First, the caveats. The topCIA employee fired last week for allegedly sharing classifiedinformation with the Washington Post and other newsorganizations, has not officially been charged with any crime. Norhas she been referred to the Justice Department for prosecution.
But the public firing of former Inspector General executive Mary O.McCarthy on April 20 - just ten days before she was scheduled toretire after two decades in government - was virtually unprecedentedin the history of the Agency, and shows the tremendous fissures thathave opened up within our intelligence community.
We're only at the beginning of learning about the extraordinaryinternal probe that singled out McCarthy for having "unauthorizedcontacts" with reporters. But even the little we know so far isstunning.
Furious at the leaks that exposed sensitive intelligence programs - including the existence of- "secret prisons" the Agency has usedperiodically to hold high priority suspected terrorists - CIADirector Porter Goss kicked off the internal investigation bypersonally submitting to a polygraph.
He then called on other top Agency officials to do the same. Thosewho went "on the box" included McCarthy's boss, CIA Inspector GeeralJohn. L. Helgerson. All the while, Porter Goss led the probehimself.
Internal probes led personally by a CIA director are virtuallyunheard of. As far as I've been able to ascertain from Agencyveterans, there hasn't been a single one in the past fifteenyears.
But late last year, top intelligence executives began to seriouslyreview a 2001 Robert Redford/Brad Pitt thriller, Spy Game, inwhich a wily covert operator (Redford) is grilled by the CIA Directorand top Agency lawyers about an operation gone sour, on the very dayhe is scheduled to retire.
The interrogation goes on and off the record, as lawyers dig up newinformation, and Robert Redford conducts his own covert operationright under their noses. In the Hollywood version, the CIAdirector¬Ýis the villain (naturally) and the rogue agentis the hero.
To the enemies of the Bush administration in Congress and elsewhere,the same holds true today.
Senator John Kerry told George Stephanopoulos on ABC this Weeklast Sunday that he was "glad she told the truth." He then went on tocompare the courageous truth-telling of Mary McCarthy to the "lies"of former deputy National Security Advisor Scooter Libby, chargedwith perjury in the Valerie Plame case.
"Here's my fundamental view of this," Kerry said. "You have somebodybeing fired from the CIA for allegedly telling the truth, and youhave no one fired from the White House for revealing a CIA agent inorder to support a lie. That underscores what's really wrong inWashington, D.C."
Kerry was repeating almost word for word an earlier comment by formerAgency analyst Larry Johnson, who found the firing of McCarthy"smells a little fishy." Noting that "she may have been fired forensuring that the truth about an abuse was told to the Americanpeople," Johnson went on to comment: "there is something potentiallyhonorable in that action, particularly when you consider that GeorgeBush authorized Scooter Libby to leak misleading information for thepurpose of deceiving the American people about the grounds for goingto war in Iraq."
Johnson has made a career in recent years in becoming a source forthe media in slamming Bush. But the media convenently forgets thatkey among his credentials is a famous op-ed he wrote just days beforethe September 11, 2001 attacks, claiming that the threat fromterrorism had become virtually non-existent, thanks to Clintonadministration policies.
McCarthy's lawyer, Ty Cobb, claims his client did not leak classifiedinformation, although the CIA concluded from a polygraph that she hadundisclosed contacts with journalists, including WashingtonPost reporter Dana Priest who just received a Pulitzer for herrole in exposing the CIA "secret prisons."
RayMcGovern, a former CIAanalyst who co-founded the anti-Bush Veteran IntelligenceProfessionals for Sanity, blames House Permanent Select Intelligencecommittee chairman Pete Hoekstra for compelling Mary McCarthy to"chose between a silence she would regret and being punished forspeaking out." She went to the Post, McGovern said, becauseshe had "no where else to turn."
Former clandestine officers say that the leaks surrounding theextraordinary renditions have caused "tremendous damage" to theAgency and have "physically endangered" officers currently servingoverseas.
A great ideological divide separates these officers, who believe thata "secret service" ought to remain secret, and others in the Agencywho believe they have a "duty" to expose what they believe areunlawful or unethical actions by the Agency.
One thing is certain: the firing of Mary McCarthy is far from the endof this drama, which began with the forced departures in the weeksafter Goss arrived at CIA of top managers and covert operators whohad profound political disagreements with the new Director and withthe Bush administration.
For the ideological divide currently paralyzing our intelligencecommunity runs deep and is not limited to CIA or State Departmentanalysts. It involves top officials, who believe they have a moral"duty" to prevent the President of the United States from executingpolicies with which they disagree.
I call this sabotage.
Some in Congress are attempting to encourage the leakers and tointimidate those who keep secrets, by threatening legal actionagainst intelligence officers who fail to inform Congress ofclandestine operations.
Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen pursued this approach in a Feb.15, 2006, House national security committee hearing on NSAwhistleblowers.
In his questioning of Russell Tice, who was dismissed from the NSAlast year, Van Hollen noted sternly that people "will be very alarmedat the kind of abuses that went on in those agencies."
Tice had sought whistleblower protection in order to testify onhighly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, he claimed wereimproperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA. Some of theseprograms, which involved NSA eavesdropping on internationalcommunications, have been called "warrantless wiretapping" by thepress.
But Van Hollen was not interested in information. He wanted to send achill down the spine of those in the intelligence community heconsidered to be his "enemies."
He warned Tice that "a court of law may determine that an individualNSA employee could be held criminally liable for violating theForeign Intelligence Surveillance Act," which establishes guidelinesfor obtaining a court order to carry out surveillance againstpotential terrorist targets in the United States.
This is how far we have come in Year- Five of the War on Terror.
Members of the United States Senate and the U.S. House ofRepresentatives do not seem to agree with the president of the UnitedStates that our nation is at war, and that war requires a vigorousintelligence establishment, willing to take risks to protect thenation. Instead, they are seeking to bend the law and enhance theirown powers, to intimidate intelligence officers out of doing theirjobs.
This, too, is sabotage.