Liberally Conservative

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free....... ~Ronald Reagan~

Monday, April 24, 2006

CIA Leaker's Mostly Deadly Sin

Andrew C. McCarthy (no relation to Mary McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies asks, “Why isn’t she in cuffs?” at National Review Online. The case against McCarthy, moreover, is said to involve not just a single illegal disclosure of the Nation's secrets, but several. One prominent instance is reported to involve alerting the press that the CIA had arrangements with overseas intelligence services for the detention of high-level al Qaeda detainees captured in the war on terror — from whom the culling of intelligence is critical to the safety of Americans. The so-called "black site" prisons were later publicized by Dana Priest of the Washington Post, jeopardizing not only the detainee intelligence stream but, just as importantly, America's relationship with the cooperating governments — on whom we rely because of our global dearth of intelligence assets, and who are now incentivized to cut-off information exchanges because they believe (with some obvious justification) that our intelligence community is not trustworthy. As a result of all this, McCarthy was fired, stripped of her security clearance, and escorted from the CIA's premises last Thursday. Yet, she has not been arrested. Federal law, specifically, Section 793(d) of Title 18, United States Code, clearly makes it an offense, punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment, for anyone who lawfully has access to national defense information — including information which "the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation" — to willfully communicate that information to any person not entitled to have it. McCarthy had access to classified information about our wartime national defense activities by virtue of her official position at the CIA. The compromise of that information appears to have been devastating to U.S. intelligence efforts — in wartime, no less. CIA Director Porter Goss testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February that the "damage" from leaks "has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission." The unauthorized disclosures were also, patently, a boon to several foreign nations, which have used it to put immense pressure — under the guise of international law — on countries that heretofore have been willing to run the risk of helping the United States battle terrorists. Mary McCarthy's position--the post from which she is likely to have learned the most sensitive information at the heart of the leak controversy--was inside the CIA's inspector general's office. This is the unit that investigates internal misconduct. This is the unit to which government employees are encouraged to report government abuse or illegality so it can be investigated, potentially reported to Congress, and prosecuted if appropriate. That is, it is the legal alternative to leaking national secrets to the media. It is, therefore, the process that has to be protected if our intelligence community is to have credibility with the public and with the foreign intelligence services on which we are so dependent. If it becomes just another Washington sieve--a place where people who comply with their oaths and exercise professional discretion may nevertheless expect to find the information they confide trumpeted on Page One of the Washington Post--we are guaranteed to have much more leaking. And much less security. Mary McCarthy's position — the post from which she is likely to have learned the most sensitive information at the heart of the leak controversy — was inside the CIA's inspector general's office. This is the unit that investigates internal misconduct. This is the unit to which government employees are encouraged to report government abuse or illegality so it can be investigated, potentially reported to Congress, and prosecuted if appropriate.
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Let's hope Ms. McCarthy doesn't get the slap on the hands provided Sandy Berger, former Clinton national-security adviser who admitted stealing classified information from the national archives and lied about it to investigators. It's time the Department of Justice send a strong message to government employees who feel compelled to break the law.

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