The Washington Post reports today that the Bush administration fired a CIA officer 10 days before retirement while investigating the source of the leaks about the secret detention centers run by theÂ CIA in Eastern Europe, though it's now revealed that CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy most likely had nothing at all to do with that particular incident. The article also reveals that at the request of the White House, the Washington Post withheld the names of the countries where the facilities were located, information that McCarthy would not have had access to.
Stories about the secret prison facilities and the illegal NSA wiretapping scandal have led to a rash of polygraph testing within the intelligence community, with the Bush administration seemingly leaving no stone unturned. In addition to the fact, revealed elsewhere, that McCarthy had contributed to the Kerry campaign, an anonymous associate of hers still at the agency suggested that the firing was likely done to scare those remaining. But the administration may not have much of a legal case for these witchunts, as the article concludes:
"... Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute at George Washington University, said he does not think the Post article includes the kind of operational details that a prosecutor would need to build a case.
"It's the fact of the thing that they're trying to keep secret, not to protect sources and methods, but to hide something controversial," he said. "That seems like a hard prosecution to me."
Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said that "even if the espionage statutes were read to apply to leaks of information, we would say the First Amendment prohibits criminalizing leaks of information which reveal wrongful or illegal activities by the government." ..."
Nonetheless, it wouldn't be the first time this administration has taken an action that seemed solely motivated by the desire to whip the intelligence community into line and shut them up. CIA WMD Manager Valerie Plame WilsonÂ was publicly outed after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson made public that Bush's State of theÂ Union claims about Iraqi uranium purchases from Niger were based on forgeries. Wilson claimed that senior members of the administration had leaked her identity to reporters, an allegation that has landed squarely in the indicted lap of Vice President Cheney's not-so-former chief of staff, Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby, who in turn has said that the go-ahead for at least some of his revelations came directly from Cheney himself.
Bush said at the time the story brokeÂ that if there were any leakers in his administration, he wanted to know about it. Yet there were no polygraph tests, no resignations, no evidence that staff were brought in and questioned by the president with an eye towards uncovering the perpetrator. This was a case where the identity of a CIA agent was revealed, which was made a felony by ex-CIA head George H.W. Bush Sr. during his term as president, along with the CIA front company she had claimed publicly as her employer. Yet no one seemed to have been looking very hard for the source of a leak that may have damaged the United States' ability to track black market WMD proliferation, in fact was referred to the Justice Department by the CIA for investigation specifically because they claimed there had been serious operational harm done.
And this might just be outrageous enough if the story ended there, but as you may have been expecting, it doesn't.
There are allegedly three Bush administration officials who leaked national security information to lobbyists for theÂ American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a charge for which former Pentagon official Lawrence A. Franklin has been put in prison with a 12 year sentence. At the lobbyists' trial last Friday, the same day that McCarthy was fired, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was named as another of the trio in what has been suspected to be a very large case.
Is it just me, or does it seem as though the Bush administration's idea of what should remain classified begins and ends with what could damage them politically?