Friday, April 21, 2006

The Company says, "You're fired!"

Yahoo! News has the details:
In a highly unusual move, the
CIA has fired an employee for leaking classified information to the news media, including details about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe that resulted in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, officials said Friday.

The Associated Press has learned the officer was a CIA veteran nearing retirement, Mary McCarthy. Reached Friday evening at home, her husband would not confirm her firing.

In McCarthy's final position at the CIA, she was assigned to its Office of Inspector General, looking into allegations the CIA was involved in torture at Iraqi prisons, according to a former colleague who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation.

Without identifying McCarthy by name, CIA Director Porter Goss announced the firing in a short message to agency employees circulated Thursday. Such firings are rare. And it is the first time since Goss took over in September 2004, vowing to clamp down on leaks, that he has dismissed an intelligence officer for speaking with reporters.

Agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano confirmed an officer had been fired for having unauthorized contacts with the media and disclosing classified information to reporters, including details about intelligence operations.

"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," Gimigliano said. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."

Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not disclose any details about the officer's identity or what she might have told the news media. However, a law enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal leaks investigation under way, but it did not involve the fired CIA officer.

The official said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year disclosing secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law enforcement official spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

The Post's Dana Priest won a Pulitzer Prize this week for her reporting on a covert prison system set up by the CIA after Sept. 11, 2001, that at various times included sites in eight countries. The story caused an international uproar, and government officials have said it did significant damage to relationships between the U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.

Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said on the newspaper's Web site, "We don't know the details of why (the CIA employee) was fired, so I can't comment on that. But as a general principle, obviously I am opposed to criminalizing the dissemination of government information to the press."
When MSM reporters do their jobs well, they bring us the valuable information we need in order to fully participate in society. If our government violates our laws and our values, we'll know when MSM responsibly brings such action to our attention.

When MSM reporters do their job poorly, they deliver the hackneyed propaganda that cynical political operatives want us to confuse with knowledge. This disinformation prevents us from fully participating in society. We may pressure our elected officials to do the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Either way, reporters often depend on anonymous sources to break big stories like CIA secret prisons or redention. Those sources are anonymous for a reason. They may leak information because they truly believe that the organizations in which they work violate principles of fairness that we all value. They may leak it because the resulting story furthers their agenda. They may leak it to retaliate at nefarious persons within their circle of influence.

Whatever their reason, anonymous sources at the CIA violate their contract of employment when they leak. They may also violate the law. They certainly contribute to a troubling trend.

That trend is the undermining of civilian Democracy.

Intelligence agencies serve the civilian government in our republic, not the other way around. Officers of the CIA that disagree with the policies of a sitting president can resign in protest if they feel strongly about a specific issue. They have no business generating public pressure against their Commander-in-Chief in a time of war and still draw a Federal salary.

Less stable societies have seen their governments topple through inappropriate intervention by their own country's intelligence services. Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq with the help of the intelligence service through which he arose. The United States can't afford to walk that road.

If Mrs. McCarthy did leak information to the press, she deserves to lose her job and forfeit her pension. The CIA--and everyone in it--serves the policy makers. If any one working for the company wants to make policy, let him retire and run for public office.

The Western Hemisphere doesn't need another Banana Republic.