As it turns out, retired CIA agent John Kiriakou has an active imagination, basically.
According to a piece by veteran intelligence reporter Jeff Stein, Kiriakou "basically made up" details about the waterboarding of al Qaeda agent Abu Zubaydah.
Arguing that waterboarding — or simulated drowning — is actually effective in forcing prisoners to share secret information, Kiriakou told ABC News’ Nightline in April, “The next day [after his first time being waterboarded], he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate.”
“From that day on, he answered every question,” he said, according to ABC. “The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.”
"Now comes John Kiriakou, again, with a wholly different story," Stein noted in Foreign Policy. "On the next-to-last page of a new memoir, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror (written with Michael Ruby), Kiriakou now rather off handedly admits that he basically made it all up."
"I wasn't there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I'd heard and read inside the agency at the time," Kiriakou reportedly said.
"But after his one-paragraph confession, Kiriakou adds that he didn't have any first hand knowledge of anything relating to CIA torture routines, and still doesn't," Stein continued. "And he claims that the disinformation he helped spread was a CIA dirty trick: "In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the fine arts of deception even among its own."
Kiriakou had insisted repeatedly to ABC News that waterboarding, while "torture," supposedly "saved lives," even though he had no way of knowing that.
The CIA has since destroyed all videotapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogations. He was allegedly subjected to waterboarding at least 83 times.