"It isn't just the CIA that has problems with former politicals getting knee-deep into this Administration's policy and leaking materials," says a current Bush Administration aide. "We're talking about a situation that we haven't been able to deal with in a manner in which we'd want. But this Mary McCarthy case may help us."
The aide is referring to the firing last week of a CIA employee working in the agency's Office of Inspector General. One of McCarthy's jobs was investigating allegations of torture by CIA employees or contractors at Iraqi prisons. The CIA fired McCarthy on evidence that she was one of the sources for Washington Post reporter Dana Priest's report on so-called "Black Site" prisons in Europe and elsewhere that housed captured al Qaeda, Taliban, and some senior Iraqi military and intelligence individuals.
Unresolved is whether McCarthy also leaked material to the left-wing organization, Human Rights Watch, which clearly was also a key source to Priest. (Note this quote in Priest's now-Pulitzer Prize winning story: "'I remember asking: What are we going to do with these people?' said a senior CIA officer. 'I kept saying, where's the help? We've got to bring in some help. We can't be jailers -- our job is to find Osama.'" Was this McCarthy?)
McCarthy's background is just becoming increasingly fleshed out, including her ties to former National Security Advisor Sandy "Sox" Berger and the Clinton White House. McCarthy was appointed Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs by Berger in 1998. She replaced Rand Beers.
According to former Kerry campaign staffers, Beers, who served as a senior adviser to Kerry's campaign, spoke of having continued access to CIA and national security data from former colleagues still in government.
"He said he still had friends willing to help the Kerry campaign from inside," says a former staffer. "We always assumed that guys like Beers and Berger were in touch with these people. I'm not talking about having secure material leaked to us, but our national security folks always seemed to be in the know." The former staffer said he never recalled mention of any names.
But all of this is now past tense, and the White House, as well as senior staff at the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense, are attempting to identify possible leakers among their own career staffs with access to information that might be helpful to Democrats or the press.
Of greatest concern is the Department of Justice, the nexus of many terrorism and national security cases that would involve the White House, Defense and State Departments, as well as briefings on Capitol Hill to congressional leadership.
"We know we have people leaking materials. It's been an ongoing problem, but until someone has taken the first step, and the McCarthy case would appear to be the first step, it's hard to move against career staff," says a current Defense Department staffer. "We have an IG looking at all kinds of things right now. Perhaps we'll get some movement."
Remember Mo, you said it first. :)