amendment to cut the NSC budget.

“Over the past few years, the size of the National Security Council’s staff has grown, and it appears that they have moved beyond their Presidential advisory role to involve themselves in decisions which are not in their purview,” said Rep. Frelinghuysen.

The amendment to reduce the FY 2015 NSC budget by $4.2 million, or approximately one-third, passed the House on a voice vote.

House Intelligence Bill Fumbled Transparency

Intelligence community whistleblowers would have been able to submit their complaints to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) under a proposed amendment to the intelligence authorization act that was offered last week by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

This could have been an elegant solution to the whistleblowing conundrum posed by Edward Snowden. It made little sense for Snowden to bring his concerns about bulk collection of American phone records to the congressional intelligence committees, considering that they had already secretly embraced the practice.

The PCLOB, by contrast, has staked out a position as an independent critical voice on intelligence policy. (And it has an unblemished record for protecting classified information.) The Board’s January 2014 report argued cogently and at length that the Section 215 bulk collection program was likely unlawful as well as ineffective.

In short, the PCLOB seemed like a perfect fit for any potential whistleblower who might have concerns about the legality or propriety of current intelligence programs from a privacy or civil liberties perspective.

But when Rep. Gabbard offered her amendment to the intelligence authorization act last week, it was not voted down– it was blocked. The House Rules Committee declared that the amendment was “out of order” and could not be brought to a vote on the House floor.

Several other amendments on transparency issues met a similar fate. These included a measure proposed by Rep. Adam Schiff to require reporting on casualties resulting from targeted killing operations, a proposal to disclose intelligence spending at the individual agency level, and another to require disclosure of the number of U.S. persons whose communications had been collected under FISA, among others.

In dismay at this outcome, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and I lamented the “staggering failure of oversight” in a May 30 op-ed. See The House Committee on Intelligence Needs Oversight of Its Own, MSNBC.

The House did approve an amendment offered by Rep. John Carney (D-DE) to require the Director of National Intelligence “to issue a report to Congress on how to improve the declassification process across the intelligence community.” While the DNI’s views on the subject may indeed be of interest, the amendment failed to specify the problem it intended to address (erroneous classification standards? excessive backlogs? something else?), and so it is unclear exactly what is to be improved.

However, a more focused classification reform program may be in the works.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that he would introduce “a comprehensive security clearance reform bill” that would also address the need to shrink the national security classification system.

The Thompson bill, which is to be introduced “in the coming weeks,” would “greatly expand the resources and responsibilities of the Public Interest Declassification Board,” Rep. Thompson said during the House floor debate on the intelligence bill on May 30.

“A well-resourced and robust Board is essential to increasing accountability of the intelligence community,” he said.

58 Nobel Laureates Urge Congress to Halt Budget Cuts to Science Research

A group of 58 U.S. Nobel Laureates is urging members of Congress to preserve federal funding of long term scientific research for the 2014 fiscal year budget. Today, President Obama released the FY2014 budget, which is sent to Congress for approval and allocation.  With sequestration cuts to agencies which support scientific research and development including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the United States is at risk of falling behind other countries in the development of science and technology.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) released the letter which was written by Dr. Burton Richter, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics, and signed by 58 U.S. Nobel Laureates, many of whom serve on FAS’s Board of Sponsors. Dr. Richter writes that “there is a bipartisan agreement on the importance of federal funding of long-term scientific research. The agreement exists because of recognition that this sort of research fuels the innovation engine that is essential to our economy. The entire federal research, development and demonstration enterprise amounts today to about one percent of our Gross Domestic Product and has steadily fallen over the years, while our rivals in Europe and Asia invest more.”

Dr. Richter underscores the importance of long-term scientific funding for future generations, stating that, “we Nobel Laureates are likely to do well in competition for a reduced level of funding. Our concern is for the younger generation who will be behind the innovations and earn the Prizes of the future.”

“The United States has far surpassed other nations in Nobel Prize winners in the sciences. The ability to foster such talent will be undermined with continued erosion of federal support,” said FAS President Charles D. Ferguson. “FAS is proud to circulate this letter on behalf of Dr. Richter and the Nobel Laureates to raise awareness of potential budget cuts to the United States science industry and future generations of scientists.”

Read the article in the New York Times regarding the letter here.

Click here for the PDF version of the letter or see full text below.

April 9, 2013

Dear Members of Congress:

With the delivery of the President’s budget on April 10, Congress will begin the process of allocating funds to all the areas in the Federal Budget. One of those areas is long-term research and development in the agencies that fund the backbone of the U.S. scientific enterprise: National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards and Technology as well as parts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense. There is a bipartisan agreement on the importance of federal funding of long-term scientific research. The President emphasized it in his State of the Union speech and Majority Leader Cantor emphasized it in a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute. The agreement exists because of recognition that this sort of research fuels the innovation engine that is essential to our economy. The entire federal research, development and demonstration enterprise amounts today to about one percent of our Gross Domestic Product and has steadily fallen over the years, while our rivals in Europe and Asia invest more.

We Nobel Laureates are likely to do well in competition for a reduced level of funding. Our concern is for the younger generation who will be behind the innovations and earn the Prizes of the future. We urge you, even in these financially troubled times, to keep the budgets of the agencies that support science at a level that will keep the pipelines full of the younger generation upon whom our economic vitality will rest in future years.

Respectfully,

Dr. Burton Richter

Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

1976 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Peter Agre

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Sidney Altman

Yale University

1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Kenneth J. Arrow

Stanford University

1972 Nobel Prize in economic science

Dr. David Baltimore

California Institute of Technology

1975 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Bruce Beutler

UT Southwestern Medical Center

2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. J. Michael Bishop

University of California, San Francisco

1989 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Gunter Blobel

The Rockefeller University

1999 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Michael Brown

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

1985 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Thomas Cech

University of Colorado Boulder

1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Martin Chalfie

Columbia University

2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Stanley Cohen

Vanderbilt University

1986 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Leon N. Cooper

Brown University

1972 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. James W. Cronin

Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics

1980 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Robert Curl Jr.

Rice University

1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Johann Deisenhofer

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

1998 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Andrew Fire

Stanford University School of Medicine

2006 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Jerome Friedman

MIT

1990 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Walter Gilbert

Harvard University Professor Emeritus

1980 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Sheldon Lee Glashow

Harvard University

1979 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Roy Glauber

Harvard University

2006 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Carol Greider

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. David J. Gross

University of California, Santa Barbara

2004 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Roger Guillemin

Salk Institute

1977 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. John L. Hall

University of Colorado

2005 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Leland Hartwell

Center for Sustainable Health, Arizona State University

2001 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Dudley R. Herschbach

Harvard University

1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Roald Hoffmann

Cornell University

1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Louis J. Ignarro

UCLA School of Medicine

1998 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle

MIT

2001 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Brian Kobilka

Stanford University School of Medicine

2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Walter Kohn

University of California, Santa Barbara

1998 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Roger Kornberg

Stanford University School of Medicine

2006 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Leon Lederman

University of Chicago

1988 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Robert Lefkowitz

Duke University Medical Center

2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Eric Maskin

Harvard University

2007 Nobel Prize in economic science

Dr. John Mather

University of Maryland and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2006 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Craig Mello

University of Massachusetts Medical School

2006 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Mario Molina

University of California San Diego

1985 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Dr. Ferid Murad

George Washington University

1998 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Douglas Osheroff

Stanford University

1996 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Martin Perl

Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

1995 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Saul Perlmutter

University of California, Berkley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

2011 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. William Phillips

Joint Quantum Institute

1997 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. David Politzer

Caltech

2004 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Adam Riess

Johns Hopkins University

2011 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Richard Roberts

New England Biolabs

1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Brian P. Schmidt

The Australian National University

2011 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Phillip Sharp

Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Hamilton Smith

J. Craig Venter Institute

1978 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. George F. Smoot

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

2006 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Thomas Steitz

Yale University

2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Dr. Steven Weinberg

University of Texas at Austin

1979 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Carl E. Wieman

University of British Columbia

2001 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Eric Wieschaus

Princeton University

1995 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Torsten Wiesel

Rockefeller University

1981 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

Dr. Frank Wilczek

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2004 Nobel Prize in physics

Dr. Robert W. Wilson

Bell Laboratories

1978 Nobel Prize in physics