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From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story, an interview with former CIA officer John Kiriakou, is part of our ongoing series of interviews with interesting people who have experience with the U.S. criminal justice system. The interview with John is around 8,000 words. A longer version, at about 17,000 words, is posted on our website at and covers much more ground – such as the CIA’s covert operations, kidnapping and torture programs, and John’s prosecution. It explores the intersections between human rights overseas and torture at home, and the federal government’s war on whistleblowers and leakers.

Prior PLN interviews have been with people as diverse as Noam Chomsky, Conrad Black, Jeff Deskovic and Danny Trejo. Each has had a unique view of the flaws and problems with our nation’s criminal justice system. I will continue conducting these interviews as part of our process of expanding what passes for dialogue in the U.S. The interview with John was done before the presidential election, and it remains to be seen if the government’s attacks on the media and whistleblowers will subside or increase.

I read about John’s case when he was convicted and sent him a subscription to Prison Legal News once he reached prison. I read his Letters from Loretto blog with interest, especially when he quoted PLN. His shock and dismay at encountering the reality of the American criminal justice experience was clear. The height of irony remains that of the hundreds if not thousands of torturers employed by the U.S. government in recent years in counter-insurgency wars against Muslim insurgents, the only people who have been prosecuted and imprisoned are the whistleblowers who exposed the crimes – not the perpetrators or their superiors.

Last month’s cover story reported on prison and jail debit release cards, and we would like to thank the people who have contacted us with information about their experiences with debit cards. If you have had your money taken from you by a prison or jail, and been forced to pay fees to access your own funds on a debit card following your release, please let us know. We are especially interested in examples from California and Washington.

We have had some transitions at the Human Rights Defense Center, PLN’s parent non-profit organization. Sabarish Neelakanta is now our litigation director and general counsel, and Masimba Mutamba has joined us as a staff attorney and our first William Trine Law Fellow. Additionally, Dan Marshall has joined our legal team as a staff attorney. HRDC continues to prioritize challenges to censorship of PLN and the books we distribute as our core litigation mission. We also continue to litigate public records cases and select catastrophic injury cases, as well as consumer class-action lawsuits involving the financial exploitation of prisoners. We are pleased to have a great team of attorneys, supported by paralegals Kathy Moses and Rachel Stephens in our Florida office.

We continue to face censorship problems around the country which require us to file suit to end such practices, and we continue to win these cases. If you are an incarcerated subscriber and your PLN subscription or the books you order from us are censored, please exhaust the grievance process and send us the documentation, including a copy of your grievance and any responses you receive. We rely extensively on our subscribers to let us know about these problems so we can document them before we go to court.

Enjoy this issue of PLN, and please encourage others to subscribe.