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Ex-CIA Officer Charged With Leaking Information

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A former CIA official has become the latest target in the Obama administration's campaign against leaks. The Justice Department accuses the agent of violating the Espionage Act by telling reporters about some of the agency's most sensitive counterterrorism operations. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has more.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: John Kiriakou, a 14-year CIA employee, first attracted worldwide attention with his account of the capture of Abu Zubaydah. Kiriakou told ABC News that the U.S. government used every method it could to extract information from the al-Qaida operative.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABC NEWS BROADCAST)

JOHNSON: Kiriakou went on to say he thought there were moral problems with waterboarding. But it later turned out that he wasn't in the room when it was used.

Now Kiriakou is in the news all over again for his dealings with the press. The Justice Department says Kiriakou leaked defense secrets to the New York Times and other outlets, secrets that got into the hands of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Patrick Fitzgerald - the same man who prosecuted a leak by Bush White House official Scooter Libby - is in charge of this case, too. Former national security prosecutor Pat Rowan says Kiriakou may have just one argument within his reach: gray mail.

PAT ROWAN: It essentially becomes too painful to prosecute, because the defendant insists upon the disclosure of additional classified information in order to put together his defense.

JOHNSON: Kiriakou's out on bond, and he's agreed to surrender his passport.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.