CIA Fires Employee for Alleged Leak
Saturday, April 22, 2006; 12:58 AM
WASHINGTON -- In a highly unusual move, the CIA has fired an employee for leaking classified information to the news media, including details about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe that resulted in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, officials said Friday.
The Associated Press has learned the officer was a CIA veteran nearing retirement, Mary McCarthy. Reached Friday evening at home, her husband would not confirm her firing.
In McCarthy's final position at the CIA, she was assigned to its Office of Inspector General, looking into allegations the CIA was involved in torture at Iraqi prisons, according to a former colleague who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation.
Without identifying McCarthy by name, CIA Director Porter Goss announced the firing in a short message to agency employees circulated Thursday. Such firings are rare. And it is the first time since Goss took over in September 2004, vowing to clamp down on leaks, that he has dismissed an intelligence officer for speaking with reporters.
Agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano confirmed an officer had been fired for having unauthorized contacts with the media and disclosing classified information to reporters, including details about intelligence operations.
"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," Gimigliano said. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."
Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not disclose any details about the officer's identity or what she might have told the news media. However, a law enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal leaks investigation under way, but it did not involve the fired CIA officer.
The official said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year disclosing secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law enforcement official spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
The Post's Dana Priest won a Pulitzer Prize this week for her reporting on a covert prison system set up by the CIA after Sept. 11, 2001, that at various times included sites in eight countries. The story caused an international uproar, and government officials have said it did significant damage to relationships between the U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.
Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said on the newspaper's Web site, "We don't know the details of why (the CIA employee) was fired, so I can't comment on that. But as a general principle, obviously I am opposed to criminalizing the dissemination of government information to the press."
It was unclear if Priest or any other reporters who spoke to McCarthy would be brought into an investigation. Post spokesman Eric Grant said no reporter at the paper had been subpoenaed or had spoken to investigators about the matter.
Goss has pressed for aggressive probes about leaked information.
"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," Goss told Congress in February, adding that a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."
On Friday, another government official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the fired officer had failed a lie-detector test.
It was not clear if the person was taking a routine polygraph examination, as is required periodically of employees with access to classified information, or if the lie-detector test was among those ordered by Goss to find leakers inside the agency.
Justice Department officials declined to comment publicly on the firing and whether the matter had been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal charges. One law enforcement official said there were dozens of leak investigations under way. Another said there had been no referral from the CIA involving the fired employee, normally a precursor to a criminal investigation. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation.
Journalists are known to have been questioned or subpoenaed in the investigation of who in the Bush administration leaked a CIA officer's identity, and the Justice Department is probing who revealed the existence of the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program. The New York Times won a Pulitzer for its stories on the eavesdropping program.
Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Ted Bridis contributed to this report.