More evidence that adults are not in charge of the Obama White House.
Greg Miller reports for the Washington Post, May 25, 2014, that the White House “inadvertently” exposed the identity of the CIA’s top officer in Kabul when his name was included on a list, provided to news organizations, of senior U.S. officials participating in Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan.
The individual was identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.
The disclosure marked a rare instance in which a CIA officer working overseas had his cover — the secrecy meant to protect his actual identity — pierced by his own government. The only other recent case came under significantly different circumstances, when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq.
The Washington Post is withholding the name of the CIA officer at the request of Obama administration officials who warned that the officer and his family could be at risk if the name were published.
The CIA officer was one of 15 senior U.S. officials identified as taking part in a military briefing for Obama at Bagram air base, a sprawling military compound north of Kabul. Others included U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the country.
Their names were included on a list of participants in the briefing provided by U.S. military officials to the White House press office, as well as circulated by e-mail to reporters who traveled to Afghanistan with Obama. The list was then disseminated further when it was included in a “pool report,” or summary of the event meant to be shared with other news organizations, including foreign media, not taking part in the trip. Washington Post alone distributed the “pool report” to a list of more than 6,000 recipients.
By the time senior White House officials realized the mistake and scrambled to issue an updated list without the CIA officer’s name, the mistake already had been noted on Twitter, although without the station chief’s name.
It is unclear whether the disclosure will force the CIA to pull the officer out of Afghanistan. As the top officer in one of the agency’s largest overseas posts, with hundreds of officers, analysts and other subordinates, the station chief in Kabul probably has been identified to senior Afghan government officials and would not ordinarily take part in clandestine missions beyond the U.S. Embassy compound.
The identities of at least three CIA station chiefs in Pakistan have been exposed in recent years. In one case, a CIA officer became a target of death threats after his cover was blown, forcing the agency to rush him out of the country.
UPDATE (May 29, 2014):
When her CIA cover was blown by Bush administration officials, it was “treason,” but now Valerie Plame downplays the Obama administration’s blowing of the cover of the CIA’s Afghanistan station chief as just a “stupid” “inadvertent” “error.” Read more, here.