Prosecute McCarthy, Send Her to Prison

Mary McCarthy, special assistant to President Clinton and senior director of intelligence in his White House, has been fired by the CIA.

McCarthy allegedly told the Washington Post our NATO allies were secretly letting the CIA operate bases on their soil for the interrogation of terror suspects. Apparently, McCarthy failed several polygraph tests, after which she confessed.

If true, she was faithless to her oath, betrayed the trust of her country, damaged America’s ties to foreign intelligence agencies and governments, and broke the law. The Justice Department is investigating whether McCarthy violated the Espionage Act.

Yet, while she may be headed for criminal prosecution and prison, the Post reporter to whom she leaked intelligence on the secret sites, Dana Priest, just won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing the existence of these sites.

Also copping Pulitzers were two reporters for the New York Times who revealed that, since 9/11, U.S. intelligence agencies have been intercepting calls and e-mails between terror suspects and U.S. citizens.

President Bush had implored the Times not to publish the story, lest exposure of the spying program alert al Qaeda to U.S. capabilities and operations.

For one year, the Times held the story — then, it went with it. While the delay has been criticized by some journalists, most applauded exposing the spying program and the U.S. secret bases, and the Pulitzers that went with their exposure.

On ABC’s "This Week," Sen. John Kerry, to whose campaign McCarthy made a $2,000 contribution, was his usual ambivalent self when asked whether he approved of what she had done:

"Of course not. A CIA agent has the obligation to uphold the law, and clearly leaking is against the law, and nobody should leak. I don’t like leaking. But if you’re leaking to tell the truth, Americans are going to look at that, at least mitigate or think about what are the consequences that you … put on that person. Obviously they’re not going to keep their job, but there are other larger issues here."

What "larger issues" there were, Kerry did not say.

Pressed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Kerry blurted, "I’m glad she told the truth, but she’s going to obviously — if she did it, if she did it — suffer the consequences of breaking the law."

Kerry was prepared for the question, so he has to be held to account. When he says, "I’m glad she told the truth," one has to ask: What is Kerry talking about?

To whom did McCarthy tell the truth? Apparently, to Dana Priest, in exposing the secret program. Is Kerry "glad" she did this? Is he glad she violated her oath and broke the law and exposed the program? To those to whom McCarthy owed loyalty, her superiors at the CIA, she apparently lied in her polygraph examinations, and only after being caught did she confess.

Where is the moral heroism in clandestinely violating one’s oath, breaking the law, leaking secrets and lying about it? Is this the New Morality? What was the higher cause McCarthy was serving?

Journalists are rising to her defense, describing McCarthy as a whistle-blower — i.e., someone who calls the government to account for wrongdoing. But there is no evidence President Bush or U.S. agencies were doing anything criminal by using secret sites provided by NATO allies to interrogate terror suspects plotting to murder Americans.

If U.S. officials are engaged in misconduct or atrocities at these bases — i.e., the torture of prisoners — no one has said so. Reportedly, an E.U. investigation of the U.S. secret sites in Europe turned up nothing.

What does it say about American journalism that it gives its most prestigious prizes to reporters who acquire and reveal illicitly leaked U.S. secrets, when the result is to damage the U.S. government in a time of war? Both the Times and Post got their Pulitzers for fencing secrets of the U.S. government, criminally leaked by disloyal public servants they continue to protect.

Query: If McCarthy deserves firing, disgrace and possibly prison for what she did, does the Post deserve congratulations for collaborating with and covering up her infidelity, deceit and possible criminality?

Are journalists above the law? Are they entitled to publish secrets, the leaking of which can put their sources in jail for imperiling the national security? What kind of business has journalism become in 2006?

Scooter Libby is to be tried for perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury investigating whether he leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, in a White House campaign to discredit war critic Joe Wilson. Larry Franklin of the Pentagon got 12 years for leaking military secrets to the Israeli lobby.

McCarthy deserves the same treatment. She should be prosecuted and, if convicted, spend the next decade in prison. Whether this war was a mistake or not, no one has a right to sabotage the war effort.

Not even journalists.