Sunday's off-lead story by David Cloud is on Mary McCarthy, the CIA analyst fired for leaking classified information about suspected terrorists allegedly being held in secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. It comes under the comforting headline "Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by Rules."
"On Thursday, the C.I.A. fired Ms. McCarthy, 61, accusing her of leaking information to reporters about overseas prisons operated by the agency in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. But despite Ms. McCarthy's independent streak, some colleagues who worked with her at the White House and other offices during her intelligence career say they cannot imagine her as a leaker of classified information."
Cloud suggests excuses for her illegal leaking:
"Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy -- who made a contribution to Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 -- had grown increasingly disenchanted with the methods adopted by the Bush administration for handling Qaeda prisoners."
One cheer for the Times for bringing up McCarthy’s contribution to Kerry (the maximum donation of $2,000). But Cloud left off the $5000 she gave to the Democratic party of Ohio a month before the election.
Cloud suggests McCarthy was justified about Sudan:
"In the case of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, her concerns may have been well-founded. Sudanese officials and the plant's owner denied any connection to Al Qaeda.
"In the aftermath of the attack, the internal White House debate over whether the intelligence reports about the plant were accurate spilled into the press. Eventually, Clinton administration officials conceded that the hardest evidence used to justify striking the plant was a single soil sample that seemed to indicate the presence of a chemical used in making VX gas.
"Ms. McCarthy was concerned enough about the episode that she wrote a formal letter of dissent to President Clinton, two former officials said."
Hmm. And just how did that debate "spill" into the press?
It’s ironic that Cloud floats right by this example of selective leaking of intelligence information by President Clinton, characterizing it passively as having simply somehow "spilled into the press," especially after all the hullabaloo the Times has put Bush through over his alleged "leak" of information, via Lewis Libby, about Saddam Hussein’s quest for uranium in Africa.
Blogger Thomas Joscelyn dug up some details about McCarthy’s flip-flop on the validity of the Sudan strikes. He writes (emphasis added by TimesWatch), that Cloud’s "maverick" later quelled her "independent streak" and reversed herself on the danger of the Sudan plant, hewing to the Clinton line that it posed a danger:
"But as Daniel Benjamin, another former NSC staffer, wrote in October of 2004, McCarthy had changed her tune by April 2000: ‘The report of the 9/11 Commission notes that the National Security staff reviewed the intelligence in April 2000 and concluded that the CIA's assessment of its intelligence on bin Laden and al-Shifa had been valid; the memo to Clinton on this was cosigned by Richard Clarke and Mary McCarthy, the NSC senior director for intelligence programs, who opposed the bombing of al-Shifa in 1998.’"