Fired CIA officer denies leak of classified data

/ Source: NBC News and news services

Fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy has “categorically” denied to NBC News through her lawyer that she leaked classified information. In addition, McCarthy's attorney tells NBC News that she did not have access to the information she is accused of leaking. The CIA has said that the officer — whom the agency wouldn't identify — had “confessed” to leaking.

A defense source tells NBC News that while McCarthy may have failed her polygraph on the issue of having unauthorized contacts with reporters, she did not fail the question about leaking information on the secret prison system.

CIA officials said that having unauthorized contacts with reporters is sufficient as a firing offense, although friends of McCarthy say no one has ever been fired for that before.

And a friend speaking on her behalf — Rand Beers, who directed intelligence programs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration — said that McCarthy denies allegations that she provided information leading to a Washington Post story on secret CIA prisons.

“She was not the source for that story,” Beers said, in a statement first reported by Newsweek. He said McCarthy authorized him to make the brief statement, but he declined to discuss the issue further.

McCarthy, 61, graduated from Georgetown law school last year, and passed the bar in November. She announced her retirement; her last active duty day was Feb. 7. But under CIA procedures she was not going to be transitioned out of her position until April 30.

McCarthy had planned to practice family law, specializing in adoptions. Since Feb. 7, she had gone back several times to the agency to answer questions related to the investigation. That was until Thursday, when she was escorted out of the agency headquarters in Langley, Va.

In a message distributed to the agency work force Thursday afternoon, CIA Director Porter Goss expressed his deep concern over the “critical damage being suffered” from media leaks and informed his staff of the firing of an unidentified official.

“A CIA officer has acknowledged having unauthorized discussions with the media, in which the officer knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence, including operational information. I terminated that officer’s employment with the CIA,” Goss said.

McCarthy has contributed a total of $7,000 to Democratic political causes over her lifetime, including $2,000 to the Kerry 2004 presidential campaign. Her husband is a landscaper, and they live in Bethesda, Md.