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Fired Officer Believed CIA Lied to Congress
"When the president nominated Porter Goss [as CIA director in September 2004], he sent Goss over to get a rogue agency under control," Steven Simon, a colleague of McCarthy's at the National Security Council from 1994 to 1999, said Goss's aides told him. Simon said McCarthy's unusually public firing appeared intended not only to block leaks but also to suppress the dissent that has "led to these leaks. The aim was to have a chilling effect, and it will probably work for a while."
Goss himself was forced to resign earlier this month.
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, without naming McCarthy, denied that the firing was meant to suppress dissent. She said it was provoked solely by the officer's admission to CIA investigators to having provided classified information to the media. "You can't ignore an officer ignoring their secrecy agreement," Dyck said.
Many lawmakers have said they share this viewpoint, and some have called for tougher CIA sanctions to enforce the secrecy rules.
But McCarthy, in e-mails to friends, has denied leaking anything classified. She has not denied speaking to Priest but has said she was unaware that the CIA had secret prisons in Eastern Europe, the most attention-getting detail in Priest's articles last year. Her lawyer has said the same thing publicly.
Assessing whether politics played a role in the firing is difficult, given the reluctance of those involved to lay bare the underlying facts. The CIA has declined to disclose the evidence it collected against McCarthy. McCarthy declined to be interviewed for this article, and her attorney, Ty Cobb, said the CIA has precluded him from discussing what McCarthy said in CIA interviews and polygraph examinations between February and April 18.
Reporters at The Washington Post and other publications do not discuss sources for articles beyond what is published. Priest's disclosures about the secret prisons were attributed to multiple current and former intelligence officials on three continents.
McCarthy was drawn into the CIA's wrenching internal debate over treatment of foreign detainees when she was recruited by Inspector General John L. Helgerson in the summer of 2004 to oversee the agency's criminal probe of alleged wrongdoing in the war on Iraq. CIA Director George J. Tenet requested the probe shortly before he was replaced by Goss.
Both Helgerson and McCarthy were veterans of the agency's Intelligence Directorate; neither had worked in the Directorate of Operations (D.O.), whose employees in Iraq and Afghanistan were at the heart of the abuse allegations and whose leadership often resents independent scrutiny. But McCarthy was in some ways well prepared for the job, because she had tangled with the D.O. previously over several of its covert-action programs.
A historian by training and a passionate hockey fan, she had two brief jobs in academia and a stint at a risk-assessment firm before joining the agency's Africa and Latin America divisions. In 1991, she became a deputy to legendary CIA analyst Charlie Allen, then the agency's chief warning officer. After McCarthy succeeded Allen in 1994, Allen paid tribute to her "strong views" on the need for "extraordinary rigor" in analysis.
The job involved supervising a tiny staff tasked with separating wheat from chaff and calling attention to imminent crises, but afforded marginal clout in influencing the agency's intelligence-gathering priorities. It left her frustrated, and in articles published in a small-circulation intelligence journal in 1994 and 1998, she decried the agency's adherence to an "old analytic culture" and its reluctance to reorganize to improve its warning capability.
Much of the intelligence community was marked by "ingrown bureaucracies that have become isolated and smug" instead of risk-taking, McCarthy said in one article. She also warned that in all the reviews of major U.S. intelligence failures, "there emerges abundant evidence . . . that analysts often shaped their judgments with policy in mind."