Talk about making a mistake at work! Two people in the Obama administration are undoubtedly having a bad day. One is the CIA agent who was outed when his name and role was leaked to thousands of reporters and the other, presumably, is whoever in the White House was responsible for the mistake.
Someone on the White House staff accidentally included the name of the CIA Station Chief based in Kabul (along with his title) on the itinerary for the President’s visit to Afghanistan this weekend. The itinerary outing the spy chief was sent to more than 6,000 members of the media.
The CIA officer’s name (which is remarkably being withheld by all the media outlets to protect the safety of the person and his family) was on the memo distributed to the press to brief them on the senior U.S. officials involved in the commander-in-chief’s Memorial Day weekend trip. The memo identified the individual as the “Chief of Station,” which indicates he or she is the top CIA officer in that bureau and oversees the other officers operating in Afghanistan.
The CIA operative was listed along with 15 other officials scheduled to brief Obama when he arrived at Bagram Air Force Base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, at the start of his unannounced visit. Obama met with the CIA officer, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham, Marine General Joseph Dunford, who is commander of the U.S. and coalition forces, and others at the airfield.
Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson filed the “pool report” based on the itinerary drafted and given to him by the White House press office. A “pool report” is summary of an event covered by the reporter(s) allowed to come on the trip that is shared with other news organizations, including foreign media, who were not allowed on the trip. The White House reportedly reviewed Wilson’s report before it was sent to other media outlets.
Once the memo was emailed widely, the Washington Post journalist pointed out to the White House that the CIA agent was outed in the report and questioned the mistake. Acknowledging the snafu, the White House soon retracted the first version and issued a revised list without the person’s name. They also requested that the media outlets not publish the intelligence officer’s name. President Obama will undoubtedly grill his staff (if he has not already) to find out how the accident happened.
It is unclear if the security breach could result in the CIA pulling the officer out of Afghanistan. Given the officer’s high-level CIA role, his identify was probably no secret to high-level Afghani government officials.
This is not the first time the U.S. government has exposed the name of a CIA operative, but may be the first time the information was so widely disseminated by accident. President George W. Bush’s administration famously outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, reportedly in retaliation for her ambassador husband’s public comments about Iraq, although that disclosure was not a White House mistake, but a deliberate act.
By Dyanne Weiss