Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It Wasn't Me

That's the claim that fired CIA leaker Mary McCarthy is making, through intermediaries.

According to her lawyer, Washington attorney Ty Cobb (who defended a number of Clinton Administration officials who ran afoul of the law), Ms. McCarthy lacked access to the information she is accused of leaking. Moreover, a senior CIA official says that the agency is not asserting thta Ms. McCarthy was fired for passing information on secret terrorist prisons in eastern Europe to the Washington Post. Dana Priest, the WaPo reporter who wrote an exclusive series on the alleged prisons, recently won a Pulitzer Prize for her work.

The McCarthy scandal is growing more curious by the day. First of all, Ms. McCarthy wasted no time getting "lawyered up," hiring a high-priced legal gun with plenty of experience defending members of the Clinton crowd. That's probably a sound tactical move, but it seems a bit premature; to date, Ms. McCarthy has not been arrested, nor are there any indications that she is about to do the perp walk.

In fact, if that CIA "source" is correct, there's probably a decent chance that McCarthy won't face criminal prosecution at all. Unauthorized contact with reporters represents a breach of the confidentiality agreement that McCarthy signed as a condition of her employment. But a public trial could be potentially embarassing--and possibly expose other intel programs and methods--so there's no guarantee that she will face criminal charges for simply talking to the Post. But McCarthy apparently isn't taking any chances--or maybe she, Mr. Cobb (and federal prosecutors in Washington) know something we don't.

That brings us to another obvious point: if McCarthy wasn't the source for the Post series, then other agency employees were clearly involved. In a recent post, we wondered why McCarthy, who was on the verge of retirement, would be entrusted with oversight of one of the agency's most sensitive programs. We also speculated that the "prisons" might have been covered by SAR/SAP access, requiring personnel to be "read into" the program, and limiting the number of individuals who knew about the effort. If that's the case, it would certainly narrow down the number of possible leakers, and all indicators suggest that the probe is continuing. I'm guessing the polygraph operators at Langley have probably been working overtime for the past few weeks. Depending on the results of those exams, Ms. McCarthy may soon have company in the unemployment line--and Ty Cobb may have some additional clients.

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