Today, our task is to try to name the source.
In 2008, Christiane Amanpour said that a female former CIA officer -- a person who had held a high rank, and who had left the Agency "recently" -- told her that Bin Laden was in "a villa" in Pakistan
. That claim turned out to be true. If the CIA knew the exact location of Bin Laden during the Bush administration, and if Dubya did not act on that information -- well. We are well into scandal territory.
(It is just as scandalous if Obama sat on that information for more than two years.)
Who was Amanpour's source? A very limited number of people fill all of our criteria. So far, two possibilities have come to my attention. One of them is an interesting
candidate, while the other is a likely
candidate.Melissa Boyle Mahle
does not really fit our requirements because she left the Agency in 2004. The "villa" was a vacant lot at that time. Otherwise, she'd be a terrific candidate, due to her knowledge of the region.
Then again...then again
Back in 2006 (which is within our time frame), she talked to Keith Olbermann about an agent who had leaked information to reporters
. We'll get to the leak story soon. For now, let's ponder this description of Mahle:
Ex-CIA officer Melissa Boyle Mahle who maintains close contacts with CIA insiders reports that the leak investigation is considered to be a "witch hunt" by many inside the agency.
There have been previous "former" CIA employees who were, in truth, not so "former" as all that. James McCord of Watergate fame provides one likely example. Quite a few people have voiced the suspicion that Edwin P. Wilson's service to the CIA did not end in 1971, as the official records maintain.
A 2005 interview with Mahle contains some interesting words on Bin Laden:
Do you think we will ever find Osama bin Laden?
I do. But if we are smart, we will never announce his capture, because if he suddenly went missing, it would disrupt Al Qaeda's operations. They would all be busy trying to re-establish communication with him.
But the White House would want to capitalize on the news. They could never keep that quiet.
Sure they could. Washington has a history of keeping secrets.
Given these words, it would be rather amusing if Mahle spilled the Osama beans to Amanpour. But I don't think that Mahle the one we're looking for.
Let us now turn our attentions to the lady at the center of that 2006 leak scandal, Mary McCarthy
Mary O'Neil McCarthy (born 1945) is a former United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who last worked in the Office of the Inspector General. In her career, she was an intelligence analyst and National Intelligence Officer for Warning. She was dismissed on April 21, 2006 after, according to the CIA, an individual admitted "unauthorized contacts with the media and discussion of classified information" following a polygraph examination. Her lawyer has confirmed the termination of employment but denied his client leaked classified information.
Would she have had access to Bin Laden's location? It's possible.
The Inspector General's office is, in essence, the self-policing "internal affairs" division of the CIA. Obviously, the IG is in a position to scoop up some very dirty secrets -- although those involved in the shadiest operations often go to great lengths to hide data from the IG.
In 2006, the CIA's IG was John Helgerson, whose criticism of the secret rendition flights led CIA chief Michael Hayden to launch his own investigation of the Inspector General
. This was unprecedented.
Something very serious was going on. At the same time, hard-core Bushies in the intelligence community went gunning for Mary McCarthy, Helgerson's deputy. The spooks were spooking their own internal police.
When the leak scandal broke, the conservative media outed her as having contributed to various Democratic candidates, while the Bush administration "barraged the agency with questions about the political affiliations of some of its senior intelligence officers." The right-wing bloggers had a conspiratorial field day when they learned that a high-ranking CIA officer had dared to belong to the wrong party.
At one time, McCarthy's specialty was Africa. During much of the Clinton era, she served as the "National Intelligence Officer for Warning,
" which means that she was responsible for warning the president about important strategic events.
All in all, she was in a good position to hear about Osama's villa in Pakistan -- presuming that this knowledge was (as Amanpour suggests, and as Porter Goss once strongly hinted) floating around the upper echelons of the intelligence community.
McCarthy is said to have leaked information to Dana Priest of the Washington Post toward the end of 2005. The nature of the leaked information remains a matter of guesswork: Most people believe that she spoke about the secret prisons
in Eastern Europe (the subject of Priest's reportage, and the alleged focus of the Hayden/Helgerson dispute). Others have said that she was concerned about events in Afghanistan
I have not yet seen any evidence that Christiane Amanpour ever spoke to McCarthy. But reporters often speak to sources without writing stories based on what those sources say.
The timing of these events reminds me of a very bizarre incident -- or allegation -- that came to light in January of 2006. At that time, Andreas Mitchell revealed that the Bush administration had allegedly eavesdropped on Amanpour
. The motive for the eavesdropping was never explained.
The Mary McCarthy leak scandal hit the news a few months later. However, the leak itself
must have occurred toward the end of 2005, since Priest wrote her pieces in November and December of that year. The investigation of McCarthy thus took place between November and April.
It is possible to cobble together a theory that makes chronological sense: At the time of Christiane Amanpour's alleged electronic eavesdropping
, Mary McCarthy -- the deputy Inspector General -- was herself under investigation by "cowboys" loyal to Bush. Wiretapping Amanpour may well have been part of the investigation of McCarthy.
NBC censored the original Andreas Mitchell report, excising all mention of the wiretap allegation. There was no apology, no admission of error; the offending words were simply stricken from the record. At the time, this seemed very mysterious and suspicious. The sequence of events becomes easier to understand if we posit that Hayden or the White House told someone at NBC that Amanpour was wiretapped because she was in contact with a CIA officer under suspicion of leaking.
Both Helgerson and McCarthy aroused the special fury of Michael Hayden and the Bush White House. It seems clear to me that the IG's office had uncovered some very disturbing things -- things that they wanted Congress and the American people to know about. The secret prisons were part
of that dirty laundry, but they were not (in my opinion) the full reason for the internal CIA war.
At this time, my money is on Mary McCarthy. My gut tells me that she was the one who spoke to Christiane Amanpour. Of course, as Cannonfire readers know, my copious gut has made its share of errors -- but my hunches have also turned out to be correct.
Congress should investigate Amanpour's claim. Perhaps they should also look into McCarthy.