WASHINGTON — The White House accidentally revealed the name of the CIA’s top intelligence official in Afghanistan to some 6,000 journalists.
The person was included on a list of people attending a military briefing for President Barack Obama during his surprise visit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on Sunday.
It’s common for such lists to be given to the media, but names of intelligence officials are almost always not provided. In this case, the individual’s name was listed next to the title, “Chief of Station.”
The print pool reporter — a journalist allowed access to or information about an event who relays it to the rest of the media — copied and pasted the list that was provided by the White House.
Print pool reports are then distributed by the White House press office, which does not edit them, to a large list of media.
In this case, the same reporter, who works for the Washington Post, noticed the unusual entry after the list was distributed and then checked it out with officials.
The White House followed up and distributed a shorter list from a different reporter that did not include the station chief’s name.
A station chief heads the CIA’s office in a foreign country, establishing a relationship with its host intelligence service and overseeing agency activities.
The identity of station chiefs, like most CIA officers, are rarely disclosed to protect them and their ability to operate secretly.
Given the potentially dangerous nature of the situation, CNN has not broadcast or published online the name of the official.
In the most recent case before this one, the Bush administration infamously leaked the name of former CIA officer Valerie Plame to a journalist in 2003.
Plame tweeted on Monday that the White House’s mistake this past weekend is “astonishing.”