Share

POLITICS: PennAve

White House's outing of top spy comes at difficult time for Obama

By |
Politics,Barack Obama,CIA,Afghanistan,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,White House Correspondents Assoc

The White House mistakenly outed the CIA's top official in Afghanistan after President Obama's slipped into Afghanistan over the weekend on a surprise trip to visit U.S. troops in the region.

The White House passed along to the press the name of the CIA's station chief in Kabul on a list of senior officials attending a military briefing for President Obama during the trip.

Reporters who accompany the president on his travels routinely must serve "pool duty" - the process of chronicling the president's movements and details of his daily interactions and remarks to write up and pass along to thousands of journalists, including foreign media.

White House aides gave the journalist assigned to pool duty Sunday the list that inadvertently included the station chief's name. It's common for the White House to provide such lists to reporters on pool duty but the names of intelligence officials usually are omitted.

After the pool reporter, the Washington Post's Scott Wilson, emailed his report that included the station chief's name to the White House press aides, the aides looked it over before sending it on to thousands of other journalists not on the trip. The White House soon recognized the mistake and issued a second list that omitted the station chief's name and title.

It is not known whether the station chief will have to leave his post in Kabul because his cover is now blown.

The incident comes at an awkward time for the White House. President Obama made the surprise trip to Afghanistan to visit the troops amid a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs involving allegations that 40 veterans died waiting for treatment at Phoenix hospital.

Obama also is scheduled to make the commencement speech at West Point on Wednesday where he plans to lay out the philosophy behind his foreign policy.

It's rare for an administration to out its intelligence officers — not to mention the highest-ranking CIA officer in Afghanistan.

The Bush administration's infamous leak of the name of former CIA officer Valerie Plame in 2003 set of a firestorm and led to a criminal investigation. Although no one was charged for the leak itself, Scooter Libby, who served as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was convicted of lying to investigators. President George W. Bush ultimately commuted his sentence.

Plame on Monday took to Twitter to declare the White House's accidental outing of the station chief over the weekend as "astonishing."

This story was first published at 10:55 p.m. on May 26.

View article comments Leave a comment