An unidentified Obama administration official exposed the name of the highest-ranking CIA officer in Kabul on Saturday by accidentally placing it on a list of names provided to a bunch of media outlets.
The list contained the names of several senior U.S. officials who took part in a military briefing during President Barack Obama’s surprise Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan to glad-hand with the troops, reports The Washington Post.
The list candidly described the head of the clandestine service in Kabul as “chief of station.” The CIA specifically uses the title to refer to the top spy stationed in every country around the world.
The unidentified CIA station chief was among 15 senior U.S. officials who gave Obama a military briefing at Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
Other, non-covert officials at the meeting included four-star Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., a Marine who commands all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, and James B. Cunningham, the U.S. Ambassador to the country.
The White House press office included the name of the CIA chief along with the other officials present at the briefing. The press office distributed the list via email to journalists in Afghanistan with Obama on his surprise visit.
The CIA officer’s name became even more widely circulated later when it was included in a “pool report” summarizing the military briefing for media organizations which were not involved in Obama’s Memorial Day foray into Afghanistan.
The pool report went to over 6,000 recipients.
Several member of foreign media were among the recipients of the pool report.
Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson first noticed the mention of the CIA’s top man in Afghanistan on the pool report. He alerted Obama administration press officials in Afghanistan.
Wilson said White House press staff didn’t care at first. They just blamed military officials for giving them the list. However, when senior White House officials learned about the revelation, they hastily issued an updated list of the individuals at the military briefing. In this second list, the CIA officer’s name was scrubbed.
By that time, the whole fracas had been tweeted (though without the CIA official’s name).
American media organizations are withholding the name of the CIA officer who had his cover completely blown because of a surprise visit by President Obama.
One reason is because Obama administration officials have warned that the lives of the CIA boss and his family members may be at risk if the name becomes even more widely disseminated.