Former CIA official: White House leak retaliation against agency

A former CIA counterterrorism specialist accused the Bush administration Friday of leaking the identity of a CIA operative in revenge for the lack of support by the U.S. intelligence community for charges that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was seeking to rebuild his nuclear weapons program.

The Justice Department is currently investigating the leak of the identity and CIA status of the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who this summer publicly criticized evidence offered by the White House to justify war with Iraq. Earlier this month, Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has been criticized by congressional Democrats for being too close to the White House to effectively investigate the leak, said his department has made progress in tracking down those responsible.

On Friday, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee heard from three former CIA officers who criticized the Bush administration over the leak, which was attributed to a "senior administration official." In addition, the leak also both put Wilson's wife at risk and damaged the CIA's ability to combat terrorism, they said.

Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism specialist and frequent critic of the administration's handling of intelligence, accused the White House of leaking Wilson's wife's identity in retaliation for the intelligence community's lack of support on charges that Iraq was renewing its nuclear weapons program.

"She was outed … as a vindictive act … because the agency-CIA and DIA and some of the other portions of the intelligence community-were not providing support for policy statements that Saddam Hussein was renewing his nuclear program," Cannistraro said.

He also said the leak demonstrated the White House's "underlying contempt" of the U.S. intelligence community.

"Many of the people in the administration were publicly identified as ideologues and members of the group that advocated war in Iraq were not happy with the CIA, were not happy even with DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], the Pentagon's own intelligence service because it didn't consistently provide the supporting data for the public assertions that Iraq was a clear danger," Cannistraro said.

Former CIA case officer Jim Marcinkowski said that he and many other CIA agents felt "betrayed" by the White House over the leak.

The former CIA officers said the leak could place Wilson's wife in physical danger-a charge that has been made by both congressional Democrats and by Wilson himself.

"Certainly, Ambassador Wilson's wife now will have a harder time picking her vacations spots, at a bare minimum," Marcinkowski said.

He also outlined for the panel a number of ways the leak could damage overall U.S. intelligence efforts, including the CIA's ability to reassure current and potential operatives of safety and security concerns and the agency's reputation to maintain the confidentiality of friendly foreign governments that share information with the United States.

The leak will also have a "chilling" effect on the CIA's ability to recruit new agents, Cannistraro said.

"It is going to be very difficult to get young men and women to dedicate their lives to this particular kind of intelligence work, which is nonofficial cover-living abroad in a capacity in which you are not identified as a member of the U.S. government-better to provide the access you need," he said.

Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) sent a letter Friday to the CIA's inspector general calling for an investigation in the leak's impact on the agency's ability to recruit and maintain agents.

In their testimony Friday, the former CIA officers also disparaged the Justice Department's ability to fully and effectively conduct the leak investigation. "At a minimum," Cannistraro said, Ashcroft should recuse himself from the case and a special counsel should be appointed-a measure that has repeatedly been called for by congressional Democrats and often deemed unnecessary by the White House.

"Whether he [Ashcroft] does a fair job, an honest job, and he comes to the right conclusion I think will be irrelevant. There will always be the questions if he does it himself, political or otherwise: Was a fair job done?" Marcinkowski said. "The perception is always going to be there that there's going to be a remaining question because somebody put something under the table or somebody's playing cat-and-mouse with the truth. It's going to be there. We've seen it in so many cases. You can expect that to happen again," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.