LOOSE LIPS, SINK SHIPS
April 24, 2006
“We must do the thing we must Before the thing we may; We are unfit for any trust Till we can and do obey." --George MacDonald
Mary O. McCarthy is the CIA officer recently fired for allegedly leaking classified information to the press. She in the process of becoming a tool for dueling partisan interests.
Critics of McCarthy have and will attack her oath breaking, perceived political proclivity, and more. Her sins and motivations will be guesstimated and assigned arbitrarily contingent on the accusers personal preconceptions and pursued agenda.
Her defenders will manufacture defenses for her from whole cloth and seek to vilify her accusers.
What McCarthy allegedly did (leaking information to Dana Priest at the Washington Post) is empirically flat out wrong. Any defense of her motives, or insinuations about her political partisanship is immaterial. Consequences in life are real…for everything we do and do not do.
There exists a mutually exclusive duality. We insist on honor and principles…but seem comfortable, as we tend to rationalize and mitigate contingent on our inherent prejudices.
We want (and need) enterprising journalists to dig and uncover stuff we are not supposed to know. However, (and stay with here because some of you will get angry) often the journalist ‘Jones’ presupposes a ‘right to know’ absent the consequences of ‘should we know’.
All whistle blowers are both lauded and condemned…dependent on the perceived result of the leak (is it good or bad for ‘my’ team).
The journalist’s objective is to collect information and disseminate it. All the beltway beats cultivate, develop and exploit ‘sources’. Sometimes, the symbiotic relationships result in the reporters being exploited. Such is life in D.C. reportage. However, blame should not be showered on the reporters but rather the leakers who (for whatever reason) tell what they shouldn’t.
Dana Priest is a good reporter; the Pulitzer merely validates her professional expertise. I’ve never met her but she once called me for information she had heard I had on the rescue of Jessica Lynch (female captive U.S. soldier in Iraq). I knew stuff she would have loved to print, but I declined to share. It was very easy to say ‘Sorry, I can’t help you.’ No harm/no foul.
By the way, despite having venues to distribute what I knew on line and on the radio, I never did write or say publicly anything I was told about her rescue or what happened to her in captivity.
McCarthy for some unknown reason chose to share classified information with a reporter. That is her bad…and for sure earned her termination. Once upon a time, it would have earned her far worse.
Henry Clay said, “Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.”
Our government is flawed and not infrequently they make mistakes. However, it is way beyond presumptuous (even if they are right) for a leaker to presume that the information they are disseminating is critical and the peoples ‘right to know’ overshadows negative consequences of ‘should they know’.
McCarthy was not fired because she was close to the Clinton administration or because Sandy Berger supported her (Sandy Berger should be in jail for his abuse of trust of classified material). She was fired for “failing a polygraph examination and confessing that she had disclosed classified information to reporters.”
"We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a Clinton National Security Council aide who worked closely with McCarthy.
Yeah? So what? Aaron Burr was a hero of the War for Independence and Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President before he resigned to embrace treason [Read]. When it comes to security issues, and especially at the puzzle palace in Langley, perception becomes reality. The fact she admitted to have engaged in inappropriate discussions with a media representative is sufficient to fire her tail.
Some claim McCarthy was ‘disenchanted’ with the Bush administration. Hey, then quit, write a book, and join the ‘loyal opposition’. You don’t violate your oath and disseminate classified material because you think your boss is a jerk.
Frankly for a mid level wonk to presume they have the omniscient overview of the big picture and they are better suited to make strategic decisions regarding release of classified information is penultimate arrogance…even if she is right.
No criminal charges have been filed against McCarthy…yet. If the government is serious about stopping leaks, they should correct that oversight sooner rather than later.
© 2006 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved
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