University of Pittsburgh
February 20, 2008

Former CIA Counterterrorism Operations Officer John Kiriakou to Speak at Pitt on "Ethics in Intelligence"

Controversial waterboarding technique "probably saved lives, but was a form of torture"

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-John Kiriakou, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who participated in the capture and questioning of the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to be waterboarded, will speak at Pitt from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. Feb. 28 in Room 120 of David Lawrence Hall, 3942 Forbes Ave., Oakland. His free public lecture is titled "Ethics in Intelligence."

Kiriakou served in the CIA from 1990 to 2004, first as an analyst, and later as a counterterrorism operations officer. He said that Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein Abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al-Qaeda member captured after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, broke down in less than a minute after he was subjected to the controversial water torture technique, providing interrogators with information that led to the disruption of a number of planned attacks.

According to Kiriakou, Abu Zubaida was defiant and uncooperative when first captured in 2002, until the day in mid-summer when his captors strapped him to a board, wrapped his nose and mouth in cellophane and forced water into his throat in a technique that simulates drowning.

In a round of national interviews late last year, Kiriakou said that while he believes waterboarding constituted torture, the technique worked on Abu Zubaydah and resulted in the disruption of dozens of planned terrorist attacks.

As a senior analyst on Iraq and the Persian Gulf, Kiriakou wrote the National Intelligence Estimates on Iraq for the president, the vice president, and the secretaries of state and defense. These papers formed the basis for U.S. policy toward Iraq in the mid-1990s.

Kiriakou, a native of New Castle, Pa., joined the CIA in early 1990 after studying at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He spent the next 14 years first as an analyst, and then as a counterterrorism operations officer, with postings around the world. He is president of Second Street Consulting Corp., an Arlington, Va.-based firm that specializes in international business risk analysis. He also serves as a consultant for Hollywood studios developing films in or about the Middle East or relating to terrorism.

His op-eds on the Middle East and Afghanistan have appeared in more than 80 newspapers in a dozen countries, and he is a regular contributor on intelligence issues for ABC News and National Public Radio. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Middle Eastern Studies and a Master of Arts degree in legislative affairs from George Washington University.

Kiriakou is being hosted at Pitt by Mike Frank Epitropoulos, a lecturer in the sociology department who teaches a course titled Peace Movements, which explores various forms of social movements and protest.