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Archive for Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fired CIA officer denies role in leaks about secret prisons

April 25, 2006

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— A lawyer representing fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy said Monday that his client did not leak any classified information and did not disclose to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected terrorists.

The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency was not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest's award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency's secret prisons.

McCarthy was fired because the CIA concluded that she had undisclosed contacts with journalists, including Priest, in violation of a security agreement. That does not mean she revealed the existence of the prisons to Priest, Cobb said.

Cobb said that McCarthy, who worked in the CIA inspector general's office, "did not have access to the information she is accused of leaking," regarding classified information about any secret detention centers in Europe. Having unreported media contacts is not unheard of at the CIA but is a violation of the agency's rules.

In a statement last Friday, the agency said it had fired one of its officers for having unauthorized conversations with journalists in which the person "knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence." Intelligence officials subsequently acknowledged that the official was McCarthy and said that Priest is among the journalists with whom she acknowledged sharing information.

Priest won the Pulitzer Prize this month for a series of articles she wrote last year about the intelligence community, including the revelation of the existence of CIA-run prisons in East European countries. The Post withheld the names of the countries at the Bush administration's request, and it attributed the information to current and former intelligence officials from three continents.

The articles sparked a wide-ranging CIA investigation that included polygraphing scores of officials who worked in offices privy to information about the secret prisons, including McCarthy and her boss, CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson. 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.

Cobb said McCarthy, 61, who had worked in government for more than two decades, had planned for some time to leave the CIA to pursue a career in public interest law. She finished night courses for a law degree at Georgetown University and passed the bar exam last November, he said. She formally began her retirement process in December, stopped going to her office on Feb. 7, and was to complete a standard retirement training course and cease employment on April 30.

Cobb said that the polygraph tests and interviews that led to her firing came after she had initiated her retirement, and that she did not quit because she anticipated the agency's action.

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