Her Bad

11.19.15 6:00 AM ET

That Time Carly Fiorina Nearly Leaked Classified CIA Data

With her numbers flagging, the GOP candidate went on Fox News to reveal something ‘startling.’ But her revelation was either a serious fib or close to exposing classified info.

Carly Fiorina is either lying or dangerously close to revealing classified information. Either way, it’s not good news for a campaign predicated on being the anti-Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina announced Tuesday night on Fox News that she had a “startling fact” to share: “We have more IRS agents than we have FBI and CIA. Does that strike you as a misallocation of resources? Of course it is. Of course it is.”

It was certainly startling.

The IRS employs 82,203 people, according to its 2016 budget. One in four IRS employees, or about 20,550, is an IRS agent, according to Factcheck.org.

The FBI has 35,000 employees. An FBI spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that of those employees, more than 13,000 but fewer than 14,000 are FBI agents.

For Fiorina’s claim to be true, the CIA would have to employ somewhere in the ballpark of 7,000 officers (“CIA agent” is a term for a foreign CIA operative). But there’s a problem: The number of people the CIA employs is classified.

A spokesperson for Fiorina’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment and clarification about Fiorina’s claim.

While serving as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina provided the National Security Agency with computer servers, at the behest of the agency’s then-director, Michael Hayden, who later became the director of the CIA.

On her website, Fiorina boasts that she was then “hand-selected” by Hayden to serve on the CIA’s External Advisory Board in 2006, where she got a “top-secret security clearance.” A CIA spokesperson wouldn’t say whether it was possible for someone affiliated with the organization, like an advisory board member, to know how many people work at the CIA or in what capacity.

If Fiorina did in fact learn how many officers the CIA employs through her relationship with Hayden or her work on the board, she surely learned, too, that the information was not for public consumption—meaning that she knowingly gave a ballpark estimate for a classified data point on national television, while making the case that President Obama and Hillary Clinton don’t take terror threats seriously, no less.

Fiorina is not known for her exactitude.

She claims to have miraculously vaulted “from secretary to CEO,” leaving out her privileged upbringing as the daughter of a Nixon-appointed deputy U.S. attorney general and the fact that she worked as a secretary for just a year before getting married and moving to Italy with her husband.

During her first campaign, in 2010, she said she was the chair of “the Fiorina Foundation,” which turned out not to be a foundation at all but the name of her account with a donor-advised fund.

That campaign marked the beginning of Fiorina’s grand retelling of the story of her tenure at HP, which resulted in her being pushed out of the company due to poor performance. In Fiorina’s version of events, she led the company to unprecedented levels of growth.

It was during Fiorina’s first prime-time Republican debate that she described a gruesome scene from a Planned Parenthood sting video that did not unfold as she said it did. She has refused to correct her characterization of the video even in the face of almost universal criticism.

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In the most recent debate, Fiorina needled Donald Trump for having only met Vladimir Putin in a television green room. “Mr. Trump fancies himself a very good negotiator, and I accept that he’s done a lot of good deals,” she said. “One of the reasons I’ve said that I would not be talking to Vladimir Putin right now, although I have met him, as well—not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting—is because we are speaking to him from a position of weakness brought on by this administration.”

It was a great applause line, save for the unwelcome fact that Fiorina had said, just weeks earlier on The Tonight Show, precisely the opposite. “I met [Putin] in Beijing,” she bragged. “We were in sort of a green room setting actually…”

As Fiorina's auto-mythology unraveled under scrutiny, her once-surging poll numbers collapsed. It seems unlikely that either fibbing about her knowledge of CIA data, or coming close to revealing classified data, will help.