George W. Bush has this message for all those whose employment is in
his hands: Support my political opponents and you'll get canned like Mary McCarthy.
And if we need to make up a lie to justify it, then by God, that's what we'll
"McCarthy's lawyer, Ty Cobb, told NEWSWEEK this afternooon that contrary
to public statements by the CIA late last week, McCarthy never confessed to
agency interrogators that she had divulged classified information and 'didn't
even have access to the information' in The Washington Post story in question."
Well, what do you expect from a gang of wankers who
make up lies to go to war? With rivers of blood coursing through their hands,
they're certainly not going to shrink from a bit of petty deceit to fire and
smear a "disloyal" underling, are they? Meanwhile, wise man Robert
Parry draws out some of the implications at Consortiumnews.com: Bush
Brandishes Jail Time at His Critics.
Bush Brandishes Jail Time at Critics
By Robert Parry
April 23, 2006
Over the past five-plus years, the American people have gotten a taste
of what a triumphant George W. Bush is like, as he basked in high approval ratings
and asserted virtually unlimited powers as Commander in Chief. Now, the question
is: How will Bush and his inner circle behave when cornered?
So far, the answer should send chills through today’s weakened American
Republic. Bush and his team – faced with plunging poll numbers and cascading
disclosures of wrongdoing – appear determined to punish and criminalize
resistance to their regime.
That is the significance of recent threats from the administration and its
supporters who bandy about terms like sedition, espionage and treason when referring
to investigative journalists, government whistle-blowers and even retired military
generals – critics who have exposed Executive Branch illegalities, incompetence
CIA Director Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman long regarded as
a political partisan, has escalated pressure on intelligence officials suspected
of leaking secrets about Bush’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans and
the torture of detainees held in clandestine prisons in Asia and Eastern Europe.
On April 20, Goss fired a career intelligence officer (identified as Mary O.
McCarthy) for allegedly discussing with reporters the CIA’s network of
secret prisons where terrorism suspects were interrogated and allegedly tortured
in defiance of international law and often the laws of the countries involved.
Goss had said the disclosure of these clandestine prisons had caused “very
severe” damage to “our capabilities to carry out our mission,”
referring to complaints from foreign officials who had let the CIA use their
territory for the so-called “black sites” and faced legal trouble
from the torture revelations.
“This was a very aggressive internal investigation” to find who
leaked the information about the secret prisons, one former CIA officer told
the New York Times. [NYT, April 22, 2006]
Goss was recruited to the task of putting the CIA back in its place by Vice
President Dick Cheney in 2004. During the run-up to the Iraq War, Cheney had
banged heads with intelligence analysts who doubted White House claims about
Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Though many senior CIA bureaucrats bent to Cheney’s pressure on the WMD
intelligence, some analysts resisted. After the Iraq invasion failed to find
WMD, some of the CIA’s suppressed doubts began surfacing in the press
and causing Bush political embarrassment during the presidential election campaign.
After the November 2004 election, Bush and his allies sought retribution against
these out-of-step CIA officials. The powerful conservative news media joined
the drumbeat against analysts who were seen as a threat to Bush’s goals
in Iraq and elsewhere.
Conservative columnists, including Robert Novak and David Brooks, argued the
CIA’s rightful role was to do the president’s bidding.
“Now that he’s been returned to office, President Bush is going
to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies,” wrote
Brooks in the New York Times on Nov. 13, 2004. “His opponents are found
in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence
Brooks justified a purge at the CIA because the spy agency had made Bush look
“At the height of the campaign, CIA officials, who are supposed to serve
the president and stay out of politics and policy, served up leak after leak
to discredit the president’s Iraq policy,” Brooks wrote. “Somebody
leaked a CIA report predicting a gloomy or apocalyptic future for the region.
… A senior CIA official, Paul Pillar, reportedly made comments saying
he had long felt the decision to go to war would heighten anti-American animosity
in the Arab world.”
In other words, conservative commentators saw what sounded like reasonable
CIA analyses as threats to Bush’s authority.
In 2005, as conditions in Iraq indeed worsened and anti-U.S. sentiment in the
Islamic world swelled, the Bush administration lashed out at other disclosures
– about the network of secret prisons (by the Washington Post) and Bush’s
decision to ignore legal requirements for court warrants before spying on communications
by American citizens (reported by the New York Times).
Bush, his aides and their media allies claimed the news articles inflicted
severe damage on U.S. national security, but presented no precise evidence to
support those claims. What was clear, however, was that Bush was facing a steep
decline in public assessments about his judgment and honesty.
By March 2006, Bush’s favorable poll numbers were sinking into the mid-30
percentiles with his negatives nearing 60 percent and his strong negatives in
which compiles state-by-state poll numbers, reported in March that Bush
had net favorable ratings in only seven states (Nebraska, Mississippi, Oklahoma,
Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, and Utah). By April, Bush’s net favorable states
to four (Nebraska, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah).
In April, too, the Bush administration was stunned when a half dozen retired
generals criticized the conduct of the Iraq War and called on Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Bush’s defenders struck back, warning that
letting retired generals criticize Rumsfeld – and by implication, Bush
– threatened the principle of civilian control of the military.
The announcement of the Pulitzer prizes was more bad news for the White House,
with awards going to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest for her articles on
the secret prisons and to New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau
for their disclosure of Bush’s warrantless wiretaps.
Facing Bush’s growing unpopularity and the increased resistance from
influential power centers – including the military, the intelligence community
and the mainstream press – administration supporters escalated their rhetoric
with intimations of legal retaliation against the critics.
On April 18, Tony Blankley, editorial-page editor of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s
staunchly pro-Bush Washington Times, raised the prospect of sedition charges
against active-duty military officers who – in collusion with the retired
generals – might be considering resignations in protest of Bush’s
“Can a series of lawful resignations turn into a mutiny?” Blankley
wrote. “And if they are agreed upon in advance, have the agreeing
generals formed a felonious conspiracy to make a mutiny?”
Blankley wrote that this possible “revolt” by the generals “comes
dangerously close to violating three articles of the Uniform Code of Military
Justice,” including “mutiny and sedition.” Blankley thus raised
the specter of courts martial against officers who resign rather than carry
out orders from Bush.
Administration supporters also have suggested imprisonment for journalists
who disobey Bush’s edicts against writing critical stories about the War
on Terror that contain classified information.
Former Education Secretary (and now right-wing pundit) Bill Bennett used his
national radio program on April 18 to condemn the three Pulitzer-winning journalists
– Priest, Risen and Lichtblau – as not “worthy of an award”
but rather “worthy of jail.”
According to a transcript of the remarks published by Editor
& Publisher’s Web site, Bennett said the reporters “took
classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers,
against the wishes of the president, against the requests of the president and
others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized
it – they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us.
“How do we know it damaged us? Well, it revealed the existence of the
surveillance program, so people are going to stop making calls. Since they are
now aware of this, they’re going to adjust their behavior. … On
the secret [prison] sites, the CIA sites, we embarrassed our allies. …
So it hurt us there.
“As a result are they [the reporters] punished, are they in shame, are
they embarrassed, are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer prizes – they
win Pulitzer prizes. I don’t think what they did was worthy of an award
– I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this [Espionage
Act] investigation needs to go forward.”
Right-wing bloggers also began dubbing the awards to the three journalists
“the Pulitzer Prize for Treason.”
However, neither right-wing commentators nor Bush administration officials
have ever explained exactly how national security interests were hurt by the
disclosures. As even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has acknowledged, al-Qaeda
operatives already were aware of the U.S. capability to intercept their electronic
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 6, 2006, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware,
asked Gonzales, “How has this revelation damaged the program” since
the administration’s attack on the disclosure “seems to presuppose
that these very sophisticated al-Qaeda folks didn’t think we were intercepting
their phone calls?”
Gonzales responded, “I think, based on my experience, it is true –
you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind
of surveillance. But if they’re not reminded about it all the time in
the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget” – a response
that drew laughter from the citizens in the hearing room.
As for the secret prisons, the fallout appears to be largely political, causing
embarrassment for countries that collaborated in what appears to be a clear
violation of international law by granting space for “black sites”
where torture allegedly was practiced.
The most likely consequence is that the Bush administration will find it harder
in the future to set up secret prisons outside the scrutiny of the International
Red Cross, the United Nations and human rights organizations.
But that may help U.S. national security – rather than hurt it –
by discouraging the Bush administration from engaging in torture that has damaged
America’s reputation around the world and fueled Muslim rage at the United
Instead, what appears most keenly at stake in the escalating political rhetoric
is the Bush administration’s determination to stop its political fall
by branding its critics – even U.S. generals and CIA officers –
as unpatriotic and then silencing them with threats of imprisonment.
Bush is trying to mark the boundaries of permissible political debate. He also
wants total control of classified information so he can leak the information
that helps him – as he did in summer 2003 to shore up his claims about
Iraq’s WMD – while keeping a lid on secrets that might make him
The firing of CIA officer Mary McCarthy and the threats of criminal charges
against various dissenters are just the latest skirmishes in the political war
over who will decide what Americans get to see and hear.
The other signal to Bush’s critics, however, is this: If they ever thought
he and his administration would accept accountability for their alleged abuses
of power without a nasty fight, those critics are very mistaken.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in
the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy &
Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at
It's also available at Amazon.com,
as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project