Facing the music for blowing the whistle

The recent firing of Mary McCarthy has again stirred up the issues of torture, government secrecy, and the treatment of dissent.

This being the case, I will shortly address torture and our nation. But first let me make plain my opinion on the surface issue of Mary McCarthy.

McCarthy did indeed blatantly violate the conditions of her employment. The CIA is perfectly within its rights to fire her. I think it not entirely outside the realm of reason to say they were obliged to fire her for the violation of her contract.

That said, I wonder if the very public nature of her firing was intended as a warning to other potential whistle-blowers to mind their step and fall in line with this administration. Both Ray McGovern, 27 year CIA analyst and founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, and Richard Kerr, Deputy Director of the CIA under Bush I, noted today on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer that in the past CIA operatives and executives have been fired for “leaks” before, but much more privately.

Regardless, McCarthy did the right thing. Some aspects of our government, such as intelligence, necessarily entail secrecy. But secrecy is also the breeding ground for corruption. An ethical and free society is dependent upon whistle-blowers to expose to the public the corruption and abuse which is protected by that secrecy, that we might thereby eliminate it. The actions of such people as Daniel Ellsberg (the Pentagon Papers) and Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”) reveal to us the truth regarding what our government is doing, so we can restrain them if necessary. The actions of Mary McCarthy appear to fall into the same category. It may be that she expressed her objections to her superiors and within the official channels, but found only deaf ears. With no legal recourse by which to change what she seems to have seen as illegal and immoral policy, she seems to have decided upon something drastic. In the end, she may have broken rules. As “whistle-blowing” is a form of civil-disobedience, she can expect to face consequences for her decisions. But in doing so, she answered a to a higher form of patriotism than those who blindly obey.

Those who attack McCarthy on the grounds that her decision was partisan are trying to deliberately create a red herring. The primary issue is not her motivation. The crucial issue is whether or not her allegations are true and what legal implications that truth would entail. If the allegations are true and legally and ethically indefensible, then our sole concern should be rectifying the crime and visiting consequences upon those responsible for those crimes. Only after the allegations are disproven (or rather, given the assumptions explicit in our judicial system, after the allegations fail to be proven) or are shown to be legally and ethically inconsequential should we concern ourselves with her motive.

I find it interesting that many who condemn McCarthy and her whistle-blowing about allegedly legal and moral wrongdoings are so quick to defend the administration in leaking information the sole purpose of which seems to have been to punish a vocal critic (ie, the Valerie Plame affair).

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