On Tuesday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann raised the term "new McCarthyism," as he accused the Bush administration of engaging in a "witch hunt" against leakers "it does not find politically expedient." Olbermann referred to the "Red Scare witch hunt of the 1950s" during which Senator Joseph McCarthy went after communist sympathizers, as the Countdown host formed a pun on the famous Senator's name and the name of recently fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy, whom on Friday he had sympathetically referred to as a "whistleblower," on grounds she leaked classified information about secret prisons in Europe being used in the War on Terrorism. Olbermann then brought aboard a former employee of Mary McCarthy, former CIA officer Larry Johnson, to defend Ms. McCarthy and attack the Bush administration. (Transcript follows)
Olbermann teased the segment at the top of his show: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The new McCarthyism. Fired 10 days before she was to retire for leaking secrets to a reporter, secrets she says she never even knew. Mary O. McCarthy will not say it, but others will: She is the CIA's scapegoat."
Olbermann opened the show referring to the "Red Scare witch hunt of the 1950s" to compare the Bush administration's treatment of leakers which "it does not view as politically expedient," a reference to another leak which Olbermann assumes the administration does find politically expedient, the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA analyst.
As he introduced the segment with Johnson, Olbermann soon mocked White House spokesman Scott McClellan by referring to what he called McClellan's "playbook": "I'm guessing here that the outgoing press secretary still has a couple of references to the war on terror left in his playbook."
After playing a clip of McClellan attacking recent leaks as undermining the War on Terrorism, Olbermann further drew a comparison with Senator McCarthy as he quipped: "And we'll show those communists, uh, terrorists."
Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann's introduction to his April 25 Countdown show, including the entire interview with Johnson:
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The new McCarthyism. Fired 10 days before she was to retire for leaking secrets to a reporter, secrets she says she never even knew. Mary O. McCarthy will not say it, but others will: She is the CIA's scapegoat."
Olbermann opened the show: "Good evening. In the Red Scare witch hunt of the 1950s, McCarthy, Senator Joseph McCarthy was the hunter. In what her friends and some of her ex-colleagues are calling the Bush administration's witch hunt against any leaks or leakers it does not view as politically expedient, McCarthy, fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy is the hunted. Our fifth story in the Countdown, 'red' used to mean the farthest left, now it means the farthest right. But a witch hunt is still a witch hunt, and McCarthyism, whether named for proponent or victim, still sends shivers. In a moment, the analysis of one of Mary McCarthy's former employees at the agency, Larry Johnson, on the possibility that we have ourselves a scapegoat. The modern-day McCarthy's categorical denial on Monday that she leaked any classified information only fueling arguments that something is very wrong with this CIA picture, the White House finally weighing in on the flap today, sort of. Short-timer Scott McClellan confronted with the question of how it is that the CIA was able to get to the bottom of the black sites leak case so quickly when almost three years after Valerie Plame's name was leaked, it still has not uncovered who revealed that. I'm guessing here that the outgoing press secretary still has a couple of references to the war on terror left in his playbook."
Scott McClellan: "The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter, and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information can severely harm our national security. We have talked previously about the terror surveillance program and how that unauthorized disclosure of that program has shown the enemy our playbook. We are engaged in a difficult and long war against a bunch of ideological extremists who want to do everything they can to stop the advance of freedom in this world, and want to harm innocent Americans and innocent people in the civilized world, and that's why it's important that we not show them our playbook, so the leaking of information is a matter that the President takes very seriously."
Olbermann: "And we'll show those communists, uh, terrorists. Time now to call in Larry Johnson, former CIA officer, former deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism. Larry, welcome back."
Larry Johnson, Former CIA Officer: "Hi, Keith."
Olbermann: "Did the case against Mary McCarthy smell at all fishy to you even before her denial that she was the source of the leak to the Washington Post?"
Johnson: "Absolutely. I was one of the first ones out of the box saying that, for several reasons. If you look at Dana Priest's article, there were multiple sources, many who had ties to the counterterrorism center, that were not identified by name or even very many particulars, but it was clear that wasn't Mary's background. I used to work for Mary back in 1988-89, and she moved on up into the senior ranks of management when she was handling issues at the National Security Council, National Warning Office, other things, so she wouldn't have had any of the operational details that were reflected in Dana Priest's article."
Olbermann: "You knew her. Are you sticking up for her because she's a friend, a former colleague with whom you enjoyed working? What?"
Johnson: "No, actually, I left the agency because I didn't like her management style, but that had to do with some other issues unrelated to her integrity as an analyst. I've always found that she had a lot of integrity as an analyst, particular at the testimony of people like Randy Beers and John Helgerson, who I know. When they vouch for Mary as someone who was a worker who could be trusted, that says a lot because these men are not partisans even though the tendency in Washington now is anybody that speaks up to defend anyone who says something critical about Bush is suddenly akin to a terrorist sympathizer."
Olbermann: "So if she was an ideal candidate to be trusted, what do you think's going on? I mean, do you believe that someone might be framing her? Is she a scapegoat? If she had these connections nefariously to Dana Priest, might we better call her a sacrificial lamb?"
Johnson: "No. What's going on here, Keith, is this is the White House effort to intimidate the press. Porter Goss has politicized the CIA now, there's now doubt. Several years ago, you had most of the people in the public affairs office, they were intelligence professionals. What you have here today, with the exception of one individual, most of the people up there now are political hacks, folks who cut their teeth up on Capitol Hill playing partisan politics. And the last thing we need to have is our intelligence agency politicized. And yet what's going on here is anyone that speaks out critical of the Bush White House, when you have Paul Pilar, for example, who came out and said the White House was wrong in trying to link Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden, what did the White House do? They put the word out to their operatives. They tried to smear Paul Pilar. Mary McCarthy, I think, is the latest victim of this. And they tried to make an example of her. And one thing I can tell you about Mary, we may have had our disagreements, but she's tough and she has integrity."
Olbermann: "The subject of authorized versus unauthorized. This has become the black and white of the 21st century. Whoever the source of the Washington Post report was. Is the worst transgression, in your eyes, leaking the existence of repurposed Soviet-era gulags into CIA prisons in Eastern Europe or blowing the cover of a covert op like Valerie Plame Wilson?"
Johnson: "No intelligence capabilities were destroyed by the leak of the secret prisons. In fact, that came from multiple sources within the intelligence community who were alarmed that the United States was starting to engage in the very practices we used to condemn the Soviets for. Whereas in the case of Valerie Wilson, not only was her cover destroyed but an undercover company was destroyed. Intelligence assets that were involved with trying to determine, detect and protect America against weapons of mass destruction, they were destroyed in that leak. That was a case where the Bush White House participated in smearing and attacking innocent Americans. And that's a far different thing, and I think far more heinous than someone who tries to blow the whistle or a group of somebodies who blow the whistle on administration practices which take us down the road towards something that looks a lot like what we had when the Soviets were running gulags."
Olbermann: "Former CIA officer Larry Johnson, former colleague with Mary McCarthy, not necessarily former friend. Many thanks for your time and your insights."