An unlikely member of the “vast right wing conspiracy”

Hillary Clinton, through a spokesperson, has accused Charles McCullough III, the Intelligence Community Inspector General, of working with Republicans to attack her. Referring to McCullough’s statement to Senators that at least several dozen of the emails Clinton sent and received while she was secretary of state contained classified material at the highest levels, the Clinton spokesperson told CNN:

I think this was a very coordinated leak. Two months ago there was a…report that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.

I think that what a Clinton flack thinks doesn’t count for much. I think reputation and background count for more.

Anita Kumar of McClatchcy considers McCullough’s reputation and background. They turn out to be, respectively, unsullied and impressive:

McCullough was nominated by President President Barack Obama in August 2011 to be the first inspector general for the 16 intelligence agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee that October. The full Senate agreed by unanimous consent in November.

Democrats supported the nomination enthusiastically:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who used to head the intelligence committee, described McCullough as “well-qualified.”

“He has long experience conducting investigations both as an inspector general and a FBI agent,” Feinstein said in a floor speech in November 2011. “He is an attorney and is well-familiar with the intelligence community.”

Other Democrats agreed.

“We’ve heard good things about you and I’m looking forward to supporting you when Chair Feinstein moves ahead with the vote,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon said in September 2011.

“You clearly have been able to operate in both the civilian and the military sectors which will, I think, prove to be a very valuable set of experiences, if you’re confirmed,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado. said in September 2011.

McCullough’s official biographical blurb, a good portion of which was cited by the Obama administration when it nominated him, supports these assessments:

Mr. McCullough was most recently the Deputy Inspector General at ODNI. Prior to coming to the ODNI, Mr. McCullough served as a member of the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service for eight years as the Assistant Inspector General for Investigations at the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), where he oversaw internal investigations involving fraud, ethics, intelligence oversight and whistleblower reprisal matters.

Prior to joining the NSA/CSS OIG, Mr. McCullough served as the Senior Counsel for Law Enforcement and Intelligence in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, providing legal advice on enforcement and national security matters to senior officials. He was the Treasury’s lead counsel in the Enron and Moussaoui matters, and played a key role in drafting the intelligence-sharing provisions of the USA PATRIOT ACT. While working at Treasury, he received a commendation for his service on detail to the White House, where he helped establish the Department of Homeland Security.

Before his time at Treasury, Mr. McCullough had a ten-year career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where he served as a Special Agent, Supervisory Special Agent, Associate Division Counsel, and Special Assistant United States Attorney. His work in the FBI included high-profile investigative and legal assignments in New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

From all that appears, McCullough has been untouched by scandal during his long and distinguished career. No destruction of emails, no “lost” billing records turning up near his office, no fired travel office workers replaced by his friends, no enrichment through speaking fees from interests having business before him. Nothing of the sort.

In any event, attacks on McCullough do not overcome his conclusion that, contrary to what Clinton has said in the past, at least several dozen of emails she sent and received while she was secretary of state contained classified material at the highest level as “top secret/SAP” or “special access program.” Nor are such attacks likely to impress the FBI.

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