Plugging The Leaks

The firing of CIA offer Mary McCarthy for leaking to the Washington Post shows that the Administration is finally getting serious about reforming the CIA’s sponge-like treatment of national security information. There’s no doubt that the information McCarthy leaked severely compromised national security, embarrassed our allies, and harmed our ability to fight this war:

A majority of CIA officers would probably “find the action taken [against McCarthy] correct,” said a former senior intelligence official who said he had discussed the matter with former colleagues in the past day. “A small number might support her, but the ethic of the business is not to” leak, and instead to express one’s dissenting views through internal grievance channels.

To some analysts, the firing is also a sign of unprecedented pressures on officials not to have contacts with the media outside of authorized channels where they convey approved messages. Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said that “the administration’s general attitude is that leaks are a threat to national security and have to be not just jawboned but seriously investigated as crimes.”…

CIA officials, without confirming the information in the article, have said the disclosure harmed the agency’s relations with unspecified foreign intelligence services. “The consequences of this leak were more serious than other leaks,” said a former intelligence official in touch with senior agency officials. “That’s what inspired this [firing].” Others pointed out that the information in question was known by so few people that the number of suspected leakers was fairly small, enabling investigators to work swiftly.

It’s telling that some on the left are defending McCarthy as a whistleblower – there is a clear double standard when it comes to leaks. The left has gone so far as to accuse the Bush Administration of treason for the revelation of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA official – despite the fact that the defense team of Scooter Libby has not been given any documentation that confirms prosecutor Fitzgerald’s claims that Plame’s identity was classified. In the case of McCarthy, there’s no doubt as to the classified nature of the material leaked and its harm on US national security in a time of war. McCarthy not only deserves to be fired, but prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There are few grey areas in this case.

It’s high time that someone got serious about plugging the leaks at the CIA. The CIA has been acting as a rogue operation for far too long – engaging in active efforts to sabotage rather than support the policies of our elected leaders of this country. For the left, would it really be any better if a CIA that was controlled by Republican political operatives tried to sabotage the policies of a Democratic president? That isn’t the role of our intelligence services, and it never should be. The CIA does not make policy. It’s job is to provide policymakers with the best possible intelligence – which is something that the CIA seems to have one hell of a problem doing at the moment.

DCI Goss needs to continue to clean house and reform our nation’s intelligence services to end the policy of widespread leaking of classified information. The firing of McCarthy and her likely prosecution for violating national security is a good start towards ensuring that the CIA spends less time fighting the Administration and more time fighting terrorists.

UPDATE: Captain Ed has more on the efforts to actually make our covert intelligence covert. It’s amazing how many people are shocked that the CIA would have a “culture of secrecy” – which seems to indicate how little people understand the role in intelligence in formulating policy.

2 thoughts on “Plugging The Leaks

  1. From The New York Times 4/25/06, article entitled “Dismissed CIA Officer Denies Leak Role”

    “The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest’s award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency’s secret prisons.

    McCarthy was fired because the CIA concluded that she had undisclosed contacts with journalists, including Priest, in violation of a security agreement. That does not mean she revealed the existence of the prisons to Priest, Cobb said.”

  2. Here’s the article.

    It seems to me to be a case of CYA. We know that McCarthy was leaking *something* to Dana Priest, and Priest is the one that broke the Eastern European prisons story. It would be logical that there’s a connection between the two – and that “senior intelligence official” could very well be lying.

    Then again, she may not have been the leaker – but I’d imagine that if she were, she’d be facing criminal prosecution under the National Security Act or something similar soon.

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