Monday, April 24, 2006

Mary McCarthy and the Cretan Paradox

I suppose that I should be more exercised over the dismissal of CIA employee Mary McCarthy for leaking sensitive information on the CIA's secret prisons and use of torture therein to the Washington Post.

Here's why I'm not:

What McCarthy did in blowing the whistle was illegal. What the Postdid in publishing its Pulitzer Prize-winning expose was right. The two are not incompatible. National security was trumped by the public's right to know of illegal government activities. These two also are not incompatible. It's American democracy in all its messiness. So there.

And while I'm not keeping score, I suspect McCarthy will come out of this mess looking better than the people who condoned the prisons and use of torture in the first place.

Wretchard at the Belmont Club has this to say:
Here's the problem as I see it. The leaky and politicized intelligence system has made it difficult to judge the truth value of any proposition. Did the Plame affair damage national security? Did Ms. McCarthy's actions damage national security? Is there someone lying dead in a gutter because somebody talked? The answer to those questions about the intelligence agencies is going to be answered by the intelligence agencies themselves. And so we come full circle to the modern version of the Cretan Paradox: which asserts that when a Cretan says 'all Cretans are liars' all logical roads lead to a contradiction. How then to know the truth about the lies? When intelligence agencies -- and I use that word broadly to encompass the press, which is the civilian intelligence system -- are politicized, then even our knowledge about our knowledge becomes uncertain. We are in a Wilderness of Mirrors indeed. . . . in Washington politics, like the gravitational field of a massive Black Hole, distorts everything. In regions sufficiently close to the political event horizon truth and facts simply cease to exist.

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