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Ex-CIA Official Joins Senate Foreign Relations Committee Staff

According to knowledgeable sources, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has hired John Kiriakou, the former CIA official who assisted with the 2002 capture of al-Qaeda detainee Abu Zubaydah and who said the detainee was tortured, as an investigator. Kiriakou, a CIA counterterrorism official from 1998 to 2004, will start work this week, focusing on the Middle East and South Asia for the committee.

In late 2007, Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly acknowledge the treatment of Abu Zubaydah. Abu Zubaydah was a member of al-Qaeda — whom author Ron Suskind claims is mentally challenged — whom the CIA captured in Pakistan in 2002. Kiriakou was a member of the team that captured Abu Zubaydah, whose interrogation became abusive after Kiriakou no longer handled him. CIA officials waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, and while Kiriakou told ABC News and The Washington Post that he was not present for that abusive technique — he had left the Abu Zubaydah interrogation by that time, and declined to be certified in the CIA’s interrogation techniques — he has said he considers the waterboarding to be both necessary but immoral.

He told The Post:

“Maybe that’s inconsistent, but that’s how I feel,” he said. “It was an ugly little episode that was perhaps necessary at that time. But we’ve moved beyond that.”

Kiriakou did not respond to messages left at his office at McLarty Associates, a consulting firm where he maintained an office as of Monday, though he was never employed there. Staffers for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee declined comment.

It’s likely that the foreign relations committee will not be the only committee Kiriakou deals with. Last month, as first reported by The Washington Independent’s Daphne Eviatar, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) directed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to investigate the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program. While Kiriakou inquires about the direction and scope of U.S. foreign policy efforts in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, other investigators may well question his role in the Abu Zubaydah affair.

Update: This post was initially filled with factual errors. Kiriakou was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1998 to 2004, but only served in Pakistan in 2002. He was never certified in the CIA’s interrogation program. While he shared office space with McLarty Associates, he was not an employee. The last sentence of this post has been changed for lack of clarity as well. I apologize for the errors.

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