April 21, 2006
CIA Growing a Spine?
Huh, has Langley suddenly become the eighth wonder of the world? According to, well, everybody, the CIA has actually identified one of its agents who has been leaking highly classified information to the antique media -- in particular, to the Washington Post, probably for the "secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe" story, for which Mrs. Dana Priest just won a Pulitzer Prize.
And at last, the CIA has taken such a leak seriously: it has fired her and opened a criminal investigation. Land sakes, the Central Intelligence Agency is actually starting to act like -- an intelligence agency:
"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," Gimigliano said. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."
Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not disclose any details about the officer's identity or what that person might have told the news media.
However, a law enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal investigation under way and said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year saying there were secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law enforcement official spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
(I expect everyone who blogs on this will point out the irony: the details about the criminal investigation of the agent fired for leaking came via a leak. So it goes....)
This is either the Sidney opera house, one of Saddam's palaces,
or the new CIA headquarters in Langley, VA
This revelation raises a number of interesting questions:
- Did Ms. X act alone (NBC reports that the agent is named Mary McCarthy), or is there a whole ring of blabbermouths?
- Related: can Ms. X be "squeezed" into ratting out her pals?
- Did Ms. X leak this information in order to force an end to the program? Is this political? Or was it just a personal hit against the president?
- Did the Washington Post pay Ms. X?
And of course, I'll ask John Hinderaker's question for him (I have no doubt he has already asked it himself on Power Line, which I haven't read yet today); this may be the most important one, because it affects how many of these dreadful leaks we'll have in the future.
- Will Dana Priest or any other reporter at the Post be prosecuted as well, under the Espionage Act?
I would think that question 5 would be a lot more likely if the answer to question 4 were "yes;" personally, I think the Post as a corporate entity and also the individuals involved -- writer, editors, and publishers -- should be prosecuted regardless of whether they paid Ms. X; but the reality is that, unless the feds have actually grown, not just a spine, but a pair of "brass ones," then they will only prosecute if money changed hands.
Reuters has a bit more on the story than AP:
NBC News identified the accused officer as Mary McCarthy, and said she worked in the CIA Inspector General's office before being "marched out" of the spy agency on Thursday....
The CIA would not say what the leak involved, and declined to identify the officer or describe the officer's duties at the agency, saying that such disclosures would violate the Privacy Act of 1974.
So much for the "secret European prisons" story. But what about the far more damaging leak of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program? The New York Times claims that it was NSA officers themselves, not CIA, who leaked that story (which makes sense); but I would hope that all these investigations would be investigated in parallel, with everybody sharing information. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I believe this current leak is just a part of an organized political program to destroy our ability to gather information in the war on terror.
I believe the program is being carried out across the spectrum of intelligence agencies, from CIA to NSA to DIA to the FBI Counterterrorism division; and I believe it is a true conspiracy, comprising:
- Agents who hate the whole war on terrorism and want to get back to the "Great Game" of the Cold-War era;
- Agents who just get high on the power of leaking such huge and damaging secrets to the news;
- A tiny number of agents who are bona-fide spies for our enemies, in the pay of foreign powers.
Regardless of the exact mix of motives, I suspect it's organized by the first category: policy dissidents within the CIA who still have a State Department, September 10th mentality and think they own the joint, President Bush and Porter Goss merely being temporary distractions.
The CIA, at least, does not think Ms. X is the only person or case involved:
Meanwhile, the CIA said its own internal investigation into leaks was continuing. The probe began in January.
CIA Director Porter Goss made a strong case against media leaks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February.
"I'm sorry to tell you that the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission. I use the words 'very severe' intentionally. That is my belief. And I think that the evidence will show that," Goss said.
At the very least, I'm hoping that a vigorous prosecution of Ms. X after her firing will put the fear of God into some of the traitors within the Company who are leaking because of policy opposition or just for thrills. If there are actual moles in the CIA -- working for Iraq or Iran, for North Korea or China, or even being directly paid by al-Qaeda -- then an actual criminal prosecution might cause them to take more precautions; but such professionals have already steeled themselves to the possibility of arrest and trial or even just quiet liquidation. They will not stop until they are physically stopped, one way or another.
But simple Bell-curve thinking tells me that most of the leakers would not be actual paid agents of a foreign power, and they may be more easily deterred. At least, let's hope so.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2006, at the time of 5:53 PM
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In an extended period of almost all bad news all the time for the right, today brings something very different. The CIA fired an analyst for leaking classified material to the press. While this needs to be followed by a [Read More]
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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Davis
I would be surprised if there is ever a trial. The government will be too concerned about what might be brought up by the defence. I would be impressed, however, if the charge were, as it should be, treason.
The following hissed in response by: Xrlq
1. Did Ms. X act alone?
2. Related: can Ms. X be "squeezed" into ratting out her pals?
3. Did Ms. X leak this information in order to force an end to the program? Is this political? Or was it just a personal hit against the president?
4. Did the Washington Post pay Ms. X?
Leave Ms. X out of it. We weren't within 100 miles of Langley when this happened - though I think we're about that far now.
The above hissed in response by: Xrlq at April 21, 2006 7:09 PM
The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith
I added a link to your post to One down, how many to go?. I'd love to see them throw the book at the leaker and as many of her media contacts as they can identify. I handled classified info in the Air Force and while I was working for a couple of defense contractors and I knew damned well what would happen to me if I passed it on to the wrong people; can't see any reason for a CIA employee to get off any easier. What she did was a crime and should be treated as one whether money changed hands or not.
The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith at April 21, 2006 10:48 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dirty Dingus
In case you missed it, Patterico points to Tim Rutten's article which seems to be deliberately missing the point. More at my blog on this BTW - http://www.di2.nu/blog.htm?20060422 - which I tried to trackback but failed
The above hissed in response by: Dirty Dingus at April 22, 2006 3:56 AM
The following hissed in response by: kitty
I have posted what appears to be the only picture of Mary McCarthy, plus her background info.
The above hissed in response by: kitty at April 22, 2006 6:12 AM
The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH
Of course a defense-in-depth consporacy theorist would see the firing and prosecution of Ms. X as proof that she was, in fact, acting alone as far as she knew. She can't "rat out" her friends if she doesn't know she has any. There is no better way to leak information than to assign the job of keeping it secret to talkative and politically involved people.
The following hissed in response by: MTF
Wonderful news, and entirely unexpected. I never thought for a moment Porter Goss would actually start enforcing the rules, and I respect him more than I did five minutes ago. Did McCarthy act in concert with others? Not on this report, that's probably a given since there were several sources for the original Post article. No, I'm referring instead to the series of leaks from the CIA intended by the leakers to cause political damage to the President and to the war effort. Did McCarthy have strategic coordination with the Risen sources? Who guided the operation? How were they organized? Did they have any assistance from or contact with any foreign intelligence services in this effort?
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