CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks
CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks
The Post Was Among Outlets That Gained Classified Data
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 22, 2006; A01
The CIA fired a long-serving intelligence officer for
sharing classified information with The Washington
Post and other news organizations, officials said
yesterday, as the agency continued an aggressive
internal search for anyone who may have discussed
intelligence with the news media.
CIA officials said the career intelligence officer
failed more than one polygraph test and acknowledged
unauthorized contacts with reporters. The "officer
knowingly and willfully shared classified
intelligence, including operational information" with
journalists, the agency said in a statement yesterday.
The CIA did not reveal the identity of the employee,
who was dismissed Thursday, but NBC News reported last
night she is Mary McCarthy. An intelligence source
confirmed that the report was accurate.
McCarthy began her career in government as an analyst
at the CIA in 1984, public documents show. She served
as special assistant to the president and senior
director for intelligence programs at the White House
during the Clinton administration and the first few
months of the Bush administration. She later returned
to the CIA. Attempts to reach her last night were
The CIA's statement did not name the reporters it
believes were involved, but several intelligence
officials said The Post's Dana Priest was among them.
This week, Priest won the Pulitzer Prize for beat
reporting for articles about the agency, including one
that revealed the existence of secret, CIA-run prisons
in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate
intelligence committee in February that the agency was
determined to get to the bottom of recent leaks, and
wanted journalists brought before a federal grand jury
to reveal their sources. Regarding disclosures about
CIA detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects
at secret sites abroad, Goss, the former chairman of
the House intelligence committee, said that "the
damage has been very severe to our capabilities to
carry out our mission."
The CIA has filed several reports to the Justice
Department since last fall regarding the publication
of classified information and has launched its own
internal inquiries which include administering
polygraphs to dozens of employees. The intelligence
agency is sharing its findings with the Justice
Department but is continuing to pursue some avenues of
investigation on its own.
"It's up to the Justice Department to decide whether
they want to pursue investigations separately," an
intelligence source said.
The Justice Department is conducting several leak
inquiries, including one into reports last December in
the New York Times about a secret domestic
surveillance program by the National Security Agency.
Officials said it is possible the department could
file criminal charges in connection with that
investigation and others, but it is unclear whether
the department is also investigating the disclosures
about CIA-run prisons.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse declined
to comment yesterday. "We do not confirm
investigations on intelligence-related matters," he
said, because of the information's sensitivity.
Intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of
anonymity, said the dismissed officer identified by
others as McCarthy has not been charged with any crime
and is not believed to be the subject of a Justice
The officer's employment was terminated for violating
a secrecy agreement all employees are required to sign
when they join the agency. The agreement prohibits
them from sharing classified information with
The CIA said the firing was the result of an internal
investigation initiated in late January of all
"officers who were involved in or exposed to certain
"Through the course of these investigations a CIA
official acknowledged having unauthorized discussion
with the media" and was terminated, the CIA statement
Priest, who also won the George Polk Award and a prize
from the Overseas Press Club this week for her
articles, declined to comment yesterday.
Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said people
who provide citizens the information they need to hold
their government accountable should not "come to harm
"The reporting that Dana did was very important
accountability reporting about how the CIA and the
rest of the U.S. government have been conducting the
war on terror," Downie said. "Whether or not the
actions of the CIA or other agencies have interfered
with anyone's civil liberties is important information
for Americans to know and is an important part of our
In an effort to stem leaks, the Bush administration
launched several initiatives earlier this year
targeting journalists and national security employees.
They include FBI probes, extensive polygraphing inside
the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that
reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.
The effort has been widely seen among members of the
media, and some legal experts, as the most extensive
and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and
has worsened the already-tense relationship between
mainstream news organizations and the White House.
Dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security
Agency and other intelligence agencies have been
interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field
office. Others have been prohibited, in writing, from
discussing even unclassified issues related to the
domestic surveillance program. Some GOP lawmakers are
also considering tougher penalties for leaking.
Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate
intelligence panel, welcomed the CIA's actions. In a
statement, he said leaks had "hindered our efforts in
the war against al Qaeda," although he did not say
"I am pleased that the Central Intelligence Agency has
identified the source of certain unauthorized
disclosures, and I hope that the agency, and the
[intelligence] community as a whole, will continue to
vigorously investigate other outstanding leak cases,"
Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu and research editor Lucy
Shackelford contributed to this report.