CIA Canning Officer for Leaking Classified Info a Good Start
by Jim Kouri, CPP
The Central Intelligence Agency summarily terminated the employment of a senior officer for leaking classified information to news organizations, including secret intelligence for stories appearing in the Washington Post that revealed the agency maintained a network of secret detention facilities overseas for high-ranking terror suspects.
The termination marks the latest in a series of crackdowns on spy agency officials accused of unauthorized disclosures of classified information for political reasons.
While the CIA refused to reveal the identity of the canned officer, current and former intelligence officials -- continuing the CIA's new tradition of leaking information to the news media -- identified the officer as Mary O. McCarthy, a former White House intelligence aide for the Clinton Administration, who until this week held a senior position in the CIA's inspector general's office.
The CIA, without identifying McCarthy officially, announced Friday that an unnamed individual had confessed to having contacts with the press and discussing classified information, which is a violation of the secrecy agreement that all employees sign as a condition of employment with the CIA.
Intelligence officials said McCarthy's admission came after she failed a polygraph test conducted as part of several internal investigations into leaks. It is believed that the Justice Department has been apprised of developments in the internal CIA probes and McCarthy and possibly other officers may face criminal charges.
Besides working for the CIA and White House, she also performed work for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
While it is sad to see a long career of service end in disgrace, hopefully there will be more officers and agents discovered who use their positions to further political agendas by selectively leaking intelligence to the news media.
One complaint often heard privately within law enforcement circles is that the Central Intelligence Agency over the years has morphed into a Liberal think tank rather than maintaining its role as a strategic and tactical intelligence agency. An even bigger concern is that the agency has become overly politicized and prone to leaking information to the mainstream news media in order to have an impact upon the political climate within the Beltway.
For instance, it was the CIA hierarchy who, with the help of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), demanded a special prosecutor investigate the so-called Valerie Plame-CIA leak case. It's widely accepted that the law regarding divulging a covert operative's identity did not apply in the Plame case. Even the writers of the statute are quoted as saying such. Yet here we are in the midst of a far-reaching investigation into the alleged leak.
The need to insulate intelligence from political pressure is a powerful argument for maintaining a strong, centralized capability and not leaving intelligence bearing on national concern up to individual policymaking departments.
Competitive analysis of controversial questions can also help guard against politicization, as can Congress and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). Competitive or redundant analysis needs to be carried out and conveyed to policymakers in those areas where being wrong can have major consequences. The leaders of the intelligence community must reinforce the ethic that speaking the truth to those in power is required, and defend anyone who comes under criticism for so doing.
The best way to ensure high-quality analysis is to bring high quality analysts into the process. Analysis would be improved by increasing the flow of talented people into the intelligence community from outside the government. Greater provision should be made for lateral and mid-career entry of such analysts as well as for their short-term involvement in specific projects. Closer ties between universities and the intelligence community is not desirable in this regard. Careerists would benefit from greater opportunities to spend time in other departments and non-governmental organizations, including those involved in commerce and finance.
The most important function for the clandestine services is the collection of human intelligence, that is, espionage. Such intelligence can complement other sources and, especially in closed societies, be the principal or sole source of information. In so doing, it will at times prove necessary to associate the United States with unsavory individuals, including some who have committed crimes. This is acceptable so long as the likely benefits for policy outweigh the moral and political costs of the association.
The capability to undertake covert action is an important national security tool, one that can provide policymakers a valuable alternative or complement to other policies, including diplomacy, sanctions, and military intervention. Building a capacity for both espionage and covert action takes time and resources; nurturing such a clandestine capability ought to be one of the highest priorities of the intelligence community.
Constraints on clandestine activity need to be reviewed periodically to ensure that they do not unduly limit the effectiveness of this tool. Unfortunately, when officers and high-ranking officials decide that they know more than their colleagues or that their opinions are being disregarded by those holding opposing positions on an issue, that doesn't give them the right to leak classified information to the news media. Compromising secrecy reducing the effectiveness of any organization that thrives on secrecy.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.