The Media Circling the Wagons Around McCarthy


The New York Times has an article out today that introduces the memes the rest of the media will pick up to defend Mary McCarthy, the CIA officer who was fired for leaking classified information to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest.

1. She disagreed with Clinton’s decision to bomb a suspected chemical weapons (aspirin) factory but didn’t undermine Clinton; therefore, she couldn’t have done it now:

In 1998, when President Bill Clinton ordered military strikes against a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan, Mary O. McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer assigned to the White House, warned the president that the plan relied on inconclusive intelligence, two former government officials said.

Ms. McCarthy’s reservations did not stop the attack on the factory, which was carried out in retaliation for Al Qaeda’s bombing of two American embassies in East Africa. But they illustrated her willingness to challenge intelligence data and methods endorsed by her bosses at the Central Intelligence Agency.

2. It was Bush’s fault! The Bush administration’s heavy-handed tactics forced her to go to the media. She was protecting the United States:

Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy, who began attending law school at night several years ago, made a campaign contribution to Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and had announced her intention to retire from C.I.A., had grown increasingly disenchanted with the often harsh and extra-legal methods adopted by the Bush administration for handling Al Qaeda prisoners and felt she had no alternative except to go to the press.

If in fact Ms. McCarthy was the leaker, Richard J. Kerr, a former C.I.A. deputy director, said, “I have no idea what her motive was, but there is a lot of dissension within the agency and it seems to be a rather unhappy place.” Mr. Kerr called Ms. McCarthy “quite a good, substantive person on the issues I dealt with her on.”

3. The Bush administration was out to get her because she was a Democrat:

When the Bush administration took office in 2001, Ms. McCarthy’s career seemed to stall. A former Bush administration official who worked with her said that, although she was a career C.I.A. employee, as a holdover from the Clinton administration she was regarded with suspicion and was gradually eased out of her job as senior director for intelligence programs. She left several months into Mr. Bush’s first term…

…Several associates of Ms. McCarthy say she returned to the C.I.A. in 2004, taking a job in the inspector general’s office. That year, public records show, she contributed $2,000 to Mr. Kerry’s presidential campaign, identifying herself as a “government analyst.”

4. She was framed! CIA Director Porter Goss targeted her as the CIA’s sacrificial lamb:

After an article last November in The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. was sending terror suspects to clandestine detention centers in several countries, including some in Eastern Europe, Porter J. Goss, the agency’s director, ordered polygraphs for intelligence officers who knew about certain “compartmented” programs, including the secret detention centers for terror suspects.

Polygraphs are given routinely to agency employees at least every five years, but special ones can be ordered when a security breach is suspected.

Government officials said that after Ms. McCarthy’s polygraph examination showed the possibility of deception, the examiner confronted her and she disclosed having conversations with reporters.

But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.

“It looks to me like Mary is being used as a sacrificial lamb,” said Larry Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who worked for Ms. McCarthy in the agency’s Latin America section.

These are the excuses the MSM will use to defend Mary McCarthy and, by extension, defend themselves since they are the folks who are publishing the leaks.

On a similar note, Newsbusters reports on several journalists’ reactions:

Bob Schieffer expressed anger and alluded to the “she was framed” meme about McCarthy’s firing:

At least one leading mainstream journalists isn’t too happy about the revelation Friday that on Thursday the CIA fired an official who admitted being the leaker of top secret information about CIA prisons overseas used to hold al-Qaeda suspects. Bob Schieffer didn’t withhold his personal opinion from his newscast as he introduced a CBS Evening News story by asserting that “it is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission” and he described the firing as “a first — a dubious first, to be sure.”

Nina Totenberg used the “It’s Bush’s fault” meme:

“One of the things that a civilized and democratic society is supposed to do is have a system of checks and balances. And this administration did not allow that system of checks and balances to exist. Congress didn’t know about this stuff by in large, it didn’t approve of this stuff by in large. And the administration has not tried to institute any sort of mechanisms, legal, any legal mechanisms to put, have anybody from outside check them.”

The AP has a story about the Mary McCarthy’s firing from the CIA for leaking classified documents; however, the photo directly below the headline is of Scooter Libby. He’s not even mentioned in the story. File this one under diversion. Hat tip: The Corner

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