The war between the CIA and the White House took an interesting turn today as one CIA source for the press was rolled up and another came out of the closet.
First, the Agency announced the firing of an employee who has admitted speaking to the press:
A CIA officer has been relieved of his duty after being caught leaking classified information to the media.
Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not provide any details about the officer’s identity or assignments. It was not immediately clear if the person would face prosecution. The firing is a highly unusual move, although there has been an ongoing investigation into leaks in the CIA.
“The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information,” said CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano. “That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA.”
Interestingly, the leak was about the “Secret Prisons” being run by the CIA overseas. You remember the “secret prisons” don’t you? You know, the ones no one seems to be able to find:
BRUSSELS â€” Investigations into reports that US agents shipped prisoners through European airports to secret detention centers have produced no evidence of illegal CIA activities, the European Unionâ€™s antiterrorism coordinator said yesterday.
The investigations also have not turned up any proof of secret renditions of terror suspects on EU territory, Gijs de Vries told a European Parliament committee investigating the allegations.
The European Parliamentâ€™s probe and a similar one by the continentâ€™s leading human rights watchdog are looking into whether US intelligence agents interrogated Al Qaeda suspects at secret prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights through Europe.
But so far investigators have not identified any human rights violations, despite more than 50 hours of testimony by human rights activists and individuals who said they were abducted by US intelligence agents, de Vries said.
Can you say “sting?”
It is very, very tempting to connect those two dots. They are begging to be connected. One dot is going so far as to do a belly dance to entice the other. Alas, we have absolutely no evidence at this point so it is pure speculation to say that the entire “secret CIA prison” story was a plant and part of an internal agency leak investigation.
If true, what wailing and gnashing of teeth we will hear from the newsrooms and TV sets of America. There will be outrage that the press was used in this manner. There will be howls for an investigation into a disinformation campaign by the Agency whose purpose was to mislead the American people.
What they’ll really be pissed at is losing a prime source of juicy, anonymous leaks from an agency that in the last 5 years had begun to resemble a rusted out radiator from a 1952 Nash Rambler rather than a top secret branch of the United States government.
Meanwhile, another CIA officer (retired) goes on TV to tell us more of what we already know; that there were some intelligence reports prior to the war that said Saddam didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction – just like there were many, many more that said he did:
A CIA official who had a top role during the run-up to the Iraqi war charges the White House with ignoring intelligence that said there were no weapons of mass destruction or an active nuclear program in Iraq.
The former highest ranking CIA officer in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, also says that while the intelligence community did give the White House some bad intelligence, it also gave the White House good intelligence â€” which the administration chose to ignore.
The above would be laughable in just about any other context. The difference between “bad” intelligence and “good” intelligence cannot be determined until after the fact! Perhaps the gentlemen would like to explain which psychic the White House should have used to tell the difference before the Iraq War.
You might recall the war between the CIA and the Pentagon over the curious and corrupt Ahmed Chalabi and the role that gentleman played in pre-war intel. The Pentagon insisted that Chalabi was a good source. The CIA believed him to be a charlatan. The White House, in the lead up to the war and eager for regime change, chose to believe the hawks at the Department of Defense. The fact that Chalabi’s “intelligence” (largely from a now discredited source known as “curveball”) turned out to be as reliable as Harry Reid’s word of honor became apparent only after we were in Iraq.
Could the Administration have ferreted out the truth on Chalabi before the war? On WMD’s? On all the other Iraq intelligence that turned out to be false, exaggerated, or misleading?
This, of course, is the bone of contention between the President’s enemies and his dwindling number of supporters. From my point of view, with the White House drive for regime change in Iraq picking up a full head of steam, they began to realize that the CIA was a house of smoke and mirrors.
There is plenty of evidence that a kind of bureaucratic paralysis descended on the agency – and following their spectacular failure on 9/11 who could blame them – which frustrated the White House enormously. For every report that has leaked out since the invasion showing the Administration “missed” something or “failed to act” on intelligence, there is plenty of evidence in the Senate Select Committee Report (SSCR) and especially in the Robb-Silberman Report that shows not only that there were countervailing reports showing the opposite of what was leaked but also the overwhelming problems faced by policymakers and elected leaders in the lead-up to the War in trying to find out what exactly Saddam Hussein had in the way of WMD and how much a danger he was to American interests.
Not that it would have mattered that much. I think most honest observers now understand that Bush had made a decision to invade Iraq , probably as early as September of 2002 and no later than February of 2003. Did this lead to a “fixing” or “twisting” of intelligence? Appearances in this case may very well be deceiving. What the record shows is an Administration being careful with intelligence in some areas – WMD - and careless in others – Iraq’s nuclear program. Saddam could try and purchase all the yellow cake he could get his hands on, the fact is his nuclear program would have needed at least 5 years and perhaps a decade to get started again (The Dulfer Report). At the same time, there was overwhelming evidence (despite what Mr. Drumheller says about his one, lone government source) that Saddam had WMD and was going to use it on American soldiers during the invasion.
The President’s enemies will jump on Drumheller’s interview as more evidence that the Administration lied its way to war. I think it shows more evidence of a culture in the CIA that is arrogantly corrupt and still believes that they are the ones who make national policy, not our elected leaders.
The leaker’s name is Mary McCarthy, former NSC staffer under both Clinton and Bush #41.
Intelligence sources tell NBC News the accused officer, Mary McCarthy, worked in the CIA’s inspector general’s office and had worked for the National Security Council under the Clinton and and George W. Bush administrations.
The leak pertained to stories on the CIAâ€™s rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.
Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well.
Interesting that she worked in the IG’s office. Federal whistelblower law requires that intelligence whistelblowers must go through the IG’s office to file their complaint. None of the leakers so far as has been revealed have gone through the IG’s office before spilling national security secrets to the press.
And poor Ms. Priest. What happens if it turns out her Pulitzer was for a story that never was?
Here’s a round up of sorts on both the CIA Leak story and the Drumheller interview:
Bluto posting at Jawa Report:
NBC News has identified Mary O. McCarthy as the CIA officer fired. Interestingly, Fundrace.org identifies a Mary O. McCarthy, with occupation listed as “Analyst” for the U.S. Government as having donated $2000 to John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential campaign.
File that under “The Most Unsurprising Information Ever.”
Kim at Wizbang covers the react from big blogs.
Certainly the inside leakers are the primary concern as Goss tries to instill a new sense of mission and a loyalty which transcends politics within the CIA. But if you want to address the entire problem, then perhaps the MSM would benefit from some of its members being inconvenienced with pesky items like Grand Juries and subpoenas to produce their notes.
This isn’t simply a little graft over a political boondoggle, these are issues of great consequence they’ve been gleefully headlining on their front pages in an almost treasonous way.
Man, I can’t wait for that Libby trial. Seeing Russert sweating on the witness stand may rank right up there with seeing Star Wars for the first time as far as entertainment value is concerned.
Goldstein makes the correct civil liberties argument:
To be clear: I think it is dangerous to stifle a free press; but at the same time, press freedom needs to be tied to responsibility. And printing leaked state security secrets for partisan reasons is not journalism, nor is it particularly brave: instead, it is ideological manipulation using the fourth estate as a way to influence public opinion.
And it undermines the democratic process by ill-serving readers under the guise of neutrality and objectivity.
And when a partisan media is aided and abetted by partisan leakers in our intelligence services, where are we?
Chad Evans is wondering about the “secret prison” story also and covers it from a different angle than I do above.
Ace nails it:
Goldstein calls them tinpot Machiavellianists; I call them Machiavellian Marxists. They’re the worst sort of villain—the villain who thinks his villainy is justified because he’s actually the Hero of the story. At least a mobster knows, in his heart of hearts, what he’s doing is actually evil.
But there is no internal moral restraint in such people. Anything and everything can be done, no matter how underhanded, dishonest, or borderline treasonous, because they serve a greater good than mere law or ethics.
Jay at Stop the ACLU hopes that this is the start of a crackdown on those who leaked the NSA intercept program.
Michelle Malkin links to some more fascinating information about McCarthy:
The report of the 9/11 Commission notes that the National Security staff reviewed the intelligence in April 2000 and concluded that the CIA’s assessment of its intelligence on bin Laden and al-Shifa had been valid; the memo to Clinton on this was cosigned by Richard Clarke and Mary McCarthy, the NSC senior director for intelligence programs, who opposed the bombing of al-Shifa in 1998.
Al-Shifa was the chemical weapons precursor factory in the Sudan that Clinton ordered hit. No evidence has come to light in the aftermath of that bombing that the plant was anything more than a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.
And Flopping Aces has a terrific round-up with all sorts of little interesting fact flakes on Ms. McCarthy.
UPDATE IV: 4/22
For some additional thoughts on the theory that the firing of McCarthy may have been a sting by the Agency to trap a leaker, see this post where I take a few steps back from that premise.