On Sunday, the White House accidentally leaked the name of the Kabul station chief — the CIA’s top-ranked spy in Afghanistan — to a press pool of about 6,000 reporters around the world who received a guest list of dignitaries who met Obama during his hit-it-and-quit-it visit to the war zone over the weekend.
“The name and title of the station chief were removed in a later pool report that urged reporters to ‘please use this list’ of attendees at the president’s briefing instead of the previous one,” reports The New York Times.
American media outlets agreed to the government’s request to forget what they’d seen.
Why the hell didn’t they publish the name?
The Washington Post said it was “withholding the official’s name at the request of White House officials who warned publication of his name could put the official and his family in danger.”
That’s untrue and illogical on several levels.
First: Either the guy’s cover has been blown or it hasn’t. Even if all 6,000 journos (plus whoever) agree to keep the spook’s ID on the down low, it’s too late. His name is out in the world. If Langley cares one whit for operational security, they’ll pull him out anyway.
Second: By several accounts, Mr. CIA Kabul was already well-known in Afghanistan. Trust me when I say, anything the American ex-pat community knows, the Taliban knows in greater detail. If they wanted to kill him, he’d already be dead.
Third: Does Langley really believe that 6,000-plus random civilians can be trusted with CIA secrets? If so, they’re even dumber than we thought.
If reporters were doing their jobs, they’d try to access government secrets, including classified information such as the identities of CIA operatives. When news like that falls into their laps, as in this instance, media organizations have an ethical obligation to their readers to disseminate it. They are, after all, the eyes and ears of those same readers.
Might someone die? Sure. That’s always a possibility when information about people is revealed in public. When a woman’s address appears next to her name in a public notice about her buying a house, her stalker might find her and kill her. Why should a CIA agent — a man who, incidentally, presides over the administration of an expansive torture facility and concentration camp — receive greater consideration than a female civilian?
And when did it become OK for the US media to ask permission from the US government before telling us what they know?