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Cia says intelligence faulty on 1998 sudan strike { April 23 2006 }

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   http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/23/washington/23mccarthy.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/23/washington/23mccarthy.html

April 23, 2006
Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by Rules
By DAVID S. CLOUD

WASHINGTON, April 22 In 1998, when President Bill Clinton ordered military strikes against a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan, Mary O. McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer assigned to the White House, warned the president that the plan relied on inconclusive intelligence, two former government officials said.

Ms. McCarthy's reservations did not stop the attack on the factory, which was carried out in retaliation for Al Qaeda's bombing of two American embassies in East Africa. But they illustrated her willingness to challenge intelligence data and methods endorsed by her bosses at the Central Intelligence Agency.

On Thursday, the C.I.A. fired Ms. McCarthy, 61, accusing her of leaking information to reporters about overseas prisons operated by the agency in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. But despite Ms. McCarthy's independent streak, some colleagues who worked with her at the White House and other offices during her intelligence career say they cannot imagine Ms. McCarthy as a leaker of classified information.

As a senior National Security Council aide for intelligence from 1996 to 2001, she was responsible for guarding some of the nations most sensitive secrets.

"We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a National Security Council aide in the Clinton administration who worked closely with Ms. McCarthy.

Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy, who began attending law school at night several years ago, made a campaign contribution to Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 and had announced her intention to retire from C.I.A., had grown increasingly disenchanted with the often harsh and extra-legal methods adopted by the Bush administration for handling Al Qaeda prisoners and felt she had no alternative except to go to the press.

If in fact Ms. McCarthy was the leaker, Richard J. Kerr, a former C.I.A. deputy director, said, "I have no idea what her motive was, but there is a lot of dissension within the agency and it seems to be a rather unhappy place." Mr. Kerr called Ms. McCarthy "quite a good, substantive person on the issues I dealt with her on."

She was known as a low-key during her time at the white house as professional who paid special attention to preventing leaks of classified information and covert operations, several current and former government officials said. When she disagreed with decisions on intelligence operations, they say, she registered her complaints through internal government channels.

Some former intelligence officials who worked with Ms. McCarthy saw her as a persistent obstacle to aggressive antiterrorism efforts.

"She was always of the view that she would rather not get her hands dirty with covert action," said Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. official, who said he was in meetings with Ms. McCarthy where she voiced doubts about reports that the factory had ties to Al Qaeda and was secretly producing substances for chemical weapons.

In the case of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, her concerns may have been well-founded. Sudanese officials and the plant's owner denied any connections to Al Qaeda.

In the aftermath of the attack, the internal White House debate about whether the intelligence reports about the plant were accurate spilled into the press. Eventually, Clinton administration officials conceded that the hardest evidence used to justify striking the plant was a single soil sample that seemed to indicate the presence of a chemical used in making VX gas.

There is no evidence Ms. McCarthy was involved in any disclosure to the press about the incident, but she was concerned enough that she wrote a formal letter dissenting to President Clinton, two former officials say.

Over the last decade, Ms. McCarthy gradually came to have one foot in the secret world of intelligence and another in the public world of policy.

She went from lower-level analyst working in obscurity at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va,. to someone at home "downtown," as Washington is called by agency veterans, where policy is more openly fought over and leaks are far more common.

Though she was a C.I.A. employee for more than 20 years, associates said, her early professional experience was not in the world of spying and covert operations.

After a previous career that one former colleague said included time as a flight attendant, she earned a doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota. She worked for a Swiss company "conducting risk assessments for international businesses and banks," Ms. McCarthy wrote in a brief biography she provided to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also called the 9/11 Commission. She testified before the commission in 2003. The biography notes that she once wrote "a book on the social history of Ghana."

Even after joining the C.I.A. in 1984, Ms. McCarthy, who was hired as intelligence analyst for Africa, was far from a covert operative. In the late 1980's, she was promoted to management, taking over as chief of the Central America and Caribbean section, though she had no previous experience in the region, said a former officer who worked with her.

By 1991, she was working as deputy to one of the agency's most senior analysts, Charles E. Allen, whose job as "National Intelligence Officer for Warning" was to anticipate major national security threats. Ms. McCarthy took over the job from Mr. Allen in 1994 and moved to the Clinton White House two years later.

Rand Beers, who at the time was Mr. Clinton's senior intelligence aide on the National Security Council, said he hired Ms. McCarthy to be his deputy. "Anybody who works for Charlie Allen and then replaces him has got to be good," said Mr. Beers, who went on to serve as an adviser to Mr. Kerry's campaign in 2004. She took over from Mr. Beers as the senior director for intelligence programs in 1998.

Though she was not among the C.I.A. officials who briefed Mr. Clinton every morning on the latest intelligence, she "worked on some of the most sensitive programs," a former White House aide said, and was responsible for notifying Congress when covert action was being undertaken.

The aide and some others who spoke about Ms. McCarthy were granted anonymity because they did not want to be identified as discussing her official duties because she may be under criminal investigation.

When the Bush administration took office in 2001, Ms. McCarthy's career seemed to stall. A former Bush administration official who worked with her said that, although she was a career C.I.A. employee, as a holdover from the Clinton administration she was regarded with suspicion and was gradually eased out of her job as senior director for intelligence programs. She left several months into Mr. Bush's first term.

But she did not return immediately to a new assignment at C.I.A. headquarters. She took an extended sabbatical at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research organization. In late 2003, she testified publicly before the 9/11 Commission about ways to reorganize the intelligence agencies to prevent another major terror attack.

She served on the Markle Foundation's "Task Force on National Security in the Information Age," a group of academics as well as current and former government officials working on recommendations for sharing classified information more widely within the government, according to a report issued by the group. The report identifies Ms. McCarthy as a "nongovernment" expert.

H. Andrew Schwartz, a spokesman for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Ms. McCarthy's relationship with the organization lasted from 2001 to 2003. Several associates of Ms. McCarthy say she returned to the C.I.A. in 2004, taking a job in the inspector general's office. That year, public records show, she contributed $2,000 to Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign, identifying herself as a "government analyst."

Married with one child, she also began attending law school at night, two former co-workers said, and talked about switching to a career in public interest law.

After an article last November in The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. was sending terror suspects to clandestine detention centers in several countries, including some in Eastern Europe, Porter J. Goss, the agency's director, ordered polygraphs for intelligence officers who knew about certain "compartmented" programs, including the secret detention centers for terror suspects.

Polygraphs are given routinely to agency employees at least every five years, but special ones can be ordered when a security breach is suspected.

Government officials said that after Ms. McCarthy's polygraph examination showed the possibility of deception, the examiner confronted her and she disclosed having conversations with reporters.

But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.

"It looks to me like Mary is being used as a sacrificial lamb," said Larry Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who worked for Ms. McCarthy in the agency's Latin America section.


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company



Cia says intelligence faulty on 1998 sudan strike { April 23 2006 }
Panel says clinton didnt wag the dog { July 25 2004 }
Questions on clinton sudan strike 1998
Sudan 1998 us bombing { January 21 2003 }
Sudan calls for evidence nerve gas allegations { August 25 1998 }
Sudan factory wrong attack
Sudan leader blames attack clinton { August 25 1998 }
Sudan restores links uk { June 25 1999 }

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