(CIA Director Goss Swearing Oath We Think He Has Forgotten)
Dear CIA Director Goss:
You were once a member of the U.S. Congress. You represented constituents and swore an oath to defend and protect our system of government, our Constitution.
A secrecy-obsessed national security bureacracy may be a necessity on some fronts, but democracy requires that it be limited. Attempting to squelch retired CIA personnel from speaking to the public or media is absolutely outrageous and inconsistent with our form of democracy.
You are completely out of line and have forgotten what your oath to this nation was all about.
You are fast becoming a caricature of a person so obsessed with leaks that you break the system in order to save it. Your harrassment of former CIA staff is unacceptable and your attempts to stifle the civil society of this country is antithetical to what democracy is about.
Turn this harrassment policy you have launched against former staff around.
Don’t become the Dr. Strangelove of national intelligence and the CIA.
The Washington Note
This is what I had to send to the CIA Director this morning after reading Demetri Sevastopulo’s important piece that ex-CIA agents are being harrassed and threatened by Goss for any “unauthorized” meetings with the press or media.
The Central Intelligence Agency has warned former employees not to have unapproved contacts with reporters, as part of a mounting campaign by the administration to crack down on officials who leak information on national security issues.
A former official said the CIA recently warned several retired employees who have consulting contracts with the agency that they could lose their pensions by talking to reporters without permission. He added that while the threats might be legally “hollow,” they were having a chilling effect on former employees.
The CIA called the allegations “rubbish”. Jennifer Millerwise Dyke, spokeswoman for CIA director Porter Goss, said former employees with consulting deals could lose their contracts for violating the CIA secrecy agreement by having unauthorised conversations with reporters. But she stressed that under current law, “termination of a contract does not affect pensions”.
The clampdown represents the latest move in what observers describe as the most aggressive government campaign against leaks in years. The Justice Department is investigating the disclosure to the media of secret overseas CIA prisons and a highly classified National Security Agency domestic spying programme authorised by President George W. Bush. Last week, the CIA fired Mary McCarthy, an intelligence officer, for allegedly leaking classified information and having undisclosed contacts with reporters.
Mr Goss has increased the number of “single issue” polygraphs — lie detector tests aimed at ferreting out leaking employees. A second former official said Mr Goss was trying to “scare everybody” by using polygraphs aggressively.
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former CIA general counsel, said Mr Goss was “obviously taking a much more forward-leaning stance than any of us have seen for years”. But another former intelligence official said the agency was simply returning to a “more conservative regimen” to remind employees that they work for a secret organisation.
The bottom line that Porter Goss needs to know is that former agents and CIA officials go into journalism, think tanks, work on the Hill, work for corporations, or go into numerous NGOs. They are part of a vast, networked group of former CIA staffers who try to meld back into society after working “on the inside”.
Certainly, some material they know is classified and should not be disclosed unless those in power are engaged in serial abuses of power — which I think parts of this administration are, particularly when it comes to policies dealing with torture, rendition, and the secret detention and disappearing of prisoners.
But to try and shut down all “unauthorized” meetings and discussions with the media is like putting them in a silo for the rest of their lives. This is outrageous and assures that if he doesn’t change course — which I hope he does — when Goss finally leaves the CIA, he will leave as one of the single most detested directors there.
And everything he is doing now will be reversed. This “police state” stuff has gone far too far.
— Steve Clemons
Update: More on the CIA’s “political appropriateness” squeeze by National Journal‘s Shane Harris.