A New Round of McCarthyism
Tuesday, April 25, 2006; 8:27 AM
So . . . were we all a bit too quick to hang Mary McCarthy?
Actually, I think the media's response was perfectly logical. The CIA fired her, saying she had flunked a polygraph and admitted unauthorized contacts with reporters and, the official guidance went, she helped The Post's Dana Priest on the secret prisons story.
McCarthy made no comment, issued no statement, and didn't have a lawyer or a spokesman issue any statement. Ergo, she was not disputing the charges.
Except now she is.
Although the whole thing is still a bit strange. She has still made no comment, issued no statement, etc. Instead, a friend of hers is putting out the denial--several news cycles after the story broke.
Whether McCarthy is ultimately found to be one of Priest's sources is beside the point in terms of the larger debate. Priest assembled that story from sources with access to classified information, and they are all vulnerable to firing or prosecution. Lots of people, mostly conservatives, say The Post should not have published that story. Lots of other people, more on the liberal side, view it as a public service, as did the Pulitzer board.
The news broke yesterday with this Mark Hosenball/Mike Isikoff piece in Newsweek:
"A former CIA officer who was sacked last week after allegedly confessing to leaking secrets has denied she was the source of a controversial Washington Post story about alleged CIA secret detention operations in Eastern Europe, a friend of the operative told NEWSWEEK.
"The fired official, Mary O. McCarthy, 'categorically denies being the source of the leak,' one of McCarthy's friends and former colleagues, Rand Beers, said Monday after speaking to McCarthy. Beers said he could not elaborate on this denial and McCarthy herself did not respond to a request for comment left by NEWSWEEK on her home answering machine. A national security advisor to Democratic Party candidate John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign, Beers worked as the head of intelligence programs on President Bill Clinton's National Security Council staff and later served as a top deputy on counter-terrorism for President Bush in 2002 and 2003. McCarthy, a career CIA analyst, initially worked as a deputy to Beers on the NSC and later took over Beer's role as the Clinton NSC's top intelligence expert.
"McCarthy's lawyer, Ty Cobb, told NEWSWEEK this afternoon that contrary to public statements by the CIA late last week, McCarthy never confessed to agency interrogators that she had divulged classified information and "didn't even have access to the information" in The Washington Post story in question.
"After being told by agency interrogators that she may have been deceptive on one question during a polygraph, McCarthy did acknowledge that she had failed to report contacts with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest and at least one other reporter, said a source familiar with her account who asked not to be identified because of legal sensitivities. McCarthy has known Priest for some time, the source said."
Everyone else plays catchup. The New York Times: "Mr. Cobb said he did not believe that Ms. McCarthy, who has not spoken publicly since her dismissal, intended to fight her termination either in court or in the public arena.