Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some Leaks Are Better Than Others...

...but only the Emperor gets to decided which is which.

The CIA's firing of Mary O. McCarthy for leaking information on the secret US prisons in other countries is a pretty good example. Although Ms. McCarthy disputes that she admitted telling a Washington Post reporter about those prisons, she has been fired and faces criminal charges. A rather blunt editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes the difference between the CIA secret prisons story and the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by the White House.

On one level, CIA Director Porter Goss' decision to fire Mary O. McCarthy for leaking classified information to reporters may simply reflect necessary agency discipline. But it also perfectly fits the pattern of this administration: Hide unflattering information that Congress and the public should know, while selectively leaking classified information that fits the White House political agenda.

McCarthy was fired for leaking information to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest about the CIA's system of secret prisons around the world where terrorist suspects are held. For her reporting, Priest won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize. The judges thought Priest -- and by extension, McCarthy -- had done a significant public service.

...Colleagues report that during the time she worked at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, she was a stickler for following rules and protecting classified information. She also was not timid about expressing her opinions on intelligence issues, even to President Bill Clinton himself.

What changed her? We'd bet it was the Bush administration's willingness to engage in ethically and legally questionable activities and then use the classification system to keep them from public view -- or, conversely, to make public classified information that should never have been released, such as identifying Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative.
[Emphasis added]

This is a distinction with a difference, something the White House knows full well, but conveniently ignores. If Ms. McCarthy in fact released that information to the press (and at this point she denies admitting she did so), then she should qualify as a whistle blower and be protected as such. She will have done this nation a great service. As the STrib editorialist concludes:

There is a good reason for classifying information that would damage national security if released. But the Bush administration has warped that concept in order to deceive Congress, the American people and the world about the nature -- not the substance -- of highly questionable activities. That's why people like McCarthy, Drumheller and others finally are forced to do something that goes against every fiber of their professional beings: They break the rules because the rules have been manipulated for venal ends. Breaking them is the only way to shine sunlight on ugly truths. Washington needs more sunlight.

Exactly.

4 Comments:

Blogger NYMary said...

Great post, and a great editorial. I don't understand why this distinction is so impossible for the media to communicate.

4:58 AM  
Blogger watertiger said...

Because the media is, for the most part, complicit in the cover-up, NYMary.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, diane. I note that we're operating abroad because the laws allow violations of U.S. rights. But this cabal in the White House operates outside those same laws, and admit it. So how is it a violation of trust to report violations of our laws if the CiC is admitting he did just that? or is the CiC leaking again?

Ruth

5:04 AM  
Blogger cabearie said...

Ruth,

The CiC is leaking...all over the rest of us.

5:10 AM  

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