Throw Away The Key

Mary McCarthy, a former Clinton appointee and Kerry campaign donor who was hired by none other than convicted classified information thief Sandy “Pants” Berger, was fired from the CIA yesterday after admitting to revealing classified information to the Washington Post.

Let me put this in perspective.

I’ve had a security clearance for over a decade now. Every time that clearance is renewed or changed, I have to read and sign a stack of legal papers affirming my understanding of Federal law, which can be summarized as Thou Shalt Not Reveal Anything Classified Or Allow It To Be Revealed To Those Who Ain’t Cleared For It.

Now, let’s just suppose that during the last election, I had taken it upon myself to go and leak classified information about the F-22 fighter to, say, Bill Gertz at the Washington Times, in the hopes that such information would bolster the campaign of George W. Bush. Or what if I’d leaked that information before last year’s budget was finalized, trying to get a competitive advantage over rival aircraft? (There are no rival aircraft when the F-22 is in the air, but that’s beside the point.) Or what if I just did it to make myself look and feel cool?

I’ll tell you what would happen. I’d be fired, and then I’d be locked up, and I’d deserve it.

It’s not my place to make that kind of decision. It wasn’t Mary McCarthy’s place, either. Neither of us were elected. Neither of us are responsible for deciding what can or should be released from the classified world. Contrary to the bleatings of McCarthy’s partisan cohorts editing the Washington Post and New York Times (who are actively soliciting classified information, even today, which I should note is itself an illegal act), neither is anybody in the press.

Are many things classified that shouldn’t be? You bet. Is it legal, moral, or ethical for somebody who has sworn to keep those secrets to unilaterally reveal them, for political reasons?

Hell no, it isn’t. And suggesting that McCarthy should get some kind of pass just because a bunch of ideological yahoos who work for newspapers like what she did is beyond asinine. What she did is no different, and no less unforgivable, than if she were an al-Queida spy. Her actions had the exact same outcome of aiding deadly enemies.

Lock her up.


46 Responses to “Throw Away The Key”

  1. William Young Says:

    Will is, of course, right: lock her up. The media, of course, is pushing it’s own agenda, which is that the media knows what’s best.

  2. Steve Skubinna Says:

    Right. She’ll probably do time in the same federal facility Sandy Berger did. Besides, if what she did damaged the US under the Bush administration, then it qualifies as dissent, which as we all know, is patriotic.

    I eagerly await her tell-all book to appear on the shelves next to Mary Mapes’ magmum opus.

  3. richard mcenroe Says:

    What freaks me is this leaker was working in the Inspector General’s office…

    Is there ANYBODY at the CIA we should not fire?

    Oh, and note the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee was just thrown off because it looked like he skimmed millions of dollars. What Culture of Corruption was that again?

  4. Daniel Says:

    How soon do you think this will be ironically called “The New-McCarthyism”? The silencing of a whistleblower, no doubt.

    You can almost see the TIME Magazine cover already.

  5. Tim P Says:


    You’re right, she should be locked up.

    But I’m not betting on that. The bi-partisan stench of corruption is so all pervasive in Washington and goes so deep, that I doubt anything will happen to her other than she looses her job and maybe pays a fine or does some community service time.

    Add on top of the corruption a hyper-partisan atmosphere with the media defending her and she simply becomes anoter hero ala Plame.

    What ever happened to accountability?

  6. Anon Says:

    Why should a CIA agent be held to her oath if the president is not?

  7. The other JD Says:

    …and throw away the key.

    And be sure to use her as another horrible example in next year’s security re-briefing.

  8. Old Dad Says:


    Are you merely pretending to be an idiot?

  9. Julie (Synova) Says:


  10. Seminonymous Says:

    It’s been years since I had the pleasure of signing a security agreements, so things may have changed. But, I particulary liked the only defense for having exposed classified information. Effectively: “I’m too stupid to know that I was exposing classified information.”

    Proof left as an exercise to the reader.

  11. caltechgirl Says:

    Dean Esmay already used the “New McCarthyism” line this morning…

  12. Daniel Says:

    Heh. So he did.

  13. Wurly Says:

    Not only should she be locked up, she should be locked up in solitary confinement with no communication to the outside world until every bit of information that she may be aware of is declassified.

    We cannot take the risk that she will reveal additional classified information.

  14. e-ho Says:

    She’s probably a democrat. Democrats don’t get locked up.
    Democrats are above the law.

  15. Tim Says:

    Do we know when the leak(s) occurred? If it was during the election in 2004 then this raises another point.

    Here is a woman who was a heavy donor to the Democrats during the election; presumably, her support would have been rewarded had Kerry won.

    If she was leaking classified information during this time, with an aim to damaging the credibility of the Administration, then this could be seen as an attempt to help Kerry get elected.

    Put this together, and we have a woman who is passing along state secrets, that would harm our interests and benefit our enemies in a time of war, in order to advance her own career.

    If that’s accurate, than “throw away the key” indeed.

  16. Charlie Says:

    I do not have a security clearance nor am I privy to government secrets. But I also know if I were to reveal the secrets of the company I work for, I would be subjected to termination and a possible lawsuit. It amounts to the same thing.

    Leaking classified info is a violation of trust no matter how virtuous the ends may be. As such, you break the law, and you do the time.

    Sorry ’bout it.

  17. Scrapiron Says:

    While working in the headquarters of a major command I had a lot of chances to reveal the bottom line on contracts to rival contractors. As a fact we had a signal worked out so we could signal to get a witness on the phone when one of the crooked contractors called and went fishing for data, sometimes by making the statement, ‘it would be worth thousands’ to know the bottom line ahead of the bids. I also knew when several multi-million dollar contracts were being releaded and who was getting them. It was hard to stay out of the stock market when you knew that a ‘penny’ stock was about to take off and you could make a killing by investing a few thousand. Thank God and my parents upbringing that I resisted the temptations. Some just can’t handle the pressure and will sink to any level for the almighty dollar. Still poor and glad of it.

  18. The Sanity Inspector Says:

    Some just can’t handle the pressure and will sink to any level for the almighty dollar.

    Some people will sink to any level to gratify their Bush-hatred, too. These are arguably more dangerous than profiteers.

  19. Christopher Taylor Says:

    Lock her up… but not til you get everyone ELSE in the government who are of the same mind, helped out, and the press they are working with to boot. As you pointed out, the New York Times and LA Times both have published classified information that directly affects the war effort.

    That’s treason. Will they even pay a price?

  20. AughtSix Says:

    In case Anon returns…

    “Why should a CIA agent be held to her oath if the president is not?”

    The ultimate authority to classify (and declassify) material rests with the president. Basically, with a word, the most super-duper-top-secret document becomes unclassified if the pres says so. As a result, if the President discloses it, then, it’s no longer classified. And since he has the authority to declassify things, this disclosure is entirely legal. It doesn’t, however, mean that the president should disclose any given piece of information, or that there couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be political consequenses for abusing this authority.

    But it’s not (and cannot be) illegal.

    On the other hand, if I, or any other peon, discloses classified material to someone who doesn’t have clearance or the need to know (insert ominous chord here), then I get in mucho trouble. As it should be. And it shouldn’t be any different for someone who happens to get herself on the news, either.

  21. John Anderson Says:

    The cry is that this is part of “checks and balances” on government. What the MSM can’t keep in mind for more than a second or two is that leaking is no such thing: there are avenues she could have taken, including going directly to Congress if dissatisfied with (or fearful of) response within her organization.

  22. AU Eagle Says:

    War Damn Will!

  23. stickler Says:

    Aught Six opines:

    The ultimate authority to classify (and declassify) material rests with the president. Basically, with a word, the most super-duper-top-secret document becomes unclassified if the pres says so. As a result, if the President discloses it, then, it’s no longer classified. And since he has the authority to declassify things, this disclosure is entirely legal.

    Well, that sure does sound familiar.

    Where might I have heard such crackpot insanity before? Hmmm.

    (David Frost, voiceover:) …These meetings produced a plan, the Huston Plan, which advocated the systematic use of wiretappings, burglaries, or so-called black bag jobs, mail openings and infiltration against antiwar groups and others. Some of these activities, as Huston emphasized to Nixon, were clearly illegal. Nevertheless, the president approved the plan. Five days later, after opposition from J. Edgar Hoover, the plan was withdrawn, but the president’s approval was later to be listed in the Articles of Impeachment as an alleged abuse of presidential power.

    (back to Frost’s interview of Nixon, May 1977):

    FROST: So what in a sense, you’re saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

    NIXON: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.

    FROST: By definition.”

    Well. One supposes the jury … so to speak … is still out on that Royal notion. “L’etat, c’est moi.”

  24. Pat Patterson Says:

    I predict a book tour, an interview with Charlie Rose and a CD during pledge week from Pacifica Radio.

  25. buzz Says:

    Stickler: Are you kidding me? Who exactly do you think the president has to ask permission from to declassify something? “crackpot insanity”? Are you actually this dense? Its part of the freaking job and it doesn

  26. AMcL Says:

    How are her actions really any different that those of Aldrich Ames or any other spy who has compromised our national intelligence? They’re not and she shouldn’t have been allowed to walk out of her office anywhere but into a waiting squad car. has some good background.

  27. NukemHill Says:

    These meetings produced a plan, the Huston Plan, which advocated the systematic use of wiretappings, burglaries, or so-called black bag jobs, mail openings and infiltration against antiwar groups and others.

    Stickler, the fact that you can’t see the difference between the president declassifying information and authorizing “wiretapping, burglaries, … black bag jobs, mail openings….” says more about your sense of ethics and morality than anything ever could. That was a truly astounding moral equivocation. Are you sure you don’t work for the Palestinian Authority?

  28. AughtSix Says:


    The difference between the two cases is that in this case, “well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal” is exactly correct. Since the legal authority to classify and declassify rests in the president, he his exercising of that authority cannot be illegal. It can be a bad idea, immoral, bad policy, unethical, damaging to the country or a good idea, moral, good policy, ethical and in the best interests of the country. But it can’t be illegal.

  29. Jabba the Tutt Says:

    Dear Vodkapundit: Do you really have a security clearance? Now, that’s frightening!

  30. skymuse Says:

    Prosecution in these matters is nearly always a matter of choice.

    Until the current Gatekeepers choose to do their jobs, we can expect things like this to go unpunished or lightly-punished.

    The current political arena does not look promising for true enforcement. The Attorney General’s office (or whoever handles this) will have to put all political considerations aside, not only for themselves but also for the administration. If the White House (for example) quietly urges passivity for some reason, the AG won’t push it and we’ll never hear about it.

    There must be a clarion call for accountability, regardless of politics and power structure. Given the current state of US politics, this does not appear likely.

  31. Karl Maher Says:

    Will, did you happen to read the version of Sunday’s New York Times story that ran in the Denver Post?

    It was completely purged of any non-supportive information, including her $2,000 contribution to Kerry. Comparison here.

    The other weird thing is the play the Denver papers gave the story: Word of the firing on page 25A of Saturday’s Rocky, the above folo on 6A Sunday.

  32. ajacksonian Says:

    Had my clearance for my working life and am now disabled… lets just say that inside Agencies actually being mentally incompetent does not get you immediately canned… yes, we had a raft of such people that actually could not be fired without a long, long paper trail to demonstrate incompetence.

    But willful disclosure? I am with my Marine friend who personally served on the Commandant’s staff: “Big rocks. Sledgehammer. You make small rocks, all day, all weather. See you in 20.”

    And McCarthy, as part of the IG’s office could have gone DIRECTLY TO CONGRESS as was her DUTY. She has doubly abdicated her duties and damn well deserves lots and lots of hard time.

    Her, Sandy “Big Socks” Berger and anyone who does similar. Wrist-slapping destroys federal workforce morale like nothing you have ever seen before.

    You stand up, you pledge yourself to the Constitution and to follow the Laws and you damn well DO SO. I have personally known instances where a fellow employee was being pressured by an aid in the former administration. He reported it and within the day the head of the Agency was on the phone to the POTUS. That is what you DO. Because that undermines the trust placed in the individual to do their job responsibly, so that what is seen and done is properly reported and you let other people decide what to do about it. It is not the workforce’s role to make *political* decisions.

    If McCarthy has done what has been said she has betrayed her Oath, failed the President, failed Congress and failed the People of the United States.

    Big rocks.
    Small rocks.
    Dawn to dusk.

  33. Sammy's Boy Says:

    Will, just one comment – YOU’RE GOD’AMN RIGHT! This “leak” makes me sick.

  34. Aubrey Says:

    I can

  35. legion Says:

    OK, I’m calling shenanigans on every damn one of you witless wonders, starting with Will. McCarthy is accused of leaking info about the CIA’s use of secret prisons in foreign countries – I’m no lawyer, but if such a program exists, I’m pretty sure it’d be incredibly illegal.

    Leaking about the illegal acts of a gov’t agency is _several time zones_ away from Will’s lame analogy of leaking F-22 info for stock profiting.

    She’s got an uphill battle to defend the validity of her leaking, yes. But I note that not one of you – NOT ONE OF YOU – seems to give a rat’s fuzzy ass that the CIA is potentially violating numerous laws and treaties if these allegations are at all correct.

    And if these laws and treaties are such an insurmountable burden to our efforts in the war on terror, why do we have them at all? Why even pay lip service to a system of government that is supposed to reflect the will of the people?

  36. VinceTN Says:

    You sound bitter and surrounded, Legion. Good. Its precisely where your side of the debate belongs.

    What is the Left’s next act when the American “sheeple” refuse to do what they demand? You’ve done protests, human shields, and treason. What else is there besides outright terrorism?

  37. Jim Says:

    Yeah, it’s illegal to hold irregulars in a black cell. Illegal I tell you! I’m no lawyer, but I bet it’s illegal. Or it might be, and that’s enough for me to sound off half-cocked and anonymous on a message board!

  38. Miller Light Pundit Says:

    Nah, she’s not a Republican can’t lock her up.

    Hey Legion, the is NO VALIDITY to leaking ANYTHING. Especially when we are at war. Whether you support the war or not.

  39. Slartibartfast Says:

    I’m no lawyer, but if such a program exists, I’m pretty sure it’d be incredibly illegal.

    You had me at “I’m no lawyer”. There are mechanisms by which whistles are blown; mechanisms that offer that comfy feeling of having one’s buttocks completely covered by the law. Mechanisms that, if used, prohibit the sort of reprisal that McCarthy has recently experienced. Mechanisms, that are, lastly, legal.

    I’m with you, Will. I’ve had an active DoD security clearance for over twenty-five years, and McCarthy and Berger both did things that had I done them, I’d be writing this comment from Leavenworth.

    Where might I have heard such crackpot insanity before?

    Already addressed, but good Bog, what color is the sky on the planet you’re from? The President has legal and final declassification authority, period. The President does not have legal authority to conduct the operations you’re comparing this to, so: apples and orangutans. This is by far the most hare-brained argument put forth in an attempt to condemn Bush that I’ve seen lately. So, for what it’s worth: congratulations.

  40. Robin S. Says:

    Okay, legion, I’ll play.

    Suppose you’re right. Suppose the government is doing lots of Illegal stuff, McCarthy discovered it, and all of her attempts to reveal that to the proper people and stop it were useless. She’s left with two options: Keep her mouth shut and live with her conscience, or open her mouth, do the right thing… and go to jail.

    Civil disobedience doesn’t absolve one from the oaths they’ve taken to protect classified information, and it doesn’t make one immune to the law, either.

  41. legion Says:

    Robin, yours is the only comment I’ve seen in this thread that wasn’t knee-jerked, paranoid, or just plain out to lunch. You are quite correct – the ultimate response to the sort of situation we’ve put together here is to go public and accept the consequences.

    Bear in mind, though, as yet the CIA is not even confirming she was fired for leaking (just that she failed one or more polygraph tests); and no criminal charges have been filed. You’d think someone in that situation might be a flight risk & worth locking down. If ever there were a valid argument for susopending habeas corpus, this might be it.

  42. jag Says:

    The reason why she isn’t (or won’t be) prosecuted is because there is nothing in it for the White House (or the nation’s interest).

    Knowing the MSM will elevate her (no matter what it takes) to martyrdom, it doesn’t take a genius to figure there is no value in getting bogged down in a stupid, endless, Plame like, debacle that the press will ensure you cannot win.

    Yeah, prosecuting this, literal, traitor is the right thing. Unfortunately, it isn’t the BEST thing for either the nation or Bush.

  43. Julie (Synova) Says:

    Thing is, legion… we’ve no indication or even *hint* that she tried established channels to report anything whatsoever and we know, for a fact, that she did not come *public* with her concerns.

    She leaked.

    Going public has a sort of built in safeguard in that a person really does have to believe that the truth is important enough to sacrifice their career.

    While I was in the Air Force I had a Top Secret clearance and occasionally had access to actual, for real, classified stuff. Mostly it was “Privacy Act” info… which we handled as strictly as anything else, but I spent a bit of time training in the AFSOC HQ com center putting the propper little ink stamps on classified documents, top and bottom.

    Imagine I stuck some in my pants and took them home… or told a reporter what they said. Imagine that for a moment.

    Yes, it burns more than a bit to know that some people feel no shame at behavior that would have had me in a military prison until I was an old woman. So please excuse the knee-jerk… it’s a reflex drummed in by security breifings.

  44. Shawn Says:

    You’re missing a couple of key points in your post. She has denied leaking and her attorney has denied she leaked. This goes against the leak about her being fired in which she admitted to leaking. This is simply an attempt by the fascist neocons to purge any Democratic supporter they can get their hands on.

  45. Jimbo3001 Says:

    “Yeah, it’s illegal to hold irregulars in a black cell. Illegal I tell you! I’m no lawyer, but I bet it’s illegal….”

    I don’t know if it’s technically illegal or not, but I sure as f*ck don’t want it done in my country, or by my government.

    Plenty of you posters here seem to be defending the “good German” approach: loyalty to the organization should be above one’s personal sense of right and wrong. We’ll see how that plays out.

  46. Justsomeone Says:

    Great Vodka Pundit post.

    Thankfully there are some voices publishing something other than Democratic Party talking points to cover up a Democratic scandal. By tying all of this together– it has the potential to be a massive reverse Watergate.

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