Okay, this simply <$NoAd$>won’t fly.
I haven’t yet been able to get a handle on just what happened with the public release of the identity of this al Qaida operative who was apparently cooperating with Pakistani intelligence in some sort of sting operation. Nor do I yet have a clear sense of what I think about the larger issues.
But on Wolf Blitzer’s show yesterday, Wolf had the following exchange with Condi Rice …
BLITZER: Let’s talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?
RICE: Well, I don’t know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them…
BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.
RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you’re trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you’re dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you’ve dealt with in the past, you’re always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We’ve tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we’ve struck a balance, but it’s indeed a very difficult balance to strike.
Here Rice seems to be implying that things discussed ‘on background’ aren’t for public release and thus that the White House did not in fact release his name.
But that’s simply false. White House officials give ‘backgrounders’ all the time, Rice at least as often as others. The information discussed in those briefings is very much for public use. The restrictions are simply a matter of identifying who is talking.