CIA Leak Update: Backtrack?

posted at 7:06 pm on April 25, 2006 by Allahpundit

***Mary McCarthy will reportedly be a guest on the John Batchelor Show tonight at 10 p.m. EST. Listen live on the web at WABC-AM.***

***UPDATE: Show is on now, but McCarthy’s name is no longer listed on Batchelor’s website as being “featured” on tonight’s program. A cancellation? Standby.***

***UPDATE: Nope, no McCarthy. Jed Babbin was on to talk about her, but Batchelor said nothing about her supposed appearance. Her name was listed on his website earlier, though; I saw it myself. Oh well.***

Newsweek reported yesterday that Mary McCarthy denies being the source of last year’s Washington Post story about the secret CIA prisons. Today, WaPo quotes a senior intelligence official saying she’s right — sort of. And so a weird, murky story gets weirder and murkier.

According to Newsweek, McCarthy admitted only to having unauthorized “contact” with Dana Priest (and at least one other reporter), not to tipping her off about the prisons. McCarthy’s lawyer went a step further today, telling WaPo that McCarthy hasn’t leaked classified information of any kind. What’s more, he insists she didn’t even have access to the information about the prisons — which, if true, certainly explodes my theory about the importance of her position in the IG’s office.

Or does it? Today the Post added a few new wrinkles. Most notably, this one:

Nowhere in the [original] CIA statement last week was McCarthy accused of leaking information on the prisons, although some news accounts suggested that the CIA had made that claim.

Though McCarthy acknowledged having contact with reporters, a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post’s reporting on the secret prisons. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing personnel matters.

Emphasis mine. So she wasn’t the main source for the prison story. Fair enough — but she’s not in the clear yet. Here’s what the CIA told Newsweek just yesterday:

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano re-affirmed on Monday that an agency official had been fired after acknowledging “unauthorized contacts with the media and discussion of classified information” with journalists. Gimigliano and other administration spokespersons said they were prohibited by law from disclosing the identity of the person who was fired. But government officials familiar with the matter confirmed to NEWSWEEK that McCarthy, a 20-year veteran of the CIA’s intelligence—or analytical—branch, was the individual in question.

Two questions, then. First, did McCarthy disclose any information about the prisons? And second, more broadly, did she disclose information pertaining to any other classified matter?

WaPo again:

Where [her lawyer]’s account and the CIA’s account differed yesterday is on whether McCarthy discussed any classified information with journalists. Intelligence sources said that the inspector general’s office was generally aware of a secret prison program but that McCarthy did not have access to specifics, such as prison locations.

Could McCarthy have tipped Priest to the mere existence of the prisons, thereby setting her off down the investigative trail to dig up the nuts-and-bolts details from other agency staffers? If not, if McCarthy’s telling the truth about not having breathed a word of it to anyone, why doesn’t Priest follow Tom Maguire’s logic and just clear her? If McCarthy wasn’t a source for the prison story, then Priest doesn’t need to “protect” her; on the contrary, by keeping mum, Priest is letting her take the fall for something she didn’t do. Which naturally makes me suspect McCarthy was one of Priest’s sources.

All it would take to find out would be for the WaPo reporters who wrote today’s article to walk across the newsroom floor and ask their colleague. But of course they can’t, or won’t, which itself is an exquisite microcosm of media absurdity the last few years in terms of both the extent to which many reporters seem to have become part of the stories they cover and the ethical pretzels that situation puts their employers in. Andy McCarthy (no relation to Mary) made a similar point today at the Corner, reminding readers that an AP story which ran this past weekend stated that McCarthy had ‘fessed up to leaking on the prison story — a direct contradiction of today’s Washington Post article. And in which newspaper did that AP story appear? Right: the Washington Post. Either the source for that piece or the source for today’s piece is wrong, and one of the few people who knows for sure works right there on the premises. But because she relied on anonymous leakers, Priest has to keep silent and leave WaPo to twist in the wind.

More on today’s WaPo article from Steven Spruiell, who’s being cautious, and AJ Strata, who isn’t. Meanwhile, Rick Moran looks at VIPS, an organization which may or may not have anything to do with McCarthy but which might very well pop up later in other contexts as leak crackdown ’06 unfolds.

UPDATE: The earth shudders on its axis from the impact of this double standard unearthed by Media Blog.

UPDATE: Patterico checks his archives to see if Media Blog is right about a double standard. Guess what he finds.

UPDATE: The Commissar is thinking graphically.

Breaking on Hot Air



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… ” Andy McCarthy (no relation to Mary) made a similar point today at the Corner, reminding readers that an AP story which ran this past weekend stated that McCarthy had ‘fessed up to leaking on the prison story — a direct contradiction of today’s Washington Post article. And in which newspaper did that AP story appear? Right: the Washington Post. Either that piece or today’s piece is wrong, and one of the few people who knows for sure works right there on the premises. But because there’s an anonymous source involved, WaPo is left to twist in the wind.” …
I just love the way the MSM can tie itself in knots. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this story unfolds. This almost as good as Rathergate.

singlemalt on April 25, 2006 at 7:23 PM

I like these situations where newspapers have to report on themselves and the situation for which they are directly implicated. Talk about getting twisted in a knot. Recusal seems more appropriate. Turn the story over to the real diggers, the blogosphere!

whatnext on April 25, 2006 at 7:30 PM

Excellent question – why doesn’t Dana Priest just come out and clear Mary McCarthy if she *isn’t* the source of the leaks? It certainly would put all of this rest…

I especially like the part where the Washington Post gets an “unidentified senior intelligence official” to tell us about their *other* “unidentified senior intelligence official”. Sort of an Unidentified-Senior-Intelligence-Official-Friend-of-a-Unidentified-Senior-Intelligence-Official-Friend story. And just as credible, which is to say, NOT. Boy Howdy, now, that’s a level of professionalism we haven’t seen since the “Bat Boy” story!

Becki Snow on April 25, 2006 at 7:32 PM


I fully expect the investigation to continue. I further expect that Mary O. McCarthy will either commence singing long and loud, or go to prison for an extended stay.

It seems to me that the leaks and leakers will redound to the great disadvantage of the party they come from / support amongst those who understand that there is a war on and that secrecy does indeed contribute to the security of us all.

Out Here
Rodney Graves
[email protected]

p.s. Miss your blog a lot…

Rodney Graves on April 25, 2006 at 7:36 PM


Allahpundit on April 25, 2006 at 7:39 PM

Could it be that she’s the leaker of the NSA wiretaps or the CIA secret airline and didn’t leak specifically on the prisons?
There are alot of leaks going on.

Iblis on April 25, 2006 at 7:41 PM

I think this leads to all sorts of D.C. cultural questions, as well (since y’all seem to be digressing mightily, I may as well continue).

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a lot of career desk jockeys in the diplomatic corps and/or CIA would love to see Bush fall, and would break the rules to see it happen under the guise of “whistleblowing.”

Only question is, how long has this bad behavior on the part of Mary McCarthy and others been going on?

gryphon202 on April 25, 2006 at 8:10 PM

From the Media Blog double standard link:

Dafna Linzer:[…]But we are living in partisan times and people want a partisan, political motive and explanation for everything. I don’t think that’s reasonable…

I know these things shouldn’t surprise me anymore.

Great post, btw.

violet on April 25, 2006 at 8:14 PM

What ever Mary McCarthy says in her interview on wabc, I will not belive a word. Talking points, talking points, talking points, lie, lie, and lie again.

birdman on April 25, 2006 at 8:26 PM

Where is deep throat when he is needed? On Larry King and writing a book. There is too much smoke for this woman not have leaked and rumor has it she was spotted in a 7-11 buying Depends.

Wade on April 25, 2006 at 8:39 PM

Still can’t get your trackbacks to work. I linked from The Silence of the Saint.

bdfaith on April 25, 2006 at 9:07 PM

i don’t care what she said or didn’t say, since both gave Abu Musab al-Zarqawi much support, aid, hope, and comfort.

“Zarqawi appears in rare Web video”

Shame on her…shame…shame…shame.

KarmiCommunist on April 25, 2006 at 10:53 PM

So when will Mary McCarthy’s Vanity Fair photo shoot be out? Before the summer hiatus in the Hampies I hope.

Essex on April 27, 2006 at 2:46 AM

I think Mary McCarthy is “right – sort of” because she can claim to not be “the” source. She is really just “a” source. Liberals love to play little deceptive word games like that.

steelersfan on April 27, 2006 at 10:47 AM

There is an excellent story over at Front Page Mag, CIA Sabotage by Kenneth R. Timmerman,its an eye opener

birdman on April 27, 2006 at 12:46 PM