April 24, 2006 [LINK]

Double standards on leaks?

I have to confess that at first I didn't grasp the spin in Sunday's Washington Post about the firing of Mary McCarthy, the CIA officer who apparently leaked the existence of secret CIA-run prisons to newspaper reporters. The story basically portrayed her as the victim of a political witch hunt by the Bush White House, but at least it made it clear why her offense was considered so grave:

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]."

Today's Post acknowledged a critical fact that had been omitted on Sunday: Ms. McCarthy was a major contributor to the Democrat Party, giving $2,000 to the Kerry campaign alone. Wouldn't that have been a useful piece of information to consider in making a judgment about her motivations? Now, it may well be that she was acting in the sincere belief that the secret prisons had to be publicized for our nation's own good, but if so she must accept the punishment that is due for stepping out of line -- way out of line. Ironically, today's article was entitled "Democrats Suggest Double Standards on Leaks." Hmmm. Many aspects of this case raise my eyebrows: Ms. McCarthy worked in the CIA internal inspector's office, which is supposed to guard against leaks, among other things. How did a person who has so little regard for the rules that intelligence officials are solemnly sworn to uphold ever get into such a position?

It was back in November that Washington Post reporter Dana Priest divulged the existence of secret prisons for terrorists in certain Eastern European countries. What Ms. Priest said in a Post online chat at the time now makes me wonder: "No one from the CIA and no one who used to be in the CIA proposed that I write the article I did. On the contrary." Really?

Since this case has become hopelessly politicized, I figured I ought to check out the lefty spin. Josh Marshall calls this a "political purge" and "abuse of power from the White House," but he completely glossed over the Kerry/Democrat connection to McCarthy. Instead, he shifts the focus to retired CIA official Tyler Drumheller, who says his views were ignored by the Senate committee investigating intelligence failures. It sounds like a smokescreen to me.

I'm not 100% comfortable with the idea of President Bush allowing the identity of Valerie Plame to be made known (see July 18), and his statements on the matter have not always been consistent, but it is clear that as commander in chief he does have discretion to release sensitive information if he believes it is in the national interest. Those who say that Mary McCarthy only did the same thing as Bush did should remember that she is not the President of the United States.