Archive for Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Traitors can put nation in danger

April 25, 2006


What do you call someone who, in violation of her oath, reveals government secrets to a reporter, who then prints them and exposes a clandestine operation designed to get information from suspected terrorists that could save American lives?

Here is what one dictionary says about that word: "One who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty." The word so defined is traitor.

The Central Intelligence Agency fired an intelligence officer after determining she leaked classified information to a Washington Post reporter about secret overseas prisons used for interrogating suspected terrorists. News reports say the fired employee is Mary McCarthy, who was appointed by former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for Intelligence Programs. Berger has had his own problems. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges that he stole five copies of highly classified terrorism documents while doing "research" at the National Archives building.

Virtually all people who handle classified documents, whether members of Congress or their staff, or employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, take an oath not to reveal those documents to anyone without proper authorization. McCarthy is alleged to have violated that oath.

On Nov. 9, 1775, the Continental Congress adopted its own oath of secrecy. The language may seem antiquated, but it appeals to character qualities that appear to be in short supply today: "Resolved: That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue, honour and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly, any matter or thing agitated or debated in Congress, which a majority of the Congress shall order to be kept secret. And that if any member shall violate this agreement, he shall be expelled (from) this Congress, and deemed an enemy to the liberties of America, and liable to be treated as such."

Virtue? Honour? Love of his country? Where does one see such character qualities lauded or even taught in contemporary culture? Certainly not often in the media.

The Washington Post's Dana Priest won the Pulitzer Prize for printing secrets allegedly leaked to her by McCarthy. Priest also won a George Polk Award and a prize from the Overseas Press Club. Leonard Downie Jr., the Post's executive editor, said people who provide citizens the information they need to hold their government accountable should not "come to harm for that."

Would Downie have felt the same if Americans were leaking information to the Nazis or the Japanese during World War II? Imagine this scenario: A terrorist has information that, if revealed, could save tens of thousands of American lives. But interrogators cannot question him because leaks to the media prevent them from engaging in practices that would pry loose the critical information. Would Downie be defending the "right" of government employees to undermine the security of his country in the aftermath of a preventable attack? Former CIA operative Aldrich Ames went to prison for selling American secrets to the Soviet Union. McCarthy allegedly gave hers away. If she is prosecuted and found guilty, her fate should be no less severe.

This isn't a political game in which a Clinton administration official serves as a mole for the Democrats within a Republican administration and then leaks information that may benefit her party; this is potentially harmful to the nation.

Has politics come to this: that the national security of this country can be compromised for political gain?

In previous wars, traitors were shot or served lengthy prison terms. Now they get fired and the reporter who prints the secrets, possibly damaging her nation, wins prestigious journalism awards. Morality and patriotism appear to have been turned upside down.

CIA Director Porter Goss is known to take leaks seriously. He has called the damage they cause "very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission."

No one can recall a recent example of a CIA employee being unmasked for leaking information to the media, though many have done so. For the safety and security of the country, McCarthy's firing should serve as a warning to anyone who takes an oath to preserve their nation's secrets that they will no longer be able to count on getting away with violating that oath.

- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


voxpopuli 11 years, 12 months ago

Does it make any difference to anyone whether the CIA operation involved any legally or morally questionable actions such as in a certain Iraq prison?

I am simply questioning the basis for harm in the above article--that "interrogators cannot question him because leaks to the media prevent them from engaging in practices that would pry loose the critical information." That logic would seem to apply equally to leaks about the use of torture.

I would also be interested in how one would distinguish this from the Plame situation. Would leakers in that case also be traitors because they are "One who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty"? How about the soldier who leaked the information that broke the story on Abu Ghraib?

bankboy119 11 years, 12 months ago

Treason is punishable by death. Plain and simple. Execute them.

voxpopuli 11 years, 12 months ago

Rogue feminist? Libtard? Sounds like your condemnation is based on a "political problem, not an ethical problem."

Pot, kettle, black.

I was just asking a serious question. Anyone interested in a serious discussion?

BOE 11 years, 12 months ago

"Has politics come to this: that the national security of this country can be compromised for political gain?"


By outing a CIA agent and other leaks, the Bush Administration answers Cal's cheap rhetorical device with a resounding, "Yes!".

Not that you would ever get that from one of his columns, because Cal's priority in being a partisan hack overides any real concerns he might have about this nation's security and this column is just one more example of that. That, and the whiney green hue of someone whom the Pulitzer has and will always elude.

For anyone who's ever seen Cal gush about the show "24", it's not hard to imagine that Monday evenings in the Thomas household are "mop up the drool" nights for Mrs. Cal, when Jack has to get particularly nasty.

voxpopuli 11 years, 12 months ago


I respect the consistancy of your stance generally, although with regard to Plame, I believe her status was classified regardless of whether she was covert or not. I don't think that has ever been questioned. It was a leak of classified information. Her covert status is an issue only with regard to prosecution for violating statutory provisions. Considering this, is the leaker a traitor or not?

I can't agree that leaking illegal government activities is the same as other leaking. I just don't trust any government so much that I would give them such unchecked power. The Constitution limits governmental power and if reporting abuse of power is being a traitor, the Constitution would lack any real meaning.

I also think torture and other clearly inhuman actions cause more long-term damage in the war on terror than it would ever likely prevent. I think the soldier who informed about Abu Ghraib did his duty and helped to put an end to the harm that was being done to our military and our country by the horrible acts taken in America's name at the prison.

Thanks for the considerate response.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 12 months ago

As so many have said on these boards before, if you have nothing to hide, then you don't care who knows, do you?

Why was it classified to begin with? Possibly because the U.S. government knew it was doing something it wasn't supposed to be doing to begin with?

BOE 11 years, 12 months ago

Posted by Arminius:

"If you're upset about the so-called outing of a CIA agent"


Well, somebody has to be. You, nor the Bush Admin are.

Given the opportunity to show his seriousness about leaks, here's what Bush came up with.


"If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action."

[Bush: Chicago, Illinois, 9/30/03]


"The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

  • Scotty, White House Briefing, 9/29/03]

- Q: Given -- given recent developments in the CIA leak case... do you still stand by what you said several months ago --

THE PRESIDENT: That's up to --

Q: And, and, do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?


-- June 10, 2004 -

(Must be a crime now) Bush appears to shift course on CIA leak

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts. And if someone _ committed a crime _, they will no longer work in my administration," Bush said.


"If anyone, on a second Tuesday in March, with a waxing gibbous moon, during a solar ecplipse........

LOL, you getin' it yet?

A few changes in job description and musical chairs is about the extent of his seriousness.

If a certain unnamed, yet non-retroactivelyimpeached (so far!) former President had outed Plame, you'd be cheering on the impending impeachment, screeching that it had destroyed the CIA and posting daily some NewsMax, WND, or Urban Legend bogus "classified" list of the 1,000's of agents murdered because of it.

- "Plame was never a deep-cover NOC" -

So what was it? Official cover? Light cover? Steno pool? LOL, try "Classified".

If Plame's status were as meaningless as you imply then:

No need for the CIA to insist on an investigation of somebody's wife's name being brought up, if she's merely an employee of the CIA, right?

Likewise, there's absolutely no need for Bush's PROMISE to fire anybody over bringing up somebody's wife's name, right..?..because, well shoot, that's just yer ol' garden variety politics. Right?

Why does it continue for someone of such little or insignificant CIA status?

- "I suspect that you're not upset about the latter because you're a hypocritical moonbat." -

Your projectionist ways precede you, Arminius, as well as your desperation.

So strident in your concern for the nation's well-being that "sedition", "traitor", and "objectively pro-terrorist" just roll off your tongue, yet so defensive of a reckless WH that outs CIA agents for political gain. All's well, all's forgiven if done in the service of propping up Bush's pathetic #'s.

Your feigned concern about the country's security, like Bush's low 30%'s support, is a running joke.

daddax98 11 years, 12 months ago

nice come back arminius glad you provided counter points to the assertions made by BOE. "sissy" real classy buddy

daddax98 11 years, 12 months ago

but that is not what you did. you simply engaged in sophomoric name calling. but I will give you credit you did keep it short

voxpopuli 11 years, 12 months ago


There's classified employees at the University of Kansas. Most employees are classified. Plame's supervisor says she never was a deep-cover NOC. Pilgrim noted that she worked at CIA headquarters for several years. Common ssense should tell us no covert agent would do so.

You are talking about two different meanings of the word "classified." Classified as the category of employee, such as at the University, is not the same as Classified as in information categorized as secret and not to be disseminated among those with access to it.

Plame's employment, regardless of whether she went in and out of the CIA headquarters, was Classified in this second sense. It was officially categorized as secret regardless of whether people knew about it. If you want to say that whether something is technically categorized as classified is not important in cases where it is not truly a secret--ok. But that differs from the standard that Pilgrim put forward for a traitor and to which I was responding.

I would also note, however, that the CIA considered it a breech of secrecy and they are likely to know considerably more about what Plame actually did for them than has been released to the public. Since they considered it a breech and her status with the CIA was officially classified as a secret, I am not really convinced by anecdotal testimony of people saying everyone knew or they saw her going in and out of the CIA building--especially since there has been equal amounts of anecdotal testimony saying that it was a secret and challenging the testimony of others who said it was not.

I still believe that the standard discussed by Pilgrim would also apply to the Plame situation and whoever leaked the information to the press.

ben_ness 11 years, 12 months ago

voxpopuli - I live in DC, I support various operations for various federal contractors and agencies. You need what is called a TS/SCI w/full-scope or full lifestyle polygraph to just set foot in Langley...which is what they call it; not the CIA. Everybody who works in Langley is classified and they will never voluntarily tell you where they work as that is also classified. I have friends in intel, I don't know where they work, I don't know which agency they work for and the chances of them even saying the word "intelligence" is very slim. As a matter of fact, one friend of mine, when we are discussing his job we substitue the word "Charley" for "intelligence".

Your use of "classified" is absolutely correct. I support the non-cleared aspects of the operations and you will never know who it is for or what is actually going on. Sometimes, you won't even get a handshake or a name from the person you are working with. This is just the way it is.

ben_ness 11 years, 12 months ago

arminius - since 9/11. OPM has really batoned down the hatches especially in regards to the intel community. To even be involved in military intel now you have to have at least a CI (counter-intel) poly and in some cases an SCI. SSBI's no longer apply. When you had your TS they were even handing them out to green-card holders. Currently, You can be escorted into certain parts of Langley without a clearance but your mobility is severly restricted and you have to know somebody and cut through alot of read tape first. It has created quite a bottleneck in DoD, DoS, DHS, etc. because investigations for clearances can now take as long as two years.

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