When the OtherWords editorial service began running John Kiriakou’s column in May, it became an instant hit. His opinion pieces on whistleblowing, national security, mass incarceration, and other vital issues now run in dozens of newspapers and websites, thanks to his unique first-hand perspective and refreshingly conversational voice.

OtherWords readers may find themselves seeing Kiriakou’s name crop up outside the op-ed pages more often these days. That’s because he’ll receive the 2015 PEN Center USA First Amendment award on November 16. Previous winners of this prestigious honor include Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Chris Hedges, and Robert Scheer.

John Kiriakou Close Up

Truthout.org/Flickr

Kiriakou is a former CIA officer who spent two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency’s use of torture and the author of The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror. Over the course of his incarceration, he became dedicated to the cause of fixing America’s racist and inhumane criminal justice system. After his release, Kiriakou became an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, OtherWords’ parent organization.

“IPS was proud to be able to reach out a hand and bring John Kiriakou on board as an associate fellow to educate our country on how to end torture, overhaul the prison system, and to help people around the world pass laws to protect whistleblowers like him,” said IPS Director John Cavanagh.

“The PEN Center gives its First Amendment award to champions who put their lives on the line to defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally,” Cavanagh added. “That sums up our associate fellow, John Kiriakou. We at IPS congratulate him.”

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Columnist Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org