Washington Post reports that Mrs. McCarthy’s not guilty, and you can’t prosecute her successfully either, if she is.
A lawyer representing fired CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy said yesterday that his client did not leak any classified information and did not disclose to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected terrorists.
The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest’s award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency’s secret prisons.
McCarthy was fired because the CIA concluded that she had undisclosed contacts with journalists, including Priest, in violation of a security agreement. That does not mean she revealed the existence of the prisons to Priest, Cobb said.
Cobb said that McCarthy, who worked in the CIA inspector general’s office, “did not have access to the information she is accused of leaking,” namely the classified information about any secret detention centers in Europe. Having unreported media contacts is not unheard of at the CIA but is a violation of the agency’s rules…
..Though McCarthy acknowledged having contact with reporters, a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post’s reporting on the secret prisons. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing personnel matters…
..Where Cobb’s account and the CIA’s account differed yesterday is on whether McCarthy discussed any classified information with journalists. Intelligence sources said that the inspector general’s office was generally aware of a secret prison program but that McCarthy did not have access to specifics, such as prison locations…
..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.”
And the New York Times unlimbers its Ouija Board and channels a warning from a Pouting Spook.
A criminal trial would be devastating for Langley,” said one former C.I.A. officer, referring to the agency’s Virginia headquarters. He spoke about a possible prosecution on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Well, they’ve double-dared Porter Goss and the Administration to try to do anything about the Press leaks and the Anti-Bush Intel Operation. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next.