On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with this. Leaking classified information is sometimes heroic, but it shouldn’t be risk-free. A CIA officer signs a contract to keep the secrets. Being fired is an appropriate penalty for violating that contract by leaking information that embarrasses the country.
However, to act on that logic in any particular case assumes a judgment on the part of those doing the firing that the release of information was, on balance, undesirable. In this case, the firing amounts to a confirmation of the underlying story, and a ratification of the decision to violate the Constitution, domestic statute, and the law of nations by holding prisoners in secret and inflicting torture. (One reason to have the torture chambers outside the country is to put the activities there beyond the reach of the courts, which might otherwise be asked to enforce the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”)
By firing the whistleblower, Porter Goss has made himself an accessory after the fact to some very serious crimes. Of course, as CIA Director he is also, presumably, a principal or a co-conspirator in committing those same crimes on an ongoing basis.
That judgment about the legal and moral rights and wrongs of the case is, of course, separate from the political judgment about whether the Democrats would gain votes by filing resolutions of inquiry, demanding hearings, and otherwise showing that they are actually against torture, or the somewhat different judgment about whether this is an issue worth losing votes over. Since I’m not running for anything, I’m allowed to say that the bully-and-coward faction that doesn’t mind a little torture as long as it’s out of sight and applied to people with funny foreign names probably constitutes a majority in the American electorate. I think the time for Democratic politicians to demonstrate their opposition to torture is when we hold the White House and can start some criminal investigations, not now. Your mileage may vary.
But even in cases where the material revealed isn’t evidence of a crime, and where firing is appropriate, it’s still incumbent on those who regard to whisteblower’s actions as having forwarded the national interest to ensure that she (in this case) doesn’t suffer for it economically. Some institution whose management disapproves of torture ought to give Mary McCarthy a job. One of the structural advantages of the right wing in this country is that it is much more diligent about taking care of its own after they leave the public payroll.