By Kevin Cirilli

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of intentionally disclosing information identifying a covert agent and agreed to be sentenced to 30 months in prison.

His formal sentencing hearing will be in January, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said during the hearing at the federal courthouse in Arlington, Va.

In April, federal authorities indicted Kiriakou in connection with leaking to a journalist the name of an interrogator of Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. He was charged on three counts in connection with violating the Espionage Act, one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and one count attempting to defraud the CIA Publication Review Board.

“Earlier today, former Agency officer John Kiriakou pled guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) and, under the terms of a plea agreement, he will receive a sentence of 30 months in prison,” said CIA director David H. Petraeus in a statement to employees.

“This case yielded the first IIPA successful prosecution in 27 years, and it marks an important victory for our Agency, for our Intelligence Community, and for our country,” Petraeus continued. “Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy. Accordingly, I thank our legal and counterintelligence specialists for their contributions to this effort, and I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Department of Justice in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Kiriakou’s supporters say he was a whistle blower for controversial interrogation techniques like waterboarding, allegations the Justice Department denies.

“Nothing that happened today — this plea does not diminish in anyway the value of his service to his country or the contributions he made to the security of our nation,” his attorney Robert Trout told reporters after the hearing. “He would never do anything with the purpose and intent of injuring our country. His actions that brought him to today were not motivated by any disloyalty to our country nor were they motivated by malice for anyone else or to benefit himself.”

Kiriakou leaked information to journalists, including New York-based reporters Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito, as well as New York Times reporter Scott Shane, POLITICO reported in April. Esposito and Kiriakou worked on a book proposal together and during that time Kiriakou gave him information. Those journalists have not been charged with a crime.

Jesselyn Radack, who represents Kiriakou on whistleblower issues and is the director of national security issues and human rights at the Government Accountability Project, said: “Being able to watch his five kids grow up is what motivated him to take this plea. He wants to have his life back.”

Kiriakou’s case is the sixth leak-related prosecution under President Barack Obama, which is more than under all previous presidents combined.

Republicans — including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney — have criticized the Obama administration leaking classified information to make Obama look tough on national security, allegations Obama vehemently rebuffed.