John Kiriakou Whistleblowers

John Kiriakou: Silencing Another Jailed Whistleblower

The U.S. prison system has put Marty Gottesfeld in one of their modern-day dungeons and cut off his email. But this whistleblower is a fierce fighter for his rights and one day he’ll be doing the same for others.
Boston Children’s Hospital, 2009. (Gary Lerude, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

By John Kiriakou / Consortium News

I’ve written extensively about whistleblower and “hacktivist” Marty Gottesfeld, who was given a draconian 10-year sentence for initiating a directed denial-of-service attack on the fundraising website of Boston Children’s Hospital to protest its treatment of a young girl who’d been forcibly taken from her parents at the insistence of doctors at the hospital.  

The doctors maintained that the girl, Justina Pelletier, was a victim of parental abuse.  It turned out they were wrong. Instead, she suffered from a rare genetic disorder, which Children’s Hospital had misdiagnosed. 

But it was Gottesfeld who became the bad guy and the government’s target.  The doctors who had snatched a little girl from her parents and then accused her parents of unspeakable crimes against their own child, remain free and working at the hospital.

You can read my previous articles about the case hereherehere, and here.  Investigative reporters from The American Conservative and other outlets have also covered the case.  The Peacock Network recently released a documentary about it. It’s the fallout from that documentary that I want to tell you about after a little more background.

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As soon as he was incarcerated, Gottesfeld was deemed a “threat to the smooth operation of the institution” by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  Why?  Because he is a prolific writer with access to the media. 

So rather than put him in a minimum-security work camp, which is what the federal sentencing guidelines recommended, he was sent to the restrictive Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the maximum-security penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Two CMUs in the United States were created for the worst of the worst prisoners — one at Terre Haute and the other at the Supermax penitentiary in Marion, Illinois.  They were meant for the most dangerous and prolific terrorists and criminals in the justice system.

A BOP spokesman said in 2011 that the CMUs were created to hold people convicted of terrorism, drug kingpins, criminals who have tried to radicalize other prisoners and prisoners who have abused their communications privileges by harassing victims, judges and prosecutors.  Gambino Crime Family boss John Gotti died in the CMU, as did Omar Abdul Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh. 

The current CMUs house the last surviving member of the Abu Nidal terrorist group, the “Lackawanna Six” terrorists, and C.I.A. traitor Aldrich Ames, among others.  Unfortunately, the CMUs also hold Marty Gottesfeld and heroic drone whistleblower Daniel Hale. 

To me that’s a clear message.  Sure, the CMUs might house some dangerous people. But they also house people whom the government means to silence. 

The Danger in Marty Gottesfeld

What is the danger in Marty Gottesfeld?  The danger is that he’s going to tell Americans what their government is doing in their names. 

He’s going to tell them about the crooked cops, about the vindictive politically-connected judges, about the pervert prison guards and about how the Bureau of Prisons illegally strips prisoners of their constitutional rights. And then he asks, “What are you going to do about it?  Sue me?”

I’m normally in regular touch with Gottesfeld.  He’s a litigious son-of-a-gun, filing complaint after complaint both in the BOP system and in the federal courts to make sure the government is held to the standards of law and order that it should be. 

I’ve never met anybody who so fiercely fought to protect his own constitutional rights as Gottesfeld. 

He routinely sends me emails, with copies to his wife and his attorneys, detailing his actions. The intelligence and level-headedness behind these complaints has never ceased to amaze me. 

How can a person suffering in one of the worst dungeons run by the U.S. government maintain his clear-headed ability to analyze the situation?  It’s incredible.

Suspended Email Privileges 

I’ve tried to keep Gottesfeld’s story alive in the press as best I could over the past several years.  He sends me copies of his court filings and I speak to his wife regularly for updates.  But last week, after emailing him, I heard nothing back. 

That was unusual. I called his wife, who told me that she; the director of the Peacock documentary on Gottesfeld’s case and both its producers had been barred from speaking with him. The BOP had suspended their email privileges. 

Apparently, the BOP didn’t like the documentary’s conclusions: that Gottesfeld had been wronged and they were punishing his wife and the filmmakers — and Gottesfeld. 

Just a few days later I received a short email from him saying simply, “I haven’t heard from you in a while.  Is everything ok?”  I responded immediately that I had sent him several emails and that it was I who had not heard from him. 

As soon as I hit the “send” button, I received an automated email from the BOP saying, “The inmate with whom you are trying to communicate does not have access to the BOP email system.” 

They had finally silenced him.

Gottesfeld is due to be released from prison in November. That could slip, of course. The BOP could decide that his “good behavior time” should be revoked because he had spoken with the media.  If they think that would further silence him, they haven’t learned anything in the past decade. 

Mark my words — Marty Gottesfeld is going to be a player, a major voice, in the whistleblower and prison reform community.  The BOP can’t prevent that.  I’ll be there to welcome him when he gets home.

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John Kiriakou
John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.


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