We were going to write in praise of fired CIA official Mary O. McCarthy for her assumed role in leaking the details of the Bush Administration’s network of overseas secret prisons for captured terrorist suspects, but then the admirable lady threw a monkey wrench into our plans by denying that she had done so.
We call McCarthy “admirable” because her career suggests that that is what she is. When she worked in the Clinton White House handling liaison between the National Security Council and the CIA and other intelligence outfits, she was so disturbed by what she considered to be the sketchy evidence on which President Clinton based his decision to bomb a Sudanese drug factory suspected of being a terrorist cover that she went through official channels and personally wrote Clinton a vigorous letter that is seen today as something of a rebuke.
This nugget of seemingly ancient history is relevant today because Washington is not a city that cherishes soreheads. It takes courage and conviction for a relatively faceless government functionary to go up against a president. So at minimum, we should consider McCarthy a woman of substance — even if she’s not the leaker who wounded Bush.
The fact that she is a person of substance — as opposed to suspected leaker Karl Rove and indicted leaker Scooter Libby, who, with the connivance of Vice-President Dick Cheney, blew the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame — makes McCarthy a perfect scapegoat for the sleazebag Bush administration.
To the vicious thugs employed by Bush, it was bad enough that McCarthy worked for Clinton. She further demonstrated her expendability by contributing $2000 to the presidential campaign of Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Democracy, or at least the Republican version of it, is something you export to Iraq, not something you respect or practice at home.
Washington is a city, if not of frequent lies, at least of constant illusions. Things are rarely what they seem to be. It’s possible for Valerie Plame to be a woman professionally wronged by Bush and for her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to be a smarmy self-server who nevertheless did the nation a service, first by determining that Saddam had not acquired the uranium necessary to build atomic weapons, and then by going public with the news.
In the hit-and-run culture of Washington, it is easy to find scapegoats. And at the time that we are writing this, it appears that that is what McCarthy is: another scapegoat for the criminally inept Bush administration.
Consider the sequence of events. Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker captures international headlines with the news that Bush is contemplating the use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s fledgling nuclear-weapons effort; Dana Priest of the Washington Post wins a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the news that Bush maintains a secret network of overseas prisons; James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times win a Pulitzer Prize for their exposé of Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretapping; the highly political CIA director Porter Goss dismisses McCarthy; the news is leaked to MSNBC; over the weekend, newspapers nationwide carry reports of McCarthy’s dismissal for her presumed leak to Priest. Bingo. Scapegoat found. The message is loud and clear: leakers will be punished — unless they are the president and the vice-president, of course.