This is one of those stories where, if you miss the first 48 hours, you end up feeling so far behind the curve that you tune it out and never bother with it again. So here’s a round-up of news and blog coverage which, while longish, will bring you up to speed. As of this writing, McCarthy “categorically denies” being the leaker, according to former counterterrorism official/Kerry campaign staffer Rand Beers. So the jury’s still out – although government sources are telling Newsweek to fret not, for the leaker is most definitely she.
First, background. McCarthy joined the CIA in 1984. Fourteen years later, she’d risen to the position of senior director for intelligence programs on the National Security Council. How fast was her ascent? “Meteoric,” according to Spook86, a blogger claiming to be a former intelligence official who wonders whether the rapid promotion of comparatively inexperienced officers like McCarthy explains some of the pre-9/11 intel failures under Clinton. If so, then the Reagan and Bush I administrations should share some of the blame: according to the New York Times, by the late 1980s McCarthy was already chief of the CIA’s Central America and Caribbean section despite having no experience in those areas. By 1991 – just seven years after joining the agency – she was a top deputy to Charles Allen, then-national intelligence officer for warning. McCarthy inherited that position from Allen in 1994, then went to work in the Clinton White House in 1996 before replacing Rand Beers as senior director for intelligence programs in 1998.
Bear all this in the mind the next time you read or hear a news report suggesting she was some no-name “analyst.”
Bonus fun fact #1: the guy who appointed her to the position of senior director in 1998 was then-NSA Sandy Berger, who was last seen pleading guilty to destroying intelligence documents after smuggling them out of a National Archives reading room. In his pants.
Bonus fun fact #2: one of the Freepers recognized that from June 1997 to July 1998, McCarthy served on the National Security Council with none other than Yellowcake Joe Wilson, which naturally led some to speculate that McCarthy might have had a hand in sending him on the now-infamous trip to Niger. (McCarthy’s expertise is in Africa.) Her career arc makes this unlikely, though. McCarthy did stay on as senior director after Bush took office but only until July 2001, when she left the NSC to join the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Curt at Flopping Aces has her CSIS bio – which, he claims, was conveniently expunged from the organization’s website shortly after the leak story broke on Friday evening.) Wilson’s trip to Niger didn’t occur until February 2002. Unless CIA operations have an awful lot of lead time, she probably had nothing to do with it.
McCarthy worked at CSIS and on a terrorism task force organized by the Markle Foundation for the next three years and testified before the 9/11 Commission in 2003 about improving counterterrorism measures. According to the Times, she returned to the CIA in 2004 – specifically, to the Inspector General’s office – and later allegedly leaked the story about secret U.S. prisons operating in eastern Europe to the Washington Post’s Dana Priest, who won a Pulitzer for the story a few weeks ago.
So far, so good. Now, here’s what Saturday’s Washington Post (ironically enough) had to say about the Inspector General’s office:
[A]s the person singularly responsible for sensitive internal investigations of alleged wrongdoing at the agency, the inspector general is routinely granted extraordinary access to secrets ordinarily not shared with others inside the CIA.
The inspector general’s combination of independence and access may have been combustible in McCarthy’s case, if allegations about her involvement in leaks prove true.
Emphasis mine. From the same article, this quote from former IG L. Britt Snyder:
The IG, he said, “gets into everything, including personal things. That makes it a little different than other places.”
Also from the same article, we learn that Porter Goss personally oversaw the McCarthy investigation instead of handing it off to the DOJ per standard protocol. Why? Maybe because he wanted to send a message to other CIA employees. Maybe because the story she spilled the beans on was so sensitive. Or maybe because McCarthy, by virtue of her position in the IG’s office, is perfectly positioned to roll over on other leakers inside the agency. If anyone’s likely to know who else is leaking, it stands to reason it’d be someone within the CIA’s version of internal affairs; possibly Goss figures that if he knocks her over, a lot of other dominos will tumble. There do seem to be plenty of other dominos out there: nearly every story this weekend about McCarthy emphasized that her dismissal is part of a broader campaign to ferret out leakers in various parts of the intelligence community. This AP story – illustrated with a photo of Scooter Libby, natch – claims there are “dozens” of leak investigations under way. And one sensational report from MichNews quoted former DoD official (and current NRO contributor) Jed Babbin as saying the crackdown may lead to polygraph tests for Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller and Dick Durbin, both of whom have been accused of leaks in the past. It’s not clear from the article whether Babbin has an inside scoop or whether he’s just thinking out loud, but wild speculation sure is fun!
So extensive is the crackdown on leaks, and so adamant has Goss been about plugging them since becoming DCI in 2004 (and with good reason), that some bloggers wondered whether the story about secret prisons might have been floated to McCarthy intentionally as part of a sting. The sting theory stems from the fact that a recent EU probe into the prisons uncovered no evidence of illegal CIA activity there – which some took to mean that the prisons were fictional, and Priest’s story bogus. Not so; as Rick Moran explains, Priest had multiple sources for her report. What’s more, it simply beggars belief to think that CIA higher-ups would have concocted a story as incendiary as one involving secret prisons in the expectation that it might end up in the Washington Post. In all likelihood, it was the fact that McCarthy worked in the rarefied air of the IG’s office that led investigators to her. Quoth WaPo: “[Some intelligence officials] pointed out that the information in question was known by so few people that the number of suspected leakers was fairly small, enabling investigators to work swiftly.” (emphasis mine) There was no sting; McCarthy simply got caught.
And man, did she ever get caught. WaPo says she failed multiple polygraphs before confessing. AJ Strata cites reports describing a “pattern of behavior”. But what’s really got right-wing bloggers exercised is the discovery that McCarthy and her husband have donated upwards of $10,000 to Democratic political campaigns and organizations since 2004. Curiously enough, certain mainstream media outlets have had trouble nailing down the exact figure despite the fact that Ace and Tom Maguire were able to find it on OpenSecrets.org in about thirty seconds. And that’s not the only convenient omission from their predictably sympathetic coverage. Sweetness & Light looks at two of the press’s go-to guys on this story – former CIA analysts Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson [update 5/5/06: see below] – and reveals a few salient facts about their views on intelligence that somehow have managed to fly under the media’s radar.
Righty bloggers have also been having fun playing connect-the-dots with the various moonbat hearthrobs making cameos in this story: McCarthy, Beers, Richard Clarke (for whom McCarthy once worked at the NSC), Joe Wilson, John Kerry (who received the lion’s share of the McCarthys’ political donations), and Dana Priest and her husband William Goodfellow, who happens to be Executive Director of the Center for International Policy, which advocates rapprochement with Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Smells real bad, but there’s much less here than meets the eye: as mentioned above, the best anyone’s been able to do thus far conspiracy-wise is put McCarthy and Wilson on the NSC at the same time eight years ago, which is hardly damning. Some bloggers have attempted to link Goodfellow’s CIP to something called the Iraq Policy Information Program, which allegedly arranges anti-war speaking gigs for Joey Yellowcake. I’ve tried Googling the IPIP, though, and I can’t even find independent confirmation that it exists. The only mentions of it come from Discover The Network, FrontPage, Free Republic, and a few righty blogs. If anyone can help, I’d appreciate it. UPDATE: Existence confirmed. See below.
And with that, you’re more or less caught up, except for the 75 links people will send me telling me what I missed as soon as I post this. Keep your eye on Ace of Spades, Protein Wisdom, Flopping Aces, Strata-sphere, Just One Minute, Sweetness & Light, Riehl World View, Rightwing Nuthouse, Former Spook, and Belmont Club for more in the days ahead.
Thanks to Jennifer and reader Sally V. for calling this to my attention so promptly.
It has long been pretty obvious to me that the official-secrecy faction within the state machinery has received a gigantic fillip from the press witch hunt against Lewis Libby and Karl Rove. What bureaucrat could believe the luck of an editorial campaign to uncover and punish leaking? A campaign that furthermore invokes the most reactionary law against disclosure this century: the Intelligence Identities Protection Act? It was obvious from the first that the press, in taking Wilson and Plame at their own estimation, was fashioning a rod for its own back. I await the squeals that will follow when this rod is applied, which it will be again and again.
Does Ms. McCarthy know John Kerry personally? Did she ever have occasion to brief him (as was his right as the Dem presidential candidate or as senator)?
My own thought about the McCarthy campaign donations was that she was simply sowing seed in the hopes that a nice job might be hers in the Kerry administration. As you point out her career was meteoric. Where might she have landed if the election had gone the other way?
Anyone know whether McCarthy and Kerry have met? Stephanopoulos could have asked Kerry point-blank when he appeared Sunday on This Week. But he didn’t. Of course.