CIA Analyst Denies Being Source of Intelligence Leak
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
The CIA officer who was fired last week for speaking to reporters if offering her side of the story now. Mary McCarthy's lawyer says McCarthy never had access to the information she's accused of leaking. McCarthy has been mentioned by some in the media as a source in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post series on secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. That series was written by Washington Post reporter Danna Priest. Her colleague Jeffrey Smith co-wrote today's story, and he joins me now. And maybe you could clear this up for us now. Mary McCarthy was never actually mentioned by the Washington Post itself as the source for this series, right?
Mr. JEFFREY SMITH (Reporter, Washington Post): That's correct. The series was attributed to--or this revelation, the most provocative revelation in the series was about the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe. And that story attributed the information to current and former intelligence officials from three continents. It did not name any.
BRAND: And when the CIA fired Mary McCarthy last week, did it say that Mary McCarthy was a source for this series?
Mr. SMITH: It released a statement in which it didn't name her, but then CIA officials on background said that Mary McCarthy was the person who was fired. They also said that she had contacts with Danna Priest, the reporter who wrote our story. And that made people leap to the conclusion that Mary McCarthy must have been the source for Danna's story.
BRAND: And so, Mary McCarthy's lawyer told you, no, indeed she wasn't the source.
Mr. SMITH: His lawyer, a lawyer here in Washington named Ty Cobb, said that, who said he was speaking for McCarthy said that his client did not leak any classified information, and did not disclose the existence of the secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe. He said, moreover, that she didn't have access to that information. She didn't know what she was accused of having leaked.
BRAND: And have you spoken with Danna Priest? What does she say?
Mr. SMITH: Well, this is a bit awkward. We don't interrogate our colleagues about who their sources are. It's understood here that we all protect our sources, and we don't share that information in the newsroom with others unless an editor requests that we tell them, and then an editor knows and that editor holds that information in confidence. So, Danna knew of our story, I asked her if she wanted to say anything about--for the story, or anything about this set of events, and she declined and I didn't grill her.
BRAND: And did your editor ask her, or did anyone above you confirm this with Danna or her editor?
Mr. SMITH: Well, I think the position of the paper is that we just don't disclose our sources. We haven't been asked by the CIA to provide them with any information that would assist their investigation into this leak. Nor do we intend to. And, you know, we depend on the flow of information that comes from people who sometimes can't be identified in print. And we want to protect that, and we did in this case, and we intend to still keep protecting that.
BRAND: Well, if Mary McCarthy's lawyer says that his client was not the source, why did the CIA fire her?
Mr. SMITH: The agency says that they fired her because she was having unauthorized and undisclosed contacts with journalists in which she leaked classified information. What's interesting here is that she was fired a week, basically, ten days before she was scheduled to retire from the agency, anyway. The agency also is not withholding her pension. So this is kind of one of the mildest sanctions that they could have applied against her, and it suggests that this was, at least raises the possibility that this was intended to send, send a message to other CIA employees, rather than to specifically sanction someone who had been a career employee for 20 years, and very successful one.
BRAND: And meanwhile, other, as I understand it, other CIA employees have been polygraphed and questioned, and so, are you expecting more fallout from this?
Mr. SMITH: We don't know. We really don't have any--much insight into the nature of this investigation from our end. I mean it, it's-usually, reporters put news like this together from lots of different sources, and I assume that Danna talked to many people and she got a little bit here, a little bit there, and there may not be one key source or one chief source. I don't know. I haven't asked Danna that question.
BRAND: Jeffrey Smith is a staff writer for the Washington Post. Thank you for joining us.
Mr. SMITH: You're welcome.