The CIA has fired an officer for leaking classified information to news outlets, including details about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe that resulted in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, officials said yesterday.
The Associated Press has learned the officer was a CIA veteran nearing retirement, Mary McCarthy. Reached yesterday evening at home, her husband would not confirm her firing.
In Mrs. McCarthy’s final position at the CIA, she was assigned to its Office of Inspector General, looking into accusations that the CIA was involved in torture at Iraqi prisons, according to a former colleague who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation.
Without identifying Mrs. McCarthy by name, CIA Director Porter J. Goss announced the firing in a short message to agency employees circulated Thursday. Such firings are rare, and it is the first time since Mr. Goss took over in September 2004 that he has dismissed an intelligence officer for speaking with reporters.
Agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano confirmed an officer had been fired for having unauthorized contacts with the press and disclosing classified information to reporters, including details about intelligence operations.
“The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA.”
Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not disclose any details about the officer’s identity or what she might have told the press. However, a law-enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal leaks investigation under way, but it did not involve the fired CIA officer.
The official said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year disclosing secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law-enforcement official spoke only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
The Post’s Dana Priest won a Pulitzer Prize this week for her reporting on a covert prison system set up by the CIA after September 11 that at various times included sites in eight countries. The story caused an international uproar, and government officials have said it did significant damage to relationships between the U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.
Yesterday, another government official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the fired officer had failed a polygraph test.
It was not clear if the person was taking a routine polygraph examination, as is required periodically of employees with access to classified information, or if the polygraph was among those ordered by Mr. Goss to find leakers inside the agency.
Justice Department officials declined to comment publicly on the firing and whether the matter had been referred to federal prosecutors for potential criminal charges. One law-enforcement official said there were dozens of leak investigations under way.
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