Fired Officer Believed CIA Lied to Congress

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 14, 2006

A senior CIA official, meeting with Senate staff in a secure room of the Capitol last June, promised repeatedly that the agency did not violate or seek to violate an international treaty that bars cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees, during interrogations it conducted in the Middle East and elsewhere.

But another CIA officer -- the agency's deputy inspector general, who for the previous year had been probing allegations of criminal mistreatment by the CIA and its contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan -- was startled to hear what she considered an outright falsehood, according to people familiar with her account. It came during the discussion of legislation that would constrain the CIA's interrogations.

That CIA officer was Mary O. McCarthy, 61, who was fired on April 20 for allegedly sharing classified information with journalists, including Washington Post journalist Dana Priest. A CIA employee of two decades, McCarthy became convinced that "CIA people had lied" in that briefing, as one of her friends said later, not only because the agency had conducted abusive interrogations but also because its policies authorized treatment that she considered cruel, inhumane or degrading.

Whether McCarthy's conviction that the CIA was hiding unpleasant truths provoked her to leak sensitive information is known only to her and the journalists she is alleged to have spoken with last year. But the picture of her that emerges from interviews with more than a dozen former colleagues is of an independent-minded analyst who became convinced that on multiple occasions the agency had not given accurate or complete information to its congressional overseers.

McCarthy was not an ideologue, her friends say, but at some point fell into a camp of CIA officers who felt that the Bush administration's venture into Iraq had dangerously diverted U.S. counterterrorism policy. After seeing -- in e-mails, cable traffic, interview transcripts and field reports -- some of the secret fruits of the Iraq intervention, McCarthy became disenchanted, three of her friends say.

In addition to CIA misrepresentations at the session last summer, McCarthy told the friends, a senior agency official failed to provide a full account of the CIA's detainee-treatment policy at a closed hearing of the House intelligence committee in February 2005, under questioning by Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the senior Democrat.

McCarthy also told others she was offended that the CIA's general counsel had worked to secure a secret Justice Department opinion in 2004 authorizing the agency's creation of "ghost detainees" -- prisoners removed from Iraq for secret interrogations without notice to the International Committee of the Red Cross -- because the Geneva Conventions prohibit such practices.

Almost all of McCarthy's friends and colleagues interviewed for this report agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because her case still could be referred for prosecution and because much of her work involved highly classified information.

As a former director of intelligence programs in the Clinton administration's National Security Council, McCarthy was entrusted with deep secrets regarding the nation's covert actions overseas. She was a contributor in 2004 to the presidential campaign of Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), and a former colleague of two Clinton aides -- Richard A. Clarke and Rand Beers -- who had publicly assailed what they considered President Bush's misguided focus on Iraq.

By many accounts, those traits helped fit McCarthy precisely into the current White House's model of a disloyal intelligence officer: She dissented from Bush administration policy, and she let others know.

But McCarthy's friends, including former officials who support aggressive interrogation methods, resist any suggestion that she handled classified information loosely or that political motives lay behind her dissent and the contacts she has told the agency she had with journalists. She was, in the view of several who know her well, a CIA scapegoat for a White House that they say prefers intelligence acolytes instead of analysts and sees ulterior motives in any policy criticism.

They allege that her firing was another chapter in a long-standing feud between the CIA and the Bush White House, stoked by friction over the merits of the war in Iraq, over whether links existed between Saddam Hussein's government and al-Qaeda, and over the CIA-instigated criminal inquiry of White House officials suspected of leaking the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

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