Fired CIA Officer Denies Leaking Key Info to Dana Priest

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By: E&P Staff

A surprising twist–given the media coverage of the past four days–in the case of the CIA officer who was fired last week after allegedly confessing to leaking secrets came late Monday: The woman has denied she was the source of Dana Priest’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post story about CIA secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

The denial, and related explanatory comments from the CIA, first came in an article on the Newsweek magazine Web site by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, and then confirmed and expanded by the Washington Post.

The CIA official, Mary O. McCarthy, ?categorically denies being the source of the leak,? one of McCarthy?s former colleagues, Rand Beers, said Monday after speaking to McCarthy.

Further, a senior intelligence official told the Post that the agency is not even asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest’s award-winning articles.

McCarthy’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, told both Newsweek and the Post that contrary to public statements by the CIA late last week–widely carried and unquestioned by the media–McCarthy never confessed to interrogators that she had divulged classified information and “didn’t even have access to the information” in The Washington Post story.

“After being told by agency interrogators that she may have been deceptive on one quesiton during a polygraph, McCarthy did acknowledge that she had failed to report contacts with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest and at least one other reporter, said a source familiar with her account who asked not to be identified because of legal sensitivities,” Newsweek reports. “McCarthy has known Priest for some time, the source said.”

McCarthy, 61, who earlier held senior posts at the White House and the National Intelligence Council (NIC), has declined requests for comment. But Cobb, her lawyer, told the Post said she was “devastated” that her government career of more than two decades will “forever be linked with misinformation about the reasons for her termination.” He added that her firing was “certainly not for the reasons attributed to the agency.”

Over the past weekend, many conservative commentators had branded McCarthy a traitor and demanded that she be prosecuted for allegedly leaking the prisons story to Priest.

The Newsweek reporters reveal that agency officials “said that McCarthy had been fired after allegedly confessing during the course of a leak investigation based heavily on polygraph examinations that she had engaged in unauthorized contacts with more than one journalist regarding more than one news story.”

The Post observed: “Having unreported media contacts is not unheard of at the CIA but is a violation of the agency’s rules.” It added: “Nowhere in the CIA statement last week was McCarthy accused of leaking information on the prisons, although some news accounts suggested the CIA had made that claim.”


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