“Oops!” is an understatement — the White House exposed the name of the CIA’s top spy in Afghanistan on Saturday during President Barack Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops.
The Washington Post reported that a CIA officer’s name was included on a list distributed to news organizations of U.S. officials participating in a military briefing for Obama at Bagram air base. The list identified the officer as “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a title the CIA gives to its highest-ranking spy in a given country.
The Post withheld the name of the officer at the request of administration officials who warned that publishing the officer’s name could put him and his family at risk.
The officer’s name was circulated in a pool report to press officials who distributed it to a list of more than 6,000 people, however. The pool reporter, Washington Post White house Bureau chief Scott Wilson, later noticed the unusual “chief of station” reference and brought it to the attention of White House press officials in Afghanistan. Press officials and senior White House officials responded differently, according to the 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.
It’s unclear whether the CIA will pull the officer from Afghanistan as a result of the disclosure.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.