Fired CIA intelligence analyst Mary McCarthy has reportedly confessed to leaking facts about the CIA’s top-secret terrorist jails in Europe and Southwest Asia to Dana Priest of the Washington Post. As Priest basks in the glory of the Pulitzer Prize she won for those stories, McCarthy is alternately being investigated for criminal prosecution and hailed as a brave crusader for truth, justice and The American Way.
McCarthy is not, as one pundit said, a courageous American citizen exercising her First Amendment rights against an outrageous government policy. If there are no restrictions enforced by law, then there are no secrets. McCarthy is a traitor, someone who leaked top secret information and damaged our national security, risked the lives of Americans fighting a war, and disrupted our relations with nations that had been working with us against a new kind of enemy. McCarthy was an employee, not a policy maker. She has never been elected by the American people or appointed by the President to a position that would have entitled her to disclose that information. (And neither have the senators and congressmen who have leaked facts just as sensitive as those McCarthy passed on to Dana Priest.) Comparing McCarthy’s crime to the President’s decision to reveal details of a National Intelligence Estimate is a political argument based on a falsehood. The PPresident is the ultimate classification authority. When he decides to reveal information he is exercising one of the powers of the office to which he was elected.
McCarthy took advantage of the position she had been entrusted and violated her legal obligations. Serving in the CIA’s inspector general’s office, she had a special responsibility. The IG’s office is legally authorized to be privy to compartmented information, the highest level of classification. Other CIA employees only see bits and pieces of such information because the compartmentalization system is designed to prevent all but a few top people to see all the pieces and know what they mean in the larger context. She violated her highest duty because her political beliefs were opposed to the policy that the President had established. Her disclosure was politically motivated. She wanted to thwart the policy of the President, and she achieved her goal by committing a felony. McCarthy should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent the law allows. As should her fellow CIA leakers and manipulators of policy.
McCarthy was not alone among the CIA’s analysts and decision makers. As I have written many times, the CIA has been in open revolt against the President since 9-11. Failing to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, the terrorist attacks before, including and after 9-11, and just about everything else that mattered, the CIA has been an utter failure in the mission it was created to perform. Instead, it has been operating covertly against the government by mounting operations such as the Joe Wilson Niger trip, which was planned and performed only to discredit the President’s position that Iraq was seeking uranium for a revived nuclear weapons program. CIA bureaucrats have been spending a lot of time and effort to discredit the President while fighting against the change that will transform it from the failure it has been to an agency that can meet the needs of a nation at war. And in doing so it has fueled the opposition press with these leaks.
America’s free press is supposed to be one of the guardians of our freedom. But while the press is free it must also be responsible, and in this it fails comprehensively. The New York Times published the stories of the NSA terrorist surveillance program even after the President made a personal appeal to maintain the secrecy of one of our most highly valued secret programs (probably leaked by McCarthy’s CIA pals or their cohorts in NSA and other agencies).
We are at war. Every American, regardless of his job, has a duty to protect the interests of this nation and to place his loyalty to our nation above his own career or political agenda. We aren’t talking about Washington gossip, little secrets leaked by little people to raise their status from a “B-list” guest to the “A-list” for the right cocktail parties. We are talking about the essentials for fighting this war that, if revealed as the NSA program and the CIA secret prisons were, can mean the difference between winning the war and enabling our enemies to hit us again as they did on 9-11.
The liberal media is so consumed with its hatred for George Bush that it has lost any sense of loyalty to our nation. This year it gave its highest professional award — the Pulitzer Prize — to Dana Priest for her CIA prisons stories and to James Risen, the New York Times reporter who wrote the stories that revealed the NSA terrorist surveillance program. There is not even a debate among the press about whether these reporters should be chastised instead of rewarded. To the contrary, these Pulitzer Prizes make every reporter more eager to discover and publish America’s secrets regardless of the consequences to our soldiers and our nation.
How many times have we seen the president subjected to lectures about introspection and demands for apologies by the White House press corps? If reporters, editors and publishers were publicly subjected to that same critical examination they might regain their sense of responsibility to the nation. And they might, in a moment of private introspection, regain the perspective that freedom of the press is not the only essential right enshrined in the Constitution. If a free press is not responsible, it cannot be a defender of freedom. It can become the enemy of all who fight in defense of our way of life. What will they publish next?
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004) and the forthcoming book (with Edward Timperlake) Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States (Regnery, May 2006).
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?