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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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December 15th, 2014
01:45 PM ET

Jailed CIA officer: 'Crimes were committed,' officers should be 'prosecuted'

(CNN) - John Kiriakou, a man at the center of the public's awareness of the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, broke his silence for the first time since the bombshell U.S. Senate report was released, and is calling for CIA interrogators to be prosecuted.

Kiriakou, a former CIA case officer, ran counter-terrorism operations inside Pakistan in the weeks and months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. He is currently serving time at the Federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania, having pleaded guilty to leaking classified information about the CIA in his dealings with journalists.

"I think it's not unreasonable to not look at those officers for prosecution. But the real issues is what to do with officers who went over and above what had been authorized by the Justice Department," Kiriakou told CNN's Jake Tapper in a phone interview. "I think it’s clear from the Senate torture report and also from [CIA] Director [John] Brennan’s comments that crimes were committed, and I think that the officers who committed those crimes ought to be prosecuted."

Kiriakou told Tapper that the interrogation methods, including torture, "did not provide actionable intelligence." But Kiriakou says that the effectiveness of the CIA tactics is not the only question Americans should be asking themselves.

"We should be asking ourselves whether or not the techniques were right or were moral. After all, things like rape work or murder work or beating a prisoner’s children in front of him work, and we don’t do any of those things, so why would we torture? I think it’s morally wrong."

Kiriakou was involved in the capture of Abu Zubaydah, whom the CIA has identified as al Qaeda's third-ranking official. Zubaydah was one of the detainees tortured in the program, as detailed in the report issued last week by Democrats on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Kiriakou left the agency in 2004, but shed light on the brutality of the interrogation program three years later, when he revealed to various media outlets that the CIA was water-boarding detainees - an enhanced interrogation method he had been briefed on, but never witnessed.

At first, Kiriakou argued that the program worked, telling ABC News that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded for about half a minute before providing information that disrupted attacks. But it turns out much of the information was wrong. Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in 2002 alone, and many question the value of the intelligence he provided. As Kiriakou learned more, he realized he had been lied to, he now says, and he came to change his views on the CIA program.

Kiriakou maintains that he was prosecuted because of his "whistleblowing," though the CIA says that's not the case. He is currently serving a 30 month sentence, and believes that officers whom engaged in torture methods should also be behind bars for "crimes committed."

For more of our phone interview with the former CIA analyst and case officer, watch the interview above.

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