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McCarthyism

Welcome Captain’s Quarters readers:

Another kind of CIA-related “outing” took place late yesterday: Mary McCarthy was identified as at least one of Dana Priest’s sources in the CIA “secret prisons” article. That would be the story that earned Ms. Priest a Pulitzer Prize. I wrote yesterday that it remains to be seen what kind of “prize” Ms. McCarthy will receive, though if she doesn’t receive a generous gift of time from the state I’d be very surprised.

I hesitate to call it “proof” but if you ever wanted a strong indication that our intelligence services have been penetrated, the McCarthy case is it. I don’t mean penetrated by a foreign intelligence service (forgive me JJA) but by something worse: politics. After nearly two decades of service in the IC I am happy to report that robust dialog about personal political opinions is alive and well. I would however, be hard pressed to name a case where someone I worked with let their politics interfere with the job at hand.

That job, as so many ex-IC “Bush lied!” screamers have pointed out, is “speaking truth to power.” A fancy and high-falutin’ phrase that most intelligence officers interpret as “tell them what we know, tell them what we don’t know, and tell them what our judgments are.” You do this based on the information at hand and with the application of the little gray cells. Intelligence assessments aren’t supposed to be built on party talking points.

Lots of folks are already commenting on the type of person Mary McCarthy is based on her financial contributions to politicians, her professional affiliation with officials and operatives of ‘the other side,’ and her public and private statements on the job. No one seems to be focusing on what Mary McCarthy is not: an IC working stiff.

Ms. McCarthy was an understudy to, and eventually replaced, Charlie Allen. Allen, who is now head intel officer at DHS is as close to a living legend on the analysis side of the intel house as there is. Charlie don’t work with dummies. She went from line analyst to the NSC, which for you sports fans is akin to the story of Kurt Warner (obscure journeyman, lucky break, superstardom). She worked for, with, or supervised any number of famous ex-IC players whose names have been in the news the last few years. In short: she had pull, she had options, and she had protection.

Unlike the names associated with real or perceived IC fiascos (Tice, Edmonds, Shaffer, etc.) if Ms. McCarthy had a serious, legitimate gripe with what was going on at the CIA, she could have walked down the hall to the IG, she could have had lunch with someone at the FBI or Justice, or she could have made a phone call and been talking to members of Congress. In short she would have suffered almost none of the pain that most whistleblowers normally face.

As far as we know to date she didn’t do any of the things she should have done. What she did was reach out to a reporter and spill the beans on a highly classified intelligence operation. If the Post’s assertion that they didn’t publish all the details provided to them is true, she didn’t just spill beans; she backed a truck full of them up to the door and hit the dump button. I’m sorry, but that is not the action of a professional who has the best interests of the nation and her people at heart.

Time was that that a lot of people in the IC (myself included) didn’t vote; lest someone have cause to accuse us of pushing a political bias in our work. We prided ourselves on the fact that we dealt in hard data and well-reasoned deduction; not political agendas or pet academic theories. We accepted the fact that ours was merely one voice that decision-makers listened too, even if we didn’t like their courses of action. When certain elements in the IC decided that they were going to stop talking to power and start taking it I don’t know, but one thing is for certain: this is a practice that we cannot allow to stand.

People love to demonize another McCarthy for his tactics, but they ignore the fact that he was right to suspect the infestation of subversive elements in our government. Here’s to a fresh round of efforts bent on rooting out a different kind of menace that threatens our national security.

Additional input at CQ, Strata-Sphere, Mac’s Mind, Powerline, Tom J, Spook86, . . .

Excellent points at RedState

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.