Settling My Debt With John Kiriakou, Torture Whistleblower

John Kiriaku shouldered the burden of being America’s conscience within the CIA, and was sent to prison for blowing the whistle on CIA torture.

To such a person, I have a sense of indebtedness. Not simply gratitude, but indebtedness, as though I owe him something. After thinking on it, I realized there might be some truth to that.

I think it goes like this:

  1. I do not support torture. I think it harms me, my country, and makes it harder to defend the human race from judgemental aliens, and the evidence supports this conclusion.
  2. I am coerced into financially supporting torture.
  3. I paid for part of Kiriakou’s imprisonment, which he received for whistleblowing on torture.

Ergo, if I want to be consistent with my stance on torture, I owe John money.

I can’t financially support a thing and then say I don’t support it, there’s a word for that.

The good news is that I can repay a debt and take meaningful action against torture at the same time!


Calculating How Much I Owe John

John was imprisoned for 705 days, or 484 business days. Assuming his time is worth $100/hr and he works 5 hours per business day, that’s $484,000 in compensation for time lost.

However, that doesn’t cover his legal fees and other costs associated with imprisonment. We can round up to ~$1 million in damages to John.

$1 million divided by 86 million people brings us to about $0.01 per person.1

Thankfully, John’s campaign—a bargain considering the calculation above—gave me a chance to settle this debt and prove to myself that I mean it when I say, “I do not support torture.”


A chance to take real action against torture

Consider: behavior like John’s should be rewarded, and the behavior of those behind the torture programs should be punished.

How else are we going to stop torture?

There is something to be said for doing good for goodness sake, but wouldn’t it be great if people knew that honorable behavior could also be rewarding in both senses of the word? 2

By asking for money, John is giving us a chance to send that message.


Can’t pay? Offer your time.

If you feel the same, but can’t afford to pay John with money, consider compensating him for his time with yours.

I’m sure he will be grateful for a tweet, an email, a blog post, an article in the NYT, etc. While you might not be able to afford even $1, you can reach someone that can.

Share a link.

  1. True, not all of my money went to prosecuting John, but on the other hand I have no say in how it’s actually spent, and $1 million is owed to John. Perhaps if I could choose where my taxes go I could get off the hook, but that seems like nickel and diming a man who stuck his neck out for me, which just seems petty.
  2. Emphasis on the word could. I am aware that incentivizing good behavior can backfire. However, that is no reason not to acknowledge and reward exceptional behavior like John’s—especially when we are partially responsible for the conditions John found himself in.

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