Today comes word that the White House blew the cover of the CIA station chief in Kabul by identifying him in a list submitted to Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson and other reporters covering Obama’s trip to Kabul. Wilson copied the list in the pool report that he disseminated to 6,000 recipients (“including foreign media, not taking part in the trip”) before noting the reference to the “Chief of Station” named on the list.
The Post’s Greg Miller manages to work Valierie Plame into the mix in an extremely misleading fashion before noting the recipients of the pool report with the station chief’s name. Well done, Greg. Here is the heart of Miller’s report:
The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops.
The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been 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 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 and the White House declined to comment.
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.
The list was circulated by e-mail to reporters who traveled to Afghanistan with Obama, and 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.
In this case, the pool report was filed by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson. Wilson said he had copied the list from the e-mail provided by White House press officials. He sent his pool report to the press officials, who then distributed it to a list of more than 6,000 recipients.
Wilson said that after the report was distributed, he noticed the unusual reference to the station chief and asked White House press officials in Afghanistan whether they had intended to include that name.
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.
I trust that in another day or two the the officer involved will be the Chief of Station emeritus.
We have two-and-a-half years to go before Obama serves out his term and makes way for his successor. We are in the Killer Rabbit phase of his presidency, when the consequences of disastrous policies manifest themselves and pure cock-ups cannot be concealed. The president is Carterized; he becomes a figure of derision. He’s only holding the office down temporarily, but it’s a long, long way to temporary.