Late Friday afternoon, after the political pundits had signed off their computer for the weekend and the news cycle closed, the CIA announced the firing of a CIA officer for unauthorized contacts with the media and disclosure of classified information. According to press reports the officer in question is Mary O’Neil McCarthy.
I do not personally know Ms. McCarthy, but she was a senior analyst who had worked on the National Security Council (NSC) for five years during the Clinton years. According to the press, her last position with the CIA was in the Office of the Inspector General.
Let me offer several observations. First of all, this is unprecedented. CIA officers don’t leak because 1) it is against the ethos; 2) it means revocation of your security clearance (and job); and it likely results in complete ostracization by your former colleagues. There is another issue that may or may not loom large for Ms. McCarthy, it is illegal.
When I was on the inside, I completely avoided contact with the press. I also lived in a bubble that helped insolate me from associating with the Washington chattering class. But I was a clandestine officer. Ms. McCarthy was an overt analyst who lived in Washington and, more importantly, worked in policy circles given her stint at the NSC. She was likely a political appointee, given her long stint at the NSC.
So Ms. McCarthy had access to and was known by the chattering class. There are hundreds of intelligence community analysts that meet this description. They don’t leak. So what is the operative issue, this assuming that the allegations against Ms. McCarthy are true?
Ms. McCarthy’s last position was with the Office of the Inspector General (IG). This is the investigative and oversight arm of the CIA. When there are allegations of organizational wrongdoing, the IG—either at its own behest, at the request of the Director of Central Intelligence or from Congress—the IG does an investigation. The only way Ms. McCarthy would have had access to compartmentalized intelligence on US counterterrorism operations was if she was part of an investigating team.
The IG writes reports for D/CIA and Congressional oversight committees. Why would Ms. McCarthy feel compelled to act outside of the oversight and investigative process? The only reason I can imagine is that she took exception to a program that neither the CIA nor Congress wanted to shut down or limit: secret prisons and enforced disappearances.
As I have written in this blog, I am against leaks. There is no such thing as a good leak or a bad leak. They are all bad. When there are suddenly a ton of leaks, this is a good indicator that something is rotten in the system.
So, did Ms. McCarthy find herself in a rotting or rotten system? I suspect we will hear much more about this. The grumblings from CIA are loud and clear. My former colleagues are unhappy and many are jumping ship.
But let me add a tidbit on the secret prison front.
At the end of November 2005, I submitted a draft conference paper for the Intelligence and Ethics Conference, scheduled for lat January 2006. I provided more than the 30 days of review to the CIA Publications Review Board to ensure the conference paper contained no classified information. We are now approaching the end of April and my conference paper has yet to be cleared.
The title of my paper is, “Renditions: The Ethics and National Security Debate”. The CIA initially redacted (cut out as classified) the entire portion of the paper dealing with secret prisons. My research was conducted on the Internet drawing from open source information. My classified work never included secret prisons and in the draft conference paper I never said that there were any, but just addressed the ethical implications of the allegations.
Why is the CIA sitting on this? Because they don’t want any debate on the topic and they don’t want anybody with credibility talking about the implications of the policy, should it exist. Given the new information that Ms. McCarthy was the source of the Dana Priest's Washington Post story, I would say that she would be a rather credible source on the existence of the policy of secret detentions and enforced disappearances. I would also say that this makes my conference paper extremely relevant. This, however, will not impact in the least the clearance process at the CIA. They will continue to sit on it until either I give up or I sue.
CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks
The Post Was Among Outlets That Gained Classified Data
By Dafna Linzer
Saturday, April 22, 2006; A01
The CIA fired a long-serving intelligence officer for sharing classified information with The Washington Post and other news organizations, officials said yesterday, as the agency continued an aggressive internal search for anyone who may have discussed intelligence with the news media.
CIA officials said the career intelligence officer failed more than one polygraph test and acknowledged unauthorized contacts with reporters. The "officer knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence, including operational information" with journalists, the agency said in a statement yesterday.
The CIA did not reveal the identity of the employee, who was dismissed Thursday, but NBC News reported last night she is Mary McCarthy. An intelligence source confirmed that the report was accurate.
McCarthy began her career in government as an analyst at the CIA in 1984, public documents show. She served as special assistant to the president and senior director for intelligence programs at the White House during the Clinton administration and the first few months of the Bush administration. She later returned to the CIA. Attempts to reach her last night were unsuccessful.
The CIA's statement did not name the reporters it believes were involved, but several intelligence officials said The Post's Dana Priest was among them. This week, Priest won the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting for articles about the agency, including one that revealed the existence of secret, CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate intelligence committee in February that the agency was determined to get to the bottom of recent leaks, and wanted journalists brought before a federal grand jury to reveal their sources. Regarding disclosures about CIA detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects at secret sites abroad, Goss, the former chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that "the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission."
The CIA has filed several reports to the Justice Department since last fall regarding the publication of classified information and has launched its own internal inquiries which include administering polygraphs to dozens of employees.
The intelligence agency is sharing its findings with the Justice Department but is continuing to pursue some avenues of investigation on its own.
"It's up to the Justice Department to decide whether they want to pursue investigations separately," an intelligence source said.
The Justice Department is conducting several leak inquiries, including one into reports last December in the New York Times about a secret domestic surveillance program by the National Security Agency. Officials said it is possible the department could file criminal charges in connection with that investigation and others, but it is unclear whether the department is also investigating the disclosures about CIA-run prisons.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse declined to comment yesterday. "We do not confirm investigations on intelligence-related matters," he said, because of the information's sensitivity.
Intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the dismissed officer identified by others as McCarthy has not been charged with any crime and is not believed to be the subject of a Justice Department investigation.
The officer's employment was terminated for violating a secrecy agreement all employees are required to sign when they join the agency. The agreement prohibits them from sharing classified information with unauthorized individuals.
The CIA said the firing was the result of an internal investigation initiated in late January of all "officers who were involved in or exposed to certain intelligence programs."
"Through the course of these investigations a CIA official acknowledged having unauthorized discussion with the media" and was terminated, the CIA statement said.
Priest, who also won the George Polk Award and a prize from the Overseas Press Club this week for her articles, declined to comment yesterday.
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."
In an effort to stem leaks, the Bush administration launched several initiatives earlier this year targeting journalists and national security employees. They include FBI probes, extensive polygraphing inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.
The effort has been widely seen among members of the media, and some legal experts, as the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and has worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.
Dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field office. Others have been prohibited, in writing, from discussing even unclassified issues related to the domestic surveillance program. Some GOP lawmakers are also considering tougher penalties for leaking.
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.
Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu and research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.
April 23, 2006
The New York Times
Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by Rules
By DAVID S. CLOUD
WASHINGTON, April 22 — Mary O. McCarthy, the intelligence officer dismissed on Friday after being accused of leaking information to reporters about the Central Intelligence Agency's overseas prisons, once was responsible for guarding some of the nation's most sensitive secrets.
As a senior National Security Council aide for intelligence from 1996 to 2001, Ms. McCarthy was known as a low-key professional who paid special attention to preventing White House leaks of classified information and covert operations, several current and former government officials said.
When she disagreed with decisions on intelligence operations, they say, she registered her complaints through internal government channels.
But on Thursday she was stripped of her security clearance and escorted out of C.I.A. headquarters, government officials said, after failing a polygraph examination and confessing that she had disclosed classified information to reporters, including material for The Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning articles about secret C.I.A. facilities in Eastern Europe used to interrogate captured Al Qaeda members and other terror suspects.
Ms. McCarthy, who has not been charged with any crime, did not respond to telephone calls and an e-mail message. But former colleagues who worked with her at the C.I.A. and the White House say they had trouble fathoming her as a leaker. Some said they flatly refused to believe the accusations.
"We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a National Security Council aide in the Clinton administration who worked closely with Ms. McCarthy.
Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy, who began attending law school at night several years ago and had announced her intention to retire from the C.I.A., had grown disenchanted with the methods that the Bush administration used for handling Al Qaeda prisoners since the September 2001 terror attacks and felt she had no alternative except to go to the press.
"I have no idea what her motive was, but there is a lot of dissension within the agency and it seems to be a rather unhappy place," said Richard J. Kerr, a former C.I.A. deputy director. Mr. Kerr called Ms. McCarthy "quite a good, substantive person on the issues I dealt with her on."
She also gradually came to have one foot in the secret world of intelligence and another in the public world of policy.
She went from lower-level analyst working in obscurity at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va,. to someone at home "downtown," as Washington is called by agency veterans, where policy is more openly fought over and leaks are far more common.
Though she was a C.I.A. employee for more than 20 years, associates said, her early professional experience was not in the world of spying and covert operations.
After a previous career that one former colleague said included time as a flight attendant, she earned a doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota. She worked for a Swiss company "conducting risk assessments for international businesses and banks," Ms. McCarthy wrote in a brief biography she provided to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also called the 9/11 Commission. She testified before the commission in 2003. Her biography notes that she once wrote "a book on the social history of Ghana."
Even after joining the C.I.A. in 1984, Ms. McCarthy, who was hired as intelligence analyst for Africa, was far from a covert operative. In the late 1980's, she was promoted to management, taking over as chief of the Central America and Caribbean section, though she had no previous experience in the region, said a former officer who worked with her.
By 1991, she was working as deputy to one of the agency's most senior analysts, Charles E. Allen, whose job as "National Intelligence Officer for Warning" was to anticipate major national security threats. Ms. McCarthy took over the job from Mr. Allen in 1994 and moved to the Clinton White House two years later.
Rand Beers, who at the time was Mr. Clinton's senior intelligence aide on the National Security Council, said he hired Ms. McCarthy to be his deputy. "Anybody who works for Charlie Allen and then replaces him has got to be good," said Mr. Beers, who went on to serve as an adviser to the 2004 presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. She took over from Mr. Beers as the senior director for intelligence programs in 1998.
Though she was not among the C.I.A. officials who briefed Mr. Clinton every morning on the latest intelligence, she "worked on some of the most sensitive programs," a former White House aide said, and was responsible for notifying Congress when covert action was being undertaken.
The aide and some others who spoke about Ms. McCarthy were granted anonymity because they did not want to be identified as discussing her official duties because she be under criminal investigation.
When the Bush administration took office in 2001, Ms. McCarthy's career seemed to stall. A former Bush administration official who worked with her said that, although she was a career C.I.A. employee, as a holdover from the Clinton administration she was regarded with suspicion and was gradually eased out of her job as senior director for intelligence programs. She left several months into Mr. Bush's first term.
But she did not return immediately to a new assignment at C.I.A. headquarters. She took an extended sabbatical at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research organization. In late 2003, she testified publicly before the 9/11 Commission about ways to reorganize the intelligence agencies to prevent another major terror attack.
She served on the Markle Foundation's "Task Force on National Security in the Information Age," a group of academics as well as current and former government officials working on recommendations for sharing classified information more widely within the government, according to a report issued by the group. The report identifies Ms. McCarthy as a "nongovernment" expert.
H. Andrew Schwartz, a spokesman for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Ms. McCarthy's relationship with the organization lasted from 2001 to 2003. Several associates of Ms. McCarthy say she returned to the C.I.A. in 2004, taking a job in the inspector general's office. That year, public records show, she contributed $2,000 to Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign.
Married with one child, she also began attending law school at night, two former co-workers said, and talked about switching to a career in public interest law.
After an article last November in The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. was sending terror suspects to clandestine detention centers in several countries, including some in Eastern Europe, Porter J. Goss, the agency's director, ordered polygraphs for intelligence officers who knew about certain "compartmented" programs, including the secret detention centers for terror suspects.
Polygraphs are given routinely to agency employees at least every five years, but special ones can be ordered when a security breach is suspected.
Government officials said that after Ms. McCarthy's polygraph examination showed the possibility of deception, the examiner confronted her and she disclosed having conversations with reporters.
But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.
"It looks to me like Mary is being used as a sacrificial lamb," said Larry Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who worked for Ms. McCarthy in the agency's Latin America section.
April 22, 2006
The New York Times
C.I.A. Fires Senior Officer Over Leaks
By DAVID JOHNSTON and SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON, April 21 — The Central Intelligence Agency has dismissed a senior career officer for disclosing classified information to reporters, including material for Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in The Washington Post about the agency's secret overseas prisons for terror suspects, intelligence officials said Friday.
The C.I.A. would not identify the officer, but several government officials said it was Mary O. McCarthy, a veteran intelligence analyst who until 2001 was senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, where she served under President Bill Clinton and into the Bush administration.
At the time of her dismissal, Ms. McCarthy was working in the agency's inspector general's office, after a stint at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an organization in Washington that examines global security issues.
The dismissal of Ms. McCarthy provided fresh evidence of the Bush administration's determined efforts to stanch leaks of classified information. The Justice Department has separately opened preliminary investigations into the disclosure of information to The Post, for its articles about secret prisons, as well as to The New York Times, for articles last fall that disclosed the existence of a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants supervised by the National Security Agency. Those articles were also recognized this week with a Pulitzer Prize.
Several former veteran C.I.A. officials said the dismissal of an agency employee over a leak was rare and perhaps unprecedented. One official recalled the firing of a small number of agency contractors, including retirees, for leaking several years ago.
The dismissal was announced Thursday at the C.I.A. in an e-mail message sent by Porter J. Goss, the agency's director, who has made the effort to stop unauthorized disclosure of secrets a priority. News of the dismissal was first reported Friday by MSNBC.
Ms. McCarthy's departure followed an internal investigation by the C.I.A.'s Security Center, as part of an intensified effort that began in January to scrutinize employees who had access to particularly classified information. She was given a polygraph examination, confronted about answers given to the polygraph examiner and confessed, the government officials said. On Thursday, she was stripped of her security clearance and escorted out of C.I.A. headquarters. Ms. McCarthy did not reply Friday evening to messages left by e-mail and telephone.
"A C.I.A. officer has been fired for unauthorized contact with the media and for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information," said a C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano. "This is a violation of the secrecy agreement that is the condition of employment with C.I.A. The officer has acknowledged the contact and the disclosures."
Mr. Gimigliano said the Privacy Act prohibited him from identifying the employee.
Intelligence officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the dismissal resulted from "a pattern of conduct" and not from a single leak, but that the case involved in part information about secret C.I.A. detention centers that was given to The Washington Post.
Ms. McCarthy's departure was another unsettling jolt for the C.I.A., battered in recent years over faulty prewar intelligence in Iraq, waves of senior echelon departures after the appointment of Mr. Goss as director and the diminished standing of the agency under the reorganization of the country's intelligence agencies.
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.
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."
Eric C. Grant, a spokesman for the newspaper, would not address whether any C.I.A. employee was a source for the secret prison articles, but said, "No Post reporter has been subpoenaed or talked to investigators in connection with this matter."
The disclosures about the prisons provoked an outcry among European allies and set off protests among Democrats in Congress. The leak prompted the C.I.A. to send a criminal referral to the Justice Department. Lawyers at the Justice Department were notified of Ms. McCarthy's dismissal, but no new referral was issued, law enforcement officials said. They said that they would review the case, but that her termination could mean she would be spared criminal prosecution.
In January, current and former government officials said, Mr. Goss ordered polygraphs for intelligence officers who knew about certain "compartmented" programs, including the secret detention centers for terrorist suspects. Polygraphs are routinely given to agency employees at least every five years, but special polygraphs can be ordered when a security breach is suspected.
The results of such exams are regarded as important indicators of deception among some intelligence officials. But they are not admissible as evidence in court — and the C.I.A.'s reliance on the polygraph in Ms. McCarthy's case could make it more difficult for the government to prosecute her.
"This was a very aggressive internal investigation," said one former C.I.A. officer with more than 20 years' experience. "Goss was determined to find the source of the secret-jails story."
With the encouragement of the White House and some Republicans in Congress, Mr. Goss has repeatedly spoken out against leaks, saying foreign intelligence officials had asked him whether his agency was incapable of keeping secrets.
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.
Ms. McCarthy has been a well-known figure in intelligence circles. She began her career at the agency as an analyst and then was a manager in the intelligence directorate, working at the African and Latin America desks, according to a biography by the strategic studies center. With an advanced degree from the University of Minnesota, she has taught, written a book on the Gold Coast and was director of the social science data archive at Yale University.
Public records show that Ms. McCarthy contributed $2,000 in 2004 to the presidential campaign of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee.
Republican lawmakers praised the C.I.A. effort. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "I am pleased that the Central Intelligence Agency has identified the source of certain unauthorized disclosures, and I hope that the agency, and the community as a whole, will continue to vigorously investigate other outstanding leak cases."
Several former intelligence officials — who were granted anonymity after requesting it for what they said were obvious reasons under the circumstances — were divided over the likely effect of the dismissal on morale. One veteran 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.
But another official, whose experience was at headquarters, said most employees would approve Mr. Goss's action. "I think for the vast majority of people this will be good for morale," the official said. "People didn't like some of their colleagues deciding for themselves what secrets should be in The Washington Post or The New York Times."
Paul R. Pillar, who was the agency's senior analyst for the Middle East until he retired late last year, said: "Classified information is classified information. It's not to be leaked. It's not to be divulged." He has recently criticized the Bush administration's handling of prewar intelligence about Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs.
Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting for this article.
17 June 1998
BERGER APPOINTS MCCARTHY SPECIAL ASSISTANT FOR INTELLIGENCE
(And senior director on NSC Staff for intelligence programs) (370)
Washington -- National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger announced June 16 the appointment of Mary O'Neil McCarthy as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs.
She succeeds Rand Beers in that post, an announcement by the office of the White House Press Secretary said.
Mary McCarthy had been Director of Intelligence Programs on the National Security Council Staff since July 1996. Previously, said the White House, Mrs. McCarthy served as the National Intelligence Officer for Warning from 1994-1996 and as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Warning from 1991-1994. She began government service in 1984 as an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence of the Central Intelligence Agency.
McCarthy has a B.A. and M.A. in history from Michigan State University and an M.A and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.
Following is the White House text:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
June 16, 1998
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger announced today the appointment of Mary O'Neil McCarthy as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs. Mrs. McCarthy succeeds Rand Beers.
Mary McCarthy had been Director of Intelligence Programs on the National Security Council Staff since July 1996. Previously, Mrs. McCarthy served as the National Intelligence Officer for Warning from 1994-1996 and as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Warning from 1991-1994. She began government service in 1984 as an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Prior to her government service, Mrs. McCarthy held positions in both the private sector and academia. She was a Director, then Vice President of BERI, SA, a firm conducting financial and political risk assessments, from 1979-1984. Previously, she had taught at the University of Minnesota and was Director of the Social Science Data
Archive at Yale University.
Mrs. McCarthy has a B.A. and M.A. in history from Michigan State University and an M.A and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. She and her husband Michael McCarthy have a son, Michael.