08/11/17 John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou former CIA agent re government torture, lies, Karen O'Keefe of Marijuana Policy Project, report on Rastafarian shootout, Alexis' suit against Fed Govt, Trump drug war lies

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, August 11, 2017
John Kiriakou



AUGUST 11, 2017


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi, this is Dean. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. As indicated in the intro, the liars run this drug war. We're going to talk about that a lot today.

Well, you know, most weeks we're talking primarily about the drug war, the 90, hundred year old prohibition, and we're talking about lies of the government, et cetera. Well, we've got a gentleman who's dealt with the government in a couple of different instances, talking about the lies the government has put forward. He's an author, he's a former CIA agent, and he's with us today. I want to welcome John Kiriakou. How you doing, John?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Doing well, thanks, thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: John, if you would, tell the audience a bit about that situation I was talking about, the lie that we don't torture people.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: That's really -- that's really the lie that I was most closely involved with, and associated with. You know, the CIA said for so many years that they were not torturing prisoners. That was just a lie, a bald-faced lie. And in 2007, I gave a nationally televised interview to ABC News in which I said that it was a lie. I said not only was the CIA torturing its prisoners, but the torture was official US government policy, and it was a policy that had been personally approved by the president himself.

And, Dean, there are so many more lies, just in the most recent past. We can point to the torture program, we can point to the secret prison program. The CIA said there were no secret prisons, in fact there was an entire archipelago of secret prisons around the world. The CIA said that it didn't do renditions and send prisoners to third countries to be tortured, that was a lie as well.

The CIA said that it wasn't spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee by hacking into its computers, that was a lie. So, you know, this is just -- this is what the CIA does, it's just part of its nature, part of its DNA, to lie to us, to lie to the American people, even to lie to their own employees.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there was a recent series, a week-long series on TV talking about the history of the drug war. They were talking about the CIA involvement in the Iran Contra affair, the LA crack cocaine escalation, et cetera, et cetera. They're -- they've got fingers in a lot of pies, do they not?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, they do, and they have for a very long time. You know, most Americans have forgotten that the CIA was accused in the 1960s and the early 1970s of bringing drugs back on US military planes coming back from southeast Asia. So it's not that the -- that the crack accusations were the first time that the CIA was ever accused of drug running.

And let me tell you something else. After I left the CIA, in 2004, I went into the private sector for a little while, and then I went to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the senior investigator. In 2009, I took a trip to Afghanistan, and once I got to Afghanistan I took a helicopter down to the village of Lashkar Gah, which is the capitol of Helmand Province. Helmand Province is the epicenter of the world's heroin poppy production.

And, I naively, as it turned out, asked a poppy farmer why don't you grow things that have two growing seasons instead of poppy? You could grow wheat, for example, or onions, or pomegranates. And he had this frustrated look on his face, and exasperatedly he says to me, you know, the CIA told me in 2001 that if I told them where the Arabs were, I could grow as much poppy as I wanted, and now you come back here and you tell me I can't grow poppy? And I said, the CIA told you that you could grow poppy? And immediately, my military handlers ended the interview.

DEAN BECKER: That's -- that's creepy, to be honest. Well, once again, we're speaking with Mister John Kiriakou. I'm glad to say he's going to be speaking to us on Saturday, August 12, about his life experience and his time in prison as well for sharing the truth with a reporter. That's going to be again Saturday, August 12, at 7 pm at the Dominican Sisters of Houston location, that's at 6501 Almeda Road. John, I look forward to your speaking. I want to tie this in again to the drug war. I have tried over the, well, 15, 16 years I've been doing this to get any top-level government official to come on my program and to clarify the need for this drug war. And of course I've struck out a 197 times in a row.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Without a doubt.

DEAN BECKER: But, your response to that thought, that conundrum I'm up against.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, I think it's actually quite simple. There is no justification for the drug war. That's it. There's just no way to justify this. You know, this is -- I always had pretty strongly held feelings on the drug war. I was always adamantly opposed, not just for libertarian reasons, but just because it's bad policy. And, when I got to prison, after I blew the whistle on the torture program I was sentenced to 30 months in prison, and I got to see firsthand the lives that were ruined by this drug war, and I'm going to give you just one example, one of what are probably hundreds of thousands of examples in American prisons today.

There was a guy I served in prison with, he was from a small town in central Pennsylvania, and I noticed that his wife and three little kids came to visit him every single weekend. I mean, this was a real family man. He was in his early 40s, and you could tell that he just had a really great and strong and supportive family. And I asked him one day what he was in for. And he said that he got caught with weed. It was in his car, he had a light out, a cop stopped him, saw the weed, it became a federal case. He was transporting it. And so, he ended up getting 12 years in prison for transporting some weed. Twelve years in prison.

And he said to me, you know, it's not just that I'm going to miss my children growing up, but he said I have a successful heating and air conditioning business, and I employ a dozen people. And every one of those people was thrown out of work, and when you live in this little village in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, where else are you going to go find work? You can't. That's the economy that we live in today.

So was it really worth it to ruin the lives of, what, a dozen and a half people? Is America safer because this guy's in prison and all these people were thrown out of work? Is society better off with him locked up? Well, the answer's a resounding no. And not just for him, but like I said, for perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in prisons and jails today across the country for silly drug offenses.

DEAN BECKER: It is what compels, what drives me, makes my life ambition to expose this fraud in this direction. Folks, once again we're speaking with Mister John Kiriakou, he's author of a few books as well: The Reluctant Spy, the Convenient Terrorist, Doing Time Like A Spy. John, I would imagine that, maybe not the majority, but a large number of those you saw in that, in those federal prisons, were in there if not for drug charges but maybe for committing crimes in order to obtain drugs.


DEAN BECKER: Go ahead, sir.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. And that's at the federal level. At the federal level, fully fifty percent of all prisoners are in on drug charges. And the feds only make up, or account for, something like eight percent of the prisoners in America. Most prisoners are held at the state and local level. So imagine, imagine, we have two million people in prisons right now, a little bit more than two million people in prisons across the country, and fully half of them are in on drug charges. It's ridiculous. Is that really the best way to spend the American taxpayers' money? Especially when there's no counseling, there's no therapy, there's no nothing.

The point is not rehabilitation, the point is punishment. And so, eventually you're going to do your time, you're going to finish your time and you're going to go back home. And if you've had no therapy, and no counseling, and no job training, and no education, and you finally go home, well, what are you going to do? You're going to sell drugs.


JOHN KIRIAKOU: Because it's the only thing you're going to know how to do.

DEAN BECKER: Well said, my friend. I tell you what, I talk about it, the black market [sic: illegal market] is the world's largest multilevel marketing organization. Always willing to hire.

You know, you were convicted of talking about torture in essence. You know, we have torture going on around this country, with all those people locked up, the amenities in prison are not what they ought to be, and I would submit that we have people being tortured right here in Texas by sitting in un air conditioned warehouses --


DEAN BECKER: -- where the temperature rises to 110, 120 degrees during the day. Your thought in that regard, sir.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, yes, that's a very important point, and it's something that almost nobody is talking about. There's actually been a Supreme Court decision on this, and the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom ruled that it's not cruel and unusual punishment unless the temperature is sustained at 104 degrees or higher. And so you have places like Texas, and Arizona, and New Mexico, and Florida, where there is no air conditioning in the prisons except in the administrative offices, or in the guards' bubbles. That's the only places where they have air conditioning.

And there's another form of torture. This is not, you know, it's not just John Kiriakou using the word torture to describe something in prison, but the United Nations has declared that solitary confinement as practiced in the American penal system is a form of torture. And this is something that most states and the federal government have just decided to ignore, because they don't care what the international community and the United Nations has to say about the prison system.

The United Nations recommends that no prisoner be kept in solitary confinement for more than three weeks at a time. In fact, here in the States, especially in places like Louisiana and Florida, for example, we have people who have been in solitary confinement for as long as 40 years. Talking about 40 years without any human contact. Well, psychologists and psychiatrists at the American Psychological and American Psychiatric Associations will tell you that when a person goes for just 6 or 7 months without human contact, they begin to lose their mind.

And so we're creating this entire class of people, this entire class of prisoners, that not only is violent in many cases, or dangerous, but then also insane by the time they get out.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, the insanity of the American penal system, it is crazy. And of course we now have the advent, or the growth, of the treatment industrial complex.


DEAN BECKER: Sending potheads to be treated. That's another story, I guess. All right friends, once again we've been speaking with Mister John Kiriakou, he's author of The Reluctant Spy, The Convenient Terrorist, Doing Time Like A Spy. And he's going to be speaking to us right here in Houston on Saturday, August 12, at 7 pm. He's going to be at the Dominican Sisters of Houston, 6501 Almeda Road. I hope to see you there, stand in support of the mothership of the Drug Truth Network. John, I want to thank you for your time. Any closing thoughts, maybe a website?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, the pleasure's mine. Thank you. I'm on Twitter, @JKiriakou. And, also on Facebook, and JohnKiriakou.com. Thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. And I appreciate your courage, sir. Thank you.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: The pleasure's all mine.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Reye's Syndrome, disruptive effects on the heart and blood flow in newborn infants, severe constipation, diabetes, dysentery, hemophilia, kidney disease, gout, upset stomach, and ulcers. Time's up! The answer, from the manufacturer:

CHORUS: Pepto Bismol! Nausea, heart burn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea. Yo! Pepto Bismol. Pink does more than you think. Word.

DEAN BECKER: The following story from northern California courtesy KCRA TV.

TOM MILLER: Still detective work to be done out here as the church grounds remain closed off for the night. The founders of this Rastafarian church say their marijuana grows were constantly targeted and they're thankful for the deputies' sacrifices.

Tucked behind the trees along a rural Yuba County hillside, a new age church turned crime scene, the marijuana grown and used by members targeted by an outsider [sic: later reports show that Mark Anthony Sanchez had been living and working at the garden, and was being paid a nominal wage by the owners].

HEIDI GROSSMAN-LEPP: Wherever we walk, wherever we are, just like Jesus Christ he said flesh and blood live in the church. We do have structures where we do go worship. We use cannabis as our sacrament.

TOM MILLER: A staff member called founders Heidi and Eddy Lepp shortly before 9 in the morning, reporting a man with a gun pulling up marijuana plants.

HEIDI GROSSMAN-LEPP: I got on the phone with 911, and I told the lady there's a man on the farm, with the church, with a gun, and he's ripping plants out and he's acting irritable and clearly was very disturbed.

TOM MILLER: Three deputies ultimately had a shootout with the suspect. Two were injured, and the suspect was later found dead.

SHERIFF STEVEN DURFOR: I ask that everyone please keep your thoughts and prayers with our injured deputies, and their families.

TOM MILLER: The church is part of the ONA Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church. Its founders claim there are more than a hundred branches, all worshiping in part by growing and smoking marijuana.

HEIDI GROSSMAN-LEPP: We have protected and saved a lot of our farms under the church model, under the new federal rules and the laws.

TOM MILLER: Sugarleaf recently received a cease and desist letter from the Oklevueha Native American Church, which it operates under, claiming Sugarleaf took harmful actions and made dishonest statements regarding the church. Neighbors along Marysville Road say they've never heard of Sugarleaf.

BRENDA BEHREND: I'm not sure it's called a church. I think it's pot growers that are having an excuse to have their pot plants.

TOM MILLER: The Lepps insist their church practices a legitimate faith, and are grateful for the deputies who protected it.

EDDY LEPP: We're honored that they were there, and they will be in our prayers constantly, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

TOM MILLER: Both deputies went in for surgery, one this afternoon, and one late this evening. I'm told both are out now, and are expected to survive. Reporting in Yuba County, Tom Miller.

DEAN BECKER: Coming out of Colorado, the following story courtesy WFAA.

CYNTHIA IZAGUIRRE: A child in need of medicine says she can't get it in Texas.

JOHN MCCAA: We've told you about Alexis Bortell before, a little girl forced to move to Colorado for seizure medicine, medicine Texas bans. Well, tonight she is taking a stand for all the other children with her same condition. She's filed a lawsuit, whose effects could ripple across the country. Jason Whitely spoke to the young medical marijuana advocate, he joins us now live with this new development. Jason?

JASON WHITELY: John and Cynthia, right now, Alexis and her attorneys argue this is a civil rights issue. They just filed this case in New York, there have been no hearings yet, but the 11 year old activist told us she is taking this new step to try and change a 46 year old law.

Alexis Bortell is growing up as a poster child for medical cannabis.

ALEXIS BORTELL: It will help reduce my seizures.

LIZA BORTELL: Alexis. Hurry, now!

JASON WHITELY: We first met here there in Rowlett two years ago.

LIZA BORTELL: Her legs are purpling. It's okeh, honey.

JASON WHITELY: Pharmaceuticals cannot stop her seizures. So her parents packed her up and moved her to Colorado.

ALEXIS BORTELL: I don't like this.

JASON WHITELY: Where they discovered medical marijuana is the only thing that can help their oldest daughter. Not the kind you smoke, but cannabis oil. And she hasn't had a seizure in 866 days.

ALEXIS BORTELL: I just want kids like me to be able to do what normal kids do.

JASON WHITELY: Alexis is now suing the US Department of Justice to reclassify marijuana. Legalize it as medicine. Not the first suit of its kind, but, her attorneys are hopeful, now that states are legalizing it.

MICHAEL HILLER: But this is the first lawsuit of its kind in the sense that we are making arguments under Fifth Amendment due process laws, we are making arguments under the Commerce Clause. We're making arguments under the Tenth Amendment.

AARON WILEY: Don't take this wrong, I think this is going to go up in smoke just like the rest of them. But, it's worth a try.

JASON WHITELY: Aaron Wiley's a former federal prosecutor. He doubts Alexis can win, but says she still has a shot.

AARON WILEY: You get people talking, that's what can move things. And because now you can move it to your legislators, now they can start to think, well, do I want to get reelected? What do my constituents think? If you can get a groundswell, that's what people -- that's what they're really hoping for.

ALEXIS BORTELL: For me, my grandparents, they live in Texas, and I can only stay like there, but I can't stay the night with them. I can't have my medicine in Texas.

JASON WHITELY: The eleven year old is cornered in Colorado, hoping a court finally allows her to travel with that controversial medicine. Jason Whitely, Channel 8 News.

KAREN O'KEEFE: I'm Karen O'Keefe, and I direct the state policy department at the Marijuana Policy Project. We're a nationwide nonprofit that's dedicated to reforming marijuana laws, including ending the prohibition of marijuana and treating it similarly to alcohol.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Karen, you guys, you know, you've been at this for well over a decade, but it seems like of late there's at least signs of progress afoot, of implementation of good ideas. Your thought there, please.

KAREN O'KEEFE: Definitely. The pace is starting to pick up on reform. Elected officials have been far behind the public when it comes to marijuana policy reform. Support for medical marijuana has grown from 60 to 90 percent support, according to polls for many years, and finally we're starting to see a much, much quicker evolution of state laws. In the past year, six different states allowed medical marijuana, which is the most I believe in a single year and a half or so. And they were all states that went to Trump.

And then we've also had 8 states where the voters have made marijuana legal, and finally we're starting to have state legislatures take a serious look at that as well.

DEAN BECKER: Last week, Cory Booker came out with an idea for the feds to legalize it and for the states to join forces with him, and more recently the National Conference of State Legislatures has urged a descheduling of marijuana. Tell us about that situation, are these the actual legislators, are these the appointees, how is this situation formed and presented?

KAREN O'KEEFE: Sure. The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization that's made up of state legislators themselves, about a thousand legislators across the country gather every year for a conference, and each state is represented by at least one person and often many more, in a bipartisan vote, resolutions that are brought forth. So they need 75 percent support among the individual states in order for anything to pass. So this mean that not only did the majority of states approve it, but it was 75 percent or more of the representatives of those states that said that the federal government should deschedule marijuana, including to facilitate banking for marijuana businesses.

And this is the third year in a row that NCSL came out in support of changing federal laws and policies in order to allow states to decided their own marijuana policies without federal interference.

DEAN BECKER: It's a lack of courage, will power, isn't it, that's slowing progress. Your thought, please.

KAREN O'KEEFE: Well, it's hard to say, now. We've seen a number of states where we've been at the issue for years and years, and it's an issue that a lot of lawmakers legitimately have evolved on. The public as a whole has changed so much in how they feel about marijuana policy. When I started at MPP in 2003, popular support was about 35 percent for making marijuana legal, and now it's in excess of 60 percent. And I think we're seeing a similar evolution in state legislators as well. Sometimes they tend to be older than the population as a whole, and so, you know, feel a little less support among the older population, but it takes time to rethink the reefer madness that people have had drilled into them decade after decade.

I actually talked to a lawmaker the other day who said she voted against medical marijuana at first, and she said that she'd been deceived in her training that she'd had, working on drug policy before as a counselor. So, you know, it takes a long time to overcome assumptions, and then there's also some caution politically, where people sometimes see this issue as being more controversial than it is.

Years ago we did a poll in Rhode Island, and we found that most people supported medical marijuana, but only 25 percent thought the majority did. And I think we're just finally getting to the point where it's seen as a no-brainer and not at all controversial to medical marijuana, and adult use hopefully we'll see a much more rapid evolution where it goes from seeming impossible and like it's a joke, to something that people are now seriously looking at and pretty soon I think, five or ten years down the road, people will wonder, well, what were we ever thinking, this is so obvious that it needed to be treated like alcohol.

DEAN BECKER: Very profound words. Friends, we've been speaking with Karen O'Keefe. She's the director of state policies with the Marijuana Policy Project, and you can learn more by visiting their website, MPP.org.

I hope you heard last week's editorial, where I spoke about the fact that the US drug war destroys the futures of millions of American kids each year, because we're afraid that drugs will destroy their future. The following is Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: To address the crisis of opioid, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, it is a tremendous problem in our country, and we're going to get it taken care of as well as it can be taken care of, which hopefully will be better than any other country, which also has these same problems, or similar problems.

Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities, everybody is threatened, drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: No mention made of the fact these drugs are made by untrained chemists in primitive labs then cut with all kinds of adulterants, including carfentanyl, an elephant tranquilizer.

DONALD TRUMP: And opioid overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled since 1999, it is a problem the likes of which we have not seen, meanwhile federal drug prosecutions have gone down in recent years, we're going to be bringing them up and bringing them up rapidly.

DEAN BECKER: While states and local municipalities work to undo the harms of mandatory minimums.

DONALD TRUMP: During my campaign I promised to fight this battle because as president of the United States my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people and to ensure their safety.

DEAN BECKER: Certainly empowering terrorists, if they're brave enough to grow the flowers we forbid, or enriching barbarous cartels, or creating reason for these thousands of violent gangs, is all worthwhile.

DONALD TRUMP: Today I'm pleased to receive a briefing from our team on ways we can help our communities combat this absolutely terrible epidemic and keep youth from going down this deadly path.

DEAN BECKER: No thought is being given to destroying the black market in drugs, the world's largest multilevel marketing organization, which entices our children to lives of crime and addiction.

DONALD TRUMP: And maybe by talking to youth, and telling them no good, really bad for you, in every way, but if they don't start, it will never be a problem.

DEAN BECKER: DARE to just say no.

DONALD TRUMP: And I'm confident that by working with our healthcare and law enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.

DEAN BECKER: The United States is the only country brave enough or stupid enough to fight two eternal wars, drugs and terror, world wars forever.

DONALD TRUMP: We're talking to China, where certain forms of man made drug comes in, and it is bad, we're speaking to other countries, and we're getting cooperation, but we're being very very strong on our southern border, and I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen that kind of strength, so

DEAN BECKER: Through Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Bush, and Obama, we've spent well over a trillion dollars to stop the flow of drugs yet they're cheaper, purer, more freely available than ever before. It's not like we haven't tried before.

DONALD TRUMP: We will win, we have no alternative, we have to win for our youth.

DEAN BECKER: No recognition whatsoever of the fact that despite the expenditure of a trillion bucks, fifty million arrests, we've never stopped even one child from getting their hands on drugs. What a preposterous piece of s---.

All right, as we're wrapping up here, I want to remind you once again that Mister John Kiriakou will be speaking tomorrow, Saturday, August 12, 7 pm, at the Dominican Sisters of Houston, 6501 Almeda Road. And I'm proud to announce that on Sunday, August 13, I will be speaking to the Houston Oasis, which is a Sunday morning gathering of those who don't necessarily believe in god. It's going to be held at the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center, that's 6500 Rookin, off of Hillcroft, near 59. It starts at 10:30. I'll be speaking around 11 o'clock.

Program notes: starting next week, Friday the 18th, we'll be on at 11 pm following our friends on the prison show. I remind you once again, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacific Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.