In a June 2 story by Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman, the New York Times blew the identity of the new CIA chief of operations against Iran. The Times’s decision to do so was deliberate, willful and deeply dishonorable.
It may have been illegal as well. The special counsel investigation of the Bush administration was predicated on possible criminal violations in the unauthorized disclosure of Valerie Plame. Possible criminal violations might have been predicated on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, on section 793 of the Espionage Act and on the statutes that impose liability on accomplices and conspirators.
When it comes to the damaging disclosure of highly classified national security information, the New York Times is a hard core recidivist. I took a look at the Times’s potential criminal liability in one such case in the 2006 Weekly Standard column “Exposure.”
CIA Director Pompeo brought up the Times’s June 2 story in his interview with New York Times columnist Bret Stephens at the Aspen Security Forum last week. I recounted their exchange in a nearby post. “We had a publication — you work for it, Bret — that published the name of an undercover officer at the Central Intelligence Agency,” Pompeo noted. “I find that unconscionable,” he added.
Pompeo looked Stephens in the eye. Stephens shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You’re talking about Phil Agee,” Stephens inquired (twice).
Pompeo wasn’t talking about Philip Agee. Agee was of course the traitorous former CIA agent whose misdeeds gave rise to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in the first place. He never worked for the New York Times. The Times didn’t blow Agee’s cover. He had nothing to do with the Times. He is ancient history. He died in Havana in 2008. I don’t know how Stephens associated Agee with Pompeo’s comment.
Presidential assistant and social media maven Dan Scavino seems to have thought that Stephens correctly identified the undercover CIA officer to whom Pompeo was referring. In the tweet below he accused Stephens of repeating the name twice and asked rhetorically whether that was “just as disgraceful.”
CIA Dir Pompeo calls out @NYTimes for publishing name of an UNDERCOVER CIA agent.
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) July 21, 2017
This is stupid twice over. First, Scavino has no idea what he is talking about. Second, Stephens would have done no harm by correctly identifying the undercover officer to whom Pompeo was referring. The damage — the disgrace — was committed by the New York Times on June 2 in the story that it featured on page one of its June 3 edition.
Stephens took offense at Scavino’s accusation. He demanded that Scavino retract his accusation and apologize (tweet below).
This is categorically false. I did not mention name. I made a reference to Phil Agee. Retract and apologize. https://t.co/YIX2kggcYT
— Bret Stephens (@BretStephensNYT) July 21, 2017
Scavino owes Stephens an apology. But consider Stephens’s response to Scavino. It implies, if not concedes, that the disclosure of the CIA undercover officer to which Pompeo referred was in fact disgraceful.
So Scavino wrongly attributed the disgraceful disclosure of the CIA undercover officer to Stephens. Rather, the disgrace was solely attributable to Stephens’s colleagues at the Times. You know, the ones who wrote the June 2 story. They committed the disgrace.
Will Stephens acknowledge the wrong committed by his colleagues at the Times? Will he express regret for it it? Will he apologize for it? Or is Scavino’s error the only point worthy of note?
— Scott Johnson (@scottwjohnson) July 24, 2017