White House Responds to Query on Leaks: Plame vs. Priest

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By: E&P Staff

Since CIA officer Mary McCarthy was dismissed, allegedly for improper meetings with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest (at which she may or may not have disclosed classified information), some have contrasted the swift action in that case to the White House’s response to the leak of Valerie Plame’s work with the CIA. Why didn’t the president order lie detector tests or other means to find the Plame leaker?

Naturally, the question came up at Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s briefing today. Here is the relevant excerpt.

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Q Has the President been briefed at all on the CIA’s firing of Mary McCarthy for allegedly leaking classified information? Does he have any reaction to this?

MR. McCLELLAN:Well, that was a decision that was made by, I think, the Central Intelligence Agency. I think they put out a statement on that last week. Remember, Director Goss had talked about how there had been some unauthorized leaks of classified information that had severely harmed our national security. And in that statement he talked about how he directed that there be an internal investigation undertaken. And as a result of that investigation, there was some action that they took last week.

Q So how is it, though, that the CIA was able to act so quickly in somebody who they think linked classified information?Here it is almost three years after Valerie Plame’s name was leaked, the White House still doesn’t know who leaked that information. How is it that the CIA —

MR. McCLELLAN:You mean — the White House is not the one leading that investigation.That is being led by a special prosecutor.

Q Could the President call on the CIA Director to get to the bottom of it? There’s a criminal matter going on with Mary McCarthy now. At least the Justice Department is looking at it, so it’s not like a criminal matter —

MR. McCLELLAN:What the President directed was that we cooperate fully with the special prosecutor. And that’s what we’ve done.

Q But how is it that the CIA was able to get to the bottom of that one case so quickly, and we still don’t know —

MR. McCLELLAN:Well, I think they talked about it, and how they conducted an internal investigation to get to the bottom of the matter. 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 terrorist surveillance program and how the 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 classified information is a matter that the President takes very seriously.

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