White House Reveals Name of Top CIA Officer in Afghanistan, Gets Predictable Heat
President Obama's surprise Memorial Day weekend visit with U.S. troops was overshadowed after the CIA’s top spy in Afghanistan was outed by the White House on Saturday. The chief officer's name was accidentally included on a list of senior officials taking part in President Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan, distributed to news organizations. Although he file was initially only emailed to journalists traveling with the president, it eventually reached thousands of people, gaining attention on Twitter (although without the name, fortunately).
According to the Washington Post, which first reported the White House's mistake, the CIA “Chief of Station” in Afghanistan — "a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country" — was named in a press list provided by White House press officials and emailed to reporters covering Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan this weekend. The name reached the wider sphere when it was included in a "pool report" — a brief of the event sent to other media outlets not on the trip — sent by the WaPo's White House bureau chief Scott Wilson, eventually reaching roughly 6,000 people.
Reports the Washington Post:
Initially, the press office raised no objection, apparently because military officials had provided the list to distribute to news organizations. But senior White House officials realized the mistake and scrambled to issue an updated list without the CIA officer’s name. The mistake, however, already was being noted on Twitter, although without the station chief’s name.
Although tempting to laugh at the very public gaffe, the mistake is no small matter. While it's not clear whether the agency will be forced to pull its chief out of Kabul, the identity of the CIA's top agent, currently in Afghanistan, has not been published by media outlets, at the request of the White House — doing so could compromise the spy's position, they warn. The leak comes at a particularly precarious time in the agency's mission in Afghanistan. Right now, the U.S. is planning an abrupt withdrawal of its intelligence forces, closing down all operations outside Kabul, gathering all of its personnel and shutting its satellite bases by the beginning of summer.
In 2012, a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was sent to prison for 2 and a half years after telling a reporter the name of a fellow CIA agent.