How The Government Made Me A Dissident

I sometimes say the government turned me into a dissident — after I spent 14 years at the CIA and two more at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

I only say it half-jokingly. While I’m proud of winning this year’s PEN Center’s First Amendment award, I never intended to make a career out of being at odds with the government.

Sometimes, though — like when I spent two years in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program — it’s felt like the government’s gone out of its way to be at odds with me.

And it’s clear that our government demonizes people who disagree with the official line. Things got bad for anyone who disagrees with the official line right after 9/11.

We slid down the rabbit hole with the passage of the so-called PATRIOT Act. Enacted six weeks after the terrorist attacks, the law legalized actions against American citizens — including widespread Internet surveillance and phone taps — that had previously been unthinkable.

When the government hired me in 1988, it was widely understood that if the National Security Agency intercepted the communications of an American citizen — even accidentally — heads would roll. Congress had to be informed, an investigation would be launched, and the intercept had to be purged from the system.

Today, the NSA has an enormous facility in Utah big enough to save copies of every email, text message, and phone conversation made by every American for the next 500 years. You can bet they intend to.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my government trampling my civil liberties like this.

Still, people sometimes ask me why they should care if the authorities read their email or listen to their phone calls. “I have nothing to hide,” they say, “so why should I worry about it?”

This question sends chills up my spine.

As anybody who’s worked in the intelligence community will tell you, the government can learn a lot more about you than you realize.

Metadata — the raw information about who you talk to on the phone, or what websites you visit — is incredibly revealing. Analysts don’t need the actual content of your calls or emails to know what you’re up to.

Are you calling an abortion provider? A divorce lawyer? A secret girlfriend or boyfriend? A substance abuse counselor? The feds can find out, even though it’s none of their business.

What kind of porn do you like? What websites do you visit? What church, club, or political group do you belong to? They can figure that out, too.

Most of us don’t want anyone poking around our lives, even if we’re perfectly innocent. (Though with a little manipulation, anybody can be made to look like a troublemaker.)

Believe it or not, our founders saw this coming.

James Madison, the Constitution’s primary author, wrote the First Amendment to protect everyone — especially people who disagree with the government’s policies. We all have a constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition.

The Bill of Rights is the only thing standing between us and fascism. Monitoring the things we say is the first step toward prosecuting them.

So am I a dissident? I don’t know. I don’t care.

The important thing is that I’ve become passionate in my defense of our constitutional rights. I have an inalienable right to freedom of speech, and I’ll continue to exercise it — even at the risk of getting locked up again.

As more of us tough it out in prison, the government will lose its power to take our rights away. As more of us write and speak about government overreach, our chances of preserving our freedoms will grow.

It’s worth the risk.

John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the winner of the 2015 PEN Center USA First Amendment award. 

This article was originally posted at

University Safe Zones A Danger For The First Amendment

Recently while on a speaking tour in California, I spent an evening with a family in the San Francisco bay area. They told me how wonderful it was to speak freely about their values with my wife and me. Apparently, their values weren’t very welcomed in the public discourse of their geographic location. This brought to mind an idea postulated by Winston Churchill: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing ever happened.”

The First Amendment happens to be that truth for our American universities. Last week, journalism professors were telling students that the press doesn’t have a first amendment right to cover their protests, and students are now asking for “Safe Zones.” These zones are to be set up on the campus to be a place where students can shield themselves from uncomfortable or dissenting viewpoints.

“These are the same people who claim they are seeking diversity,” stated famed attorney Alan Dershowitz. “The last thing these students want is real diversity. They may want superficial diversity, diversity of gender, diversity of color, but they don’t not want diversity of ideas.”

The founders of America staked their struggle on the ability to speak, assemble, and petition freely. In fact, there would be no America if there were no First Amendment.

To be fair, freedom of speech has always been a double-edged sword. Constitutional law states few exceptions for free speech, such as speech presenting clear and present danger to national security or public safety, and speech soliciting crime, violence, obscenity, and defamation. Americans have always been able to freely express their values and opinions.

First Amendment values have of necessity been present in our universities as the intellectual debate seeks to progress humanity into greater light, liberty, and well-being. Because most of our universities in America’s founding era were used to train Bible scholars, that light would have translated to the teachings of Christ and the liberties found in His Gospel.  

Colonial scholars – all scholars for that matter – would agree that having absolute emotional insulation and comfort at all times is extremely elementary, and it’s anti-intellectual.

Free speech for me, but not for you, has always been considered fascism, and that is the antithesis of liberty.

My suggestion to college students: quit being babies, use your intellect, speak back to what you disagree with, demonstrate and petition. Your emotional weakness is not a foundation that will sustain freedom.

Ronald Reagan made the assertion that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” That could not be more relevant than it is today, especially on our college campuses, where it is apparent that students are not being taught the truth about the freedoms of the First Amendment and many other truths about the fundamental principles on which the United States of America was founded.

That is why I do what I do. And you can, too.  First, educate yourself with your Bible, the original intent of the Constitution. Then, teach someone!  We would love to help you get started. Go to


Learn more about your Constitution with Jake MacAulay and the Institute on the Constitution and receive your free gift.

Watch: Fox News Host Reveals 1 Item The Entire Mizzou Campus Needs (They Won’t Like It)

Management expert Gary Hamel once said, “From Gandhi to Mandela, from the American patriot to the Polish shipbuilders, the makers of revolutions have not come from the top.” And it appears as though it’s going to take an expert like Hamel to help the University of Missouri manage its way out of the mess it’s in, thanks in part to the self-professed revolutionaries that have overrun the University of Missouri campus.

Western Journalism has been covering the ongoing protests, resignations, and reactions by the protesters and the school administrators. Fox News has also been covering the story. Greg Cutfeld, commentator on The Five, pointed out Thursday that the student body president admitted to spreading a rumor that the KKK was on campus. Gutfeld said:

When hate becomes a hoax, divisive ‘deceptors’ just say, ‘Well, it’s happening somewhere.’ And cowardly academics indulge it…these aren’t babies but students who wish to be treated like babies. The entire campus needs a giant pair of pampers. Meanwhile, thousands in Afganistan protest the ISIS beheading of a little girl. That’s real horror, while our kids fret over mean words. The Five’s been warning you about this for years. Hell. I wrote a book about it called The Joy of Hate. The banning of speakers, the rise of safe spaces, all driven by the noxious notion that speech is somehow violent.

Cutfeld then cut to an interview with a University of Missouri student.

I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here. I think that it’s important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another and start to create a place of healing, rather than a place where uh we are uh experiencing a lot of hate like we have in the past.

Cutfeld responded:

She’s so tired of the First Amendment. Okay. You want a safe space with no First Amendment at all.  Let’s give it to em. I offer the sanctuary campus, a segregated playpen for infants who reject rule of law and agreed upon authority. In weeks, it’ll be nothing more than a violent dystopia of imploding maniacs, providing the world a much needed lesson that fascism flourishes in the absence of guts.

WOW: Read The Jaw-Dropping Email Police Just Sent Students At Missouri

The University of Missouri Police Department sent an email to students on Tuesday calling on them to report “hateful and/or hurtful speech” so those engaging in it can be disciplined.

The email specifically asks students to call the police immediately when they have witnessed these infractions.

“Delays, including posting information to social media, can often reduce the chances of identifying the responsible parties,” the email notes. “While cases of hateful and hurtful speech are not crimes, if the individual(s) identified are students, MU’s Office of Student Conduct can take disciplinary action.”

Mediaite reports:

…the MUPD confirmed that the email was real. When asked about the potential First Amendment implications, a spokesman responded simply, “We are simply asking them to report what they feel is hurtful and/or hateful speech.”

He added that the police did not consider the hateful speech “a criminal matter.” However, “We also work for the University and uphold the Universities Rules and Regulations.”

Major Brian Weimer of the MUPD told Campus Reform by email that, “We just want to make sure everything is dealt with properly…In order for us to take action, we need to have a report of it, not just get it out on social media.”

The MUPD email comes one day after university President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned under pressure from students and faculty over what they saw as an unacceptable response to racial incidents on campus.

Breaking: The Missouri Professor Caught Threatening Media May Pay A HUGE Price

A professor at the University of Missouri lost her job Tuesday for seeking to block a photojournalist from taking pictures of a student protest on the campus.

Assistant professor Melissa Click from the MU School of Journalism got into a confrontation with photojournalist Tim Tai, 20, who is a student of the program. Tai was working on a freelance assignment for ESPN covering the event.

The Columbian Missourian reported:

Faculty in the Missouri School of Journalism were voting Tuesday to revoke a courtesy appointment for Melissa Click, an assistant professor in MU’s Department of Communication.

The journalism school’s Executive Committee, including Dean David Kurpius, met Tuesday morning to discuss the vote and prepare a statement on Click’s actions Monday as seen in footage of a confrontation between freelance photographer Tim Tai and protesters near the Concerned Student 1950 camp on the Mel Carnahan Quadrangle.

Click was seen at the end of the video asking for assistance and for “muscle” to remove Mark Schierbecker, who filmed the interaction and uploaded his footage to YouTube.

In the video, Click tells Tai, “You need to get out, you need to get out,’ as she tried to grab the camera out his hands. “I actually don’t,” Tai responds. “Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here,” Click asks. “I need some muscle over here!” “The Missouri School of Journalism is proud of photojournalism senior Tim Tai for how he handled himself during a protest on Carnahan Quad on the University of Missouri campus,” Dean David Kurpius said in a statement on Tuesday. “The news media have First Amendment rights to cover public events,” he added. “Tai handled himself professionally and with poise.”