Mary McCarthy was fired today by the CIA for allegedly being Dana Priest’s source for a Washington Post article revealing the agency’s policy of extraordinary rendition: kidnapping terror suspects and whisking them to foreign prisons for torture and other holiday fun. The NY Times reports:
The C.I.A.’s inquiry focused in part on identifying Ms. McCarthy’s role in supplying information for a Nov. 2, 2005, article in The Post by Dana Priest, a national security reporter. The article reported that the intelligence agency was sending terror suspects to clandestine detention centers in several countries, including sites in Eastern Europe.
Even more scarily the NY Times (TimesSelect membership req’d) reported yesterday that once a suspect is “rendered” to a foreign country they may disappear completely even to the extent of never being heard from again:
“Some of these folks have never been heard from again, right?”
“Yup,” said Curt Goering. “That’s right.”
…In past years, stories about torture and “the disappeared” have been associated with sinister regimes in South and Central America. The attitude in the United States was that we were above such dirty business, that it was immoral and uncivilized, and we were better than that.
But times change, and we’ve lowered our moral standards several notches since then. Now people are disappearing at the hands of the U.S. government.
…Some of the individuals swept up by rendition simply vanish.
“This is a kind of netherworld that people disappear into and don’t frequently emerge from,” said Mr. Goering. “It’s a world that’s outside the reach of law. These individuals might as well be on another planet.”
There is no way to know how many people have been seized, tortured or killed.
They vanish and no one knows if they are alive or dead. So what sacred secret precisely is the CIA protecting by firing McCarthy? The fact that our nation’s intelligence agency has become no better than Stalin, Beria, the old KGB and the Soviet Gulag??
Sen. Pat Roberts, of course is prepared to gussy this up in finery saying in the Post that Mary McCarthy endangered the war against Osama bin Laden:
Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate intelligence panel, welcomed the CIA’s actions. In a statement, he said leaks had “hindered our efforts in the war against al Qaeda,” although he did not say how.
“I am pleased that the Central Intelligence Agency has identified the source of certain unauthorized disclosures, and I hope that the agency, and the [intelligence] community as a whole, will continue to vigorously investigate other outstanding leak cases,” Roberts said.”
Who’s he kiddin’?? Mary McCarthy did America a great service and if Porter Goss and the other idiots who fired her had a brain in their head they’d realize she was trying to save the agency from its worst impulses. Besides, firing her will only rev up the nation’s investigative reporters to dig even deeper into this story. I’d seriously doubt there isn’t tons more dirt to be dug up about this program and all of it can be expected to make the agency and the Bush Administration look like terror ghouls. Or I should say: make them look even more like terror ghouls than they already do.
Porter Goss has the temerity to claim, like Roberts, that McCarthy somehow endangered the nation through her actions:
In February, Mr. Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission.” He said it was his hope “that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information.”
“I believe the safety of this nation and the people of this country deserves nothing less,” he said.
The truth of the matter is that McCarthy endangered the extraordinary rendition program, not the nation’s security. And in doing so, once again, she did her country and her agency a service. She is a hero not a villain.
This CIA official really gets to the nub of the issue by relating McCarthy’s leak to Bush’s approval of Libby’s leak to Judy Miller:
One veteran [intelligence official] said the firing would not be well-received coming so soon after the disclosure of grand jury testimony by Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff that President Bush in 2003 approved the leak of portions of a secret national intelligence estimate on Iraqi weapons.
“It’s a terrible situation when the president approves the leak of a highly classified N.I.E., and people at the agency see management as so disastrous that they feel compelled to talk to the press,” said one former C.I.A. officer with extensive overseas experience.
Perhaps that’s the reason why the Justice Department appears reluctant to pursue legal charges against her. She’d make an awfully good witness taking the stand and asking: “But if my president can selectively leak classified information to the press, why can’t I?” Also, by not prosecuting her Bush is hoping that the story and her firing will recede more rapidly into the footnotes of history. God, I hope not. This story should be emblazoned across front pages for days if not weeks.
One aspect of this story disappoints me greatly–the Post’s reaction. Perhaps there is a legal reason why they’re keeping mum but I’d think if you just won a Pulitzer for a story like this one and the source was fired for leaking it that you’d feel a bit more loyalty to that poor shlump than this:
Leonard Downie Jr., The Post’s executive editor, said on its Web site that he could not comment on the firing because he did not know the details. “As a general principle,” he said, “obviously I am opposed to criminalizing the dissemination of government information to the press.”
His own newspaper quotes him saying this about the firing:
Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said people who provide citizens the information they need to hold their government accountable should not “come to harm for that.”
“The reporting that Dana did was very important accountability reporting about how the CIA and the rest of the U.S. government have been conducting the war on terror,” Downie said. “Whether or not the actions of the CIA or other agencies have interfered with anyone’s civil liberties is important information for Americans to know and is an important part of our jobs.”
Hey, Len…how about a little more class, a little more outrage. How about: “I can’t speak as to who was our source for this story, but whoever it was did this country a service and should be treated as a hero rather than a criminal.” If I ever have a whistleblower story worth writing about I know which paper I’m not going to go to. Speak to the Post and then after the feds get done wiping the floor with you, Len Downie might say–“Gee, that wasn’t a very nice thing they did to you now was it?”