The White House accidentally revealed the name of a top CIA official in Afghanistan over the weekend, as President Obama made a surprise visit to Bagram Airfield on Sunday. Whoops. The person's name was included on a list of people attending the President's military briefing and was accompanied with the title, "Chief of Station," which is the designation the CIA uses for its highest-ranking spy in a country. Like I said, whoops.
The list of 15 names apparently came first from the military and was circulated by the White House press office to those reporters traveling with Obama -- before they removed the name of the secret operative. It was then distributed as part of a "pool report" to about 6,000 journalists. These kinds of reports are summaries of events meant to be shared with news organizations not present at the time.
The pool report was filed by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson, who did not notice the error until after he had sent it out. The White House had approved the report and did not notice the mistake until Wilson pointed it out. They circulated a new list as quickly as possible, but at that point, the damage had been done.
This is seriously bad news, you guys, with some potentially major ramifications. A spy's cover was blown. By the White House. A CIA agent was essentially betrayed by his own government's incompetence.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News on Tuesday, "There's simply no excuse for it," and that he was left "speechless" by the mistake. He went on, "In a White House that is filled with press flacks ... was there no one who understood the significance of what they were doing? Somebody's head should roll for this. ... This is utter incompetence."
Former CIA officer Bob Baer said he thinks "they're going to have to pull him out." He said, "The Taliban probably didn't know his name before, but they will now -- they will focus on attempting to assassinate him, and I think it's just a matter of fact that they're going to pull him out of Afghanistan." He added that it will affect this individual's career over the long term.
Even Valerie Plame, one of the most famously outed CIA agents in recent years (her cover was blown in 2003), tweeted on Monday, "Astonishing: White House mistakenly identifies CIA chief in Afghanistan."
Maybe the White House should put more priority into protecting those who serve our country overseas, especially as high-ranking officers who depend on secrecy, than coming up with cutesy memes. If Barack Obama wants his face on a bumper sticker that says, "Like a Boss," he should start acting like one.
Do you think heads should roll for this?
Image via Barack Obama/Flickr