The White House inadvertently exposed the name of the top CIA officer operating in Afghanistan. The name was included on a list of U.S. officials meeting with President Obama during his surprise trip to Kabul, Afghanistan. It was released to news organizations Saturday.
The Washington Post reports the White House quickly realized the mistake and issued a revised list. The individual, who is not being named in news reports, was identified on the initial list as “Chief of Station,” the designation used by the CIA for its top-ranking spy in a given country.
The names of CIA station chiefs and other operatives are usually shrouded in secrecy to protect the individuals working in hostile countries.
The most recent occurrence of an agent’s name being leaked by the U.S. government came when CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity was revealed. Many believe Plame’s identity was exposed purposefully by members of the former Bush administration in an attempt to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and vocal critic of the plan to invade Iraq.
In this recent instance the list that included the name was emailed to reporters who were traveling to Afghanistan with President Obama. From there it was circulated to more than 6,000 representatives of news agencies as part of the “pool report.”
White House bureau chief for the Washington Post, Scott Wilson, noticed the inclusion of the name and asked White House officials if it was a mistake. Although they initially raised no objection they eventually decided to issue an updated list. By that time the pool report had already circulated and others had noticed the mistake.
The CIA has not commented on the situation. As the top officer for the agency in the country, the station chief has probably already been identified to Afghan government officials and it is unlikely that he or she would take part in operations outside of the embassy.
In 2010 the name of the station chief in Pakistan was exposed by a Pakistani journalist, Karim Khan, who was upset over drone strikes being conducted by the agency in the country.
“He should be arrested and executed in this country," Khan said at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The CIA pulled the station chief from the country but it said it was not because the name had simply been leaked but because “terrorist threats against him in Pakistan were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act.”
It is unclear if the station chief in Afghanistan will stay at the post.