The Magazine

The New McCarthyism

What the media aren't telling you about CIA leaker Mary McCarthy.

May 8, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 32 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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ON APRIL 19, 2006, security personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency escorted a senior CIA official from her office, withdrew her Top Secret clearance, and terminated her employment. The CIA did not name the officer. She was fired after she "acknowledged having unauthorized discussions with reporters in which the officer knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence, including operational information."

The CIA did not name her, but several news organizations reported that the official was Mary McCarthy, whose most recent position at the Agency was in the office of the inspector general. Two days later, when McCarthy denied disclosing classified information to reporters, she asked a former colleague, Rand Beers, to make the statement on her behalf.

It was an interesting choice. McCarthy had worked for Beers on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton. They had apparently remained close, even after Beers quit his position in the new administration and became a leading critic of the counterterrorism policies of George W. Bush. Or perhaps the two had remained close because Beers quit his position to criticize the Bush administration.

Beers was the senior foreign policy adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004. In March 2004, Mary McCarthy contributed the maximum amount allowed under campaign finance laws--$2,000--to the Kerry campaign. She increased her giving as the competitive campaign drew to a close. On October 5, 2004, she gave another $5,000 to the Democratic party in Ohio, a state that many observers believed (correctly, it turned out) would decide the election. And on October 29, 2004, McCarthy gave an additional $500 to the Democratic National Committee Service Corps. Federal records show that Michael McCarthy, of the same home address, gave an additional $2,000 to the Kerry campaign and $500 to Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic senator from Maryland. In all, the McCarthy household contributed some $10,000 to Democrats during the last election cycle.

The New York Times reported McCarthy's $2,000 contribution to the Kerry campaign (but not the others), and articles sympathetic to McCarthy by the Associated Press and Newsweek at least made mention of Beers's association with the Kerry campaign. But virtually none of the other press found the facts in the preceding paragraph worth reporting.

In the current political environment, that's an odd oversight. Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear about the war between the White House and the CIA over politicized intelligence. Administration critics claim the White House selectively uses intelligence to support its policies, and administration supporters complain about a rash of leaks from unelected bureaucrats at the CIA determined to undermine those policies.

Observe these battles through the prism of the mainstream press, however, and you get the distinct impression that only one side is fighting: the White House. Something closer to the opposite is true and has been since the summer of 2003.

Consider. On May 6, 2003, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a column on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, focused on President Bush's allegation that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa:

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted--except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

We now know that Kristof's "person" was Joseph Wilson. And we know that it was not possible for Wilson to have concluded that the documents were forged in February 2002 because, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the U.S. government did not receive the forgeries in question until October 2002. It was the first--and most reckless--of many lies Wilson would tell. The column ran under the headline "Missing In Action: Truth." No kidding. The column would set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the indictment of Scooter Libby, then Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.

On May 30, 2003, Kristof wrote a follow-up called "Save Our Spooks":