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(guest blog by Taylor Marsh)

Okay, let me get this straight. The Leaker in Chief, George W. Bush, can leak information to Lewis Libby, with no repercussions whatsoever. Deadeye can do the same. But a whistleblower, a member of the CIA’s Inspector General’s office, leaks the existence of illegal black sites to a reporter, because she feels something wrong is being done in the name of the American people, and she gets fired. Not only fired, but pulled out and identified as nothing short of a traitor. In other words, the Nixon rule really does apply. If the president does it it’s okay, but if it’s done by a whistleblower she gets fired, with humiliation and the "traitor" tag waiting for her on her departure. Even people who don’t like Mary McCarthy are saying something smells.

The case against the CIA Intelligence Officer, Mary McCarthy, fired for her alleged role in leaking information about secret prisons to the Washington Post’s Dana Priest smells a little fishy. Let me state at the outset that the officer in question, Mary McCarthy, is an old acquaintance. I hasten to add that I do not consider her a friend. She was my immediate boss in 1988-89 and was instrumental in my decision to leave the CIA and take a job at the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism. Mary, in my experience, was a terrible manager. I left the CIA in 1989 despite having received two exceptional performance awards during my last eight months on the job because I could not stand working under her.

That said, I take no delight in the news that she was fired. In fact, there are some things about the case that puzzle me. For starters, Mary never worked on the Operations side of the house. In other words, she never worked a job where she would have had first hand operational knowledge about secret prisons. She worked the analytical side of the CIA and served with the National Intelligence Council. According to press reports, she subsequently worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) from 2001 thru 2005. That is a type of academic/policy wonk position and, again, would not put her in a position to know anything first hand about secret prisons.

Sometime within the last year she returned to CIA on a terminal assignment. I’ve heard through the grapevine that she was attending the seminar for officers who are retiring while working with the Inspector General (IG). Now things get interesting. She could find out about secret prisons if Intelligence Officers involved with that program had filed a complaint with the IG or if there was some incident that compelled senior CIA officials to determine an investigation was warranted. In other words, this program did not come to Mary’s attention (if the allegations are true) because she worked on it as an ops officer. Instead, it appears an investigation of the practice had been proposed or was underway. That’s another story reporters probably ought to be tracking down.

Larry Johnson

As John Dean said on "Countdown" last night, Mary McCarthy has broken the law by disavowing documents she signed to keep classified information secret. No doubt she will pay a price for her actions. But a whistleblower sharing information he or she knows in order to inform the public that something wrong, maybe even illegal or criminal is going on within the U.S. government, certainly mitigates the wrongful act of having leaked information in the first place. That is if you believe the United States is still a democracy and that the president and his people owe us more than they own themselves.

There is nothing more important than protecting national security secrets.

There are few things more important to the American people than the president telling us the truth.

However, when President Bush decided to use national security as a political tool, cherry picking intelligence to go to war, co-opting an entire federal bureaucracy for his own private war plans, as well as ignoring analysts, analysis and even the facts that didn’t support his case for war, we all started down a road that now has no honorable end. But when George W. Bush, Deadeye Dick and Donald Rumsfeld, with the help of the top cop in the land, Alberto Gonzales, decided to sanction torture through law and presidential signing statements, honorable people working in the government were put in untenable moral positions.

Mary McCarthy found out about the black sites, what was going on in them, possibly through complaints from CIA officers, so she decided it was worth the cause to make the information public.

The question is, do you look the other way when the President of the United States and his administration are breaking international and U.S. law, or do you stand up and tell the truth, willing to pay the price for breaking the law? Because make no mistake about it, whether it’s noble or not, Mary McCarthy broke the law in order for the American public and the world to know the truth. If she’s not given whistleblower status the penalty will not be sweet.

Oddly enough, however, the wingnuts think the nabbing of McCarthy might actually be a sting. A few weeks ago, I was on C-SPAN debating Rick Moran (clips available here), so I found it interesting that he offers that Dana Priest’s Pulitzer Prize winning story on the black sites was a set up. He’s also got an excellent wingnut round-up of what the Republicans think the firing of McCarthy means. Malkin is at her wingnuttiest best, as she scoops that McCarthy donated to John Kerry. Aha! She also makes sure to link to a screed coming from the print version of wingnut central. But I ask you, has the Bush administration ever been that organized or effective?

Senator Pat Roberts uses the McCarthy incident to squeal like a stuck pig.

The effort has been widely seen among members of the media, and some legal experts, as the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and has worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.

Dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI’s Washington field office. Others have been prohibited, in writing, from discussing even unclassified issues related to the domestic surveillance program. Some GOP lawmakers are also considering tougher penalties for leaking.

Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate intelligence panel, welcomed the CIA’s actions. In a statement, he said leaks had "hindered our efforts in the war against al Qaeda," although he did not say how.

"I am pleased that the Central Intelligence Agency has identified the source of certain unauthorized disclosures, and I hope that the agency, and the [intelligence] community as a whole, will continue to vigorously investigate other outstanding leak cases," Roberts said.

CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks
The Post Was Among Outlets That Gained Classified Data

Secrecy just got a little deeper and broader under Bush, our ability to know the truth a little tougher.  But the campaign against whistleblowers has just begun.

UPDATE: Rick Moran made a comment over at where this piece is cross-posted on my blog. He notified me that he’s walked back from his post yesterday re: a sting. Here’s his morning walk back. … Oh, and one more thing.  Rick comments on my blog that his "sting" idea was "pure speculation."  With all due respect to him, because he seems like a very nice guy, I find this an excuse for putting forth information that was not worthy of discussion without more evidence, frankly.  This is especially true in light of the reporter involved, Dana Priest, who is methodical and has incredible integrity.  The free press is the only thing that stands between us and a deep black hole.  To offer up such a detailed post that included such fantastical components goes far beyond "pure speculation."   It was unfortunate to say the least, but not surprising, given the depths to which most Republicans stoop these days.