Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Did She or Didn’t She?

Newsweek is reporting that Mary McCarthy is not the source of the leaks to Dana Priest at the Washington Post for her Pulitzer Prize-winning story about the secret Eurpoean prisons.

McCarthy’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, told NEWSWEEK this [Monday] afternooon that contrary to public statements by the CIA late last week, McCarthy never confessed to agency interrogators that she had divulged classified information and “didn’t even have access to the information” in The Washington Post story in question.

After being told by agency interrogators that she may have been deceptive on one quesiton during a polygraph, McCarthy did acknowledge that she had failed to report contacts with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest and at least one other reporter, said a source familiar with her account who asked not to be identified because of legal sensitivities. McCarthy has known Priest for some time, the source said.

McCarthy, 61, a career CIA analyst who was working in the inspector general’s office, was then told on Thursday that she was being fired. She was not escorted out of the CIA buiilding, the source said. She also had been assured that the CIA would protect her privacy–just one day before her name became publicly known as the agency official who had been dismissed for leaking to the press, the source said. Ironically, McCarthy, who presvously worked as chief intelligence official for the National Security Council during Bill Clinton’s second term, was planning on retiring from the CIA soon to pursue a new career as a lawyer working on adoption and family cases.


CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano re-affirmed on Monday that an agency official had been fired after acknowledging “unauthorized contacts with the media and discussion of classified information” with journalists. Gimigliano and other administration spokespersons said they were prohibited by law from disclosing the identity of the person who was fired. But government officials familiar with the matter confirmed to NEWSWEEK that McCarthy, a 20-year veteran of the CIA’s intelligence—or analytical— branch, was the individual in question.


The officials, who asked for anonymity because they were discussing sensitive information, said that McCarthy had been fired after allegedly confessing during the course of a leak investigation based heavily on polygraph examinations that she had engaged in unauthorized contacts with more than one journalist regarding more than one news story. The only journalist so far identified by government sources as one of the unauthorized persons with whom McCarthy admitted contact is Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, who last week won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing details of a secret airline and prison network that the CIA operates to detain and interrogate high-level Al Qaeda suspects.


The McCarthy case troubles some former U.S. intelligence officials, who note that the CIA, while aggressively pursuing leaks to the news media, has failed to take disciplinary action against any of its officials for the widely acknowledged intelligence failures of recent years. “Nobody got fired for September 11 and nobody gets fired for [mistakes about,] but they fire someone for this?” said one former U.S. senior intelligence official. In the case of the September 11 attacks, a report by the same Inspector General’s office where McCarthy worked recommended the convening of CIA disciplinary boards for a number of current and former officials. But CIA director Porter Goss rejected the recommendation and has refused to allow even an unclassified version of the inspector general’s report to be publicly released. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, sent the CIA two letters seeking a public disclosure of the inspector general’s findings—one only a few weeks ago—but has yet to get a response.

It sounds as if the CIA and the administration have found the perfect scapegoat in Ms. McCarthy. She acknowledges an acquaintanceship with reporters, and worst of all (or best, depending on your bookings on cable TV talk shows), she gave money to John Kerry’s campaign. To the Bush administration, that makes her the poster child for everything that’s wrong with the intelligence community that led them down the garden path to invading Iraq; remember, in the eyes of the Bush administration, you always have to have someone else to blame your failures on, and the Clinton-era leftovers at the CIA are the perfect target. They can’t respond because they’d lose their job, and once they’ve retired they are lumped into the category of “disgruntled former employees” and therefore their reputation is tainted.

Meanwhile the righties are still all over this as if they’d just found Whittaker Chambers’ pumpkin*. If it turns out that Ms. McCarthy was fired as a sop to the right wing for the disasters that have befallen the administration, how long will it take for them to acknowledge that someone got screwed over because their bosses fucked up?

(*Kudos to anyone under 55 who gets the reference to the pumpkin without clicking the link; you paid attention during American History in Grade 10.)