White House mistakenly reveals name of top CIA spy
(CNN) — The White House accidentally revealed the name of the CIA’s top intelligence official in Afghanistan to some 6,000 journalists.
The person was included on a list of people attending a military briefing for President Barack Obama during his surprise visit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on Sunday.
It’s common for such lists to be given to the media, but names of intelligence officials are rarely provided. In this case, the individual’s name was listed next to the title, “Chief of Station.”
The print pool reporter — a journalist allowed access to or is given information about an event who relays it to the rest of the media — copied and pasted the list that was provided by the White House.
Print pool reports are then distributed by the White House press office, which does not edit them, to a large list of media.
In this case, the same reporter, Scott Wilson, the White House bureau chief for the Washington Post, noticed the unusual entry after the list was distributed and then checked it out with officials. The White House followed up and distributed a shorter list from a different reporter that did not include the station chief’s name.
In his account to CNN, Wilson said when they arrived in Afghanistan, he asked White House officials for a list of who would be briefing the President.
A White House official then asked the military for a list to provide to the pool of journalists. The official got an e-mail back from the military with a subject line, “manifest for briefing for Pool,” Wilson told CNN. That e-mail was forwarded to Wilson and he proceeded to copy and paste that list for the pool report. He then sent it to the White House official, who sent the report to the distribution list.
After the initial report had been issued, Wilson noticed that the chief of station had been identified in the list, which he flagged to the White House official. After checking with the military, the White House official said, “This is a problem.”
The official asked if Wilson would write another pool report, asking journalists to disregard the previous report that contained the list with the chief of station’s name. Wilson said he was open to the request and sent the White House a new report. He said he was unsure whether that report was distributed.
The new list, Wilson said, was distributed by a separate pool report that included details from Obama’s speech to the troops. That report included a shorter list of names with a note saying, “this is the correct list of participants.”
Privately administration officials are alarmed about the incident, but so far the White House and CIA officials have declined to comment publicly.
A station chief heads the CIA’s office in a foreign country, establishing a relationship with its host intelligence service and overseeing agency activities.
The identity of station chiefs, like most CIA officers, are rarely disclosed to protect them and their ability to operate secretly.
Given the potentially dangerous nature of the situation, CNN has not broadcast or published online the name of the official.
In the most recent case before this one, the Bush administration infamously leaked the name of former CIA officer Valerie Plame to a journalist in 2003.
Plame tweeted on Monday that the White House’s mistake this past weekend is “astonishing.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta, Ashley Killough and Matt Hoye contributed to this report.