Two Sides to Story of CIA's Alleged Leaker
Tuesday, April 25, 2006; 7:36 PM
WASHINGTON -- In a city that lives for the whispered nugget of information, fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy is viewed as both hero and villain.
Ask CIA Director Porter Goss, and he will tell you an officer he fired committed a grave offense damaging national security by talking to reporters and knowingly disclosing classified information.
Not so, argue McCarthy's defenders, who contend that she had a stellar government career and is merely the victim of a Bush administration witch hunt for leakers.
Associates, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of her sensitive legal situation, say the CIA authorized McCarthy on a number of occasions to talk with reporters. However, the details and timing remain unclear, including whether that was ever true after Goss took over in September 2004.
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck declined to comment on McCarthy specifically, citing the agency's obligations under the Privacy Act. However, Dyck said the officer in question was not terminated for having authorized conversations with reporters. "It was for having unauthorized conversations with reporters," she said.
It is not yet clear precisely what McCarthy did that led to the firing. In a statement on Thursday to CIA employees, Goss said that "a CIA officer has acknowledged having unauthorized discussions with the media, in which the officer knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence, including operational information."
Last week, government officials indicated McCarthy was involved in providing information to reporters that included material used in The Washington Post's award-winning report on a covert network of CIA prisons. Allegations of a Soviet-style gulag in Eastern Europe and other facilities sparked international condemnation and investigations.
Goss and others have said leaks have done dramatic damage to U.S. relationships with allies. He told Congress in February that his counterparts ask: "Mr. Goss, can't you Americans keep a secret?"
But McCarthy's attorney, Ty Cobb, defends her actions and says she was not the source for the Post story. "She did not leak any classified information, and she did not have access to the information apparently attributed to her by some government officials," Cobb said.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano on Tuesday reaffirmed the agency's position on the firing.
McCarthy, 61, got her start at the CIA in its Directorate of Intelligence _ the analysis division _ focusing on Africa and Latin America. By 1988, she landed her first management job as the Central American branch chief.
Former CIA officer Larry Johnson said he had trouble with her management style when he worked for her in 1988 and 1989. Part of his job was to collect cables of importance for the front office of the Middle America-Caribbean division. But she would assemble her own package, undermining his analysis, he said.